Forewarned is forearmed. Everyone I spoke to before the trip to Europe, and tons of concerned Marketmanila readers emailed to say â€œwatch out for pickpocketsâ€¦mostly the gypsies.â€ So I was on heightened alert. I briefed by wife (who has been pick pocketed twice before) and my daughter, whose eyes grew ever larger as I described what pickpockets did for a living. We photocopied all of our cards and travel documents and left copies in Manila with emergency numbers in case we needed our cards replaced. I brought several wallets so that I could decide what would best work with whatever I was wearing. I took out 90% of the plastic, IDs, loyalty cards in my wallets and left them in Manila. Anytime I went out in Europe, I took only two credit cards, an I.D. and cash. And my cash was distributed throughout my pockets and my wallet was always in my front pocket. We remained highly vigilant, particularly in heavily touristy areas and for the first 10 days or so we had absolutely no untoward incidents or even close callsâ€¦
But let me step back for a minute and explain the pigeons. For some reason, in a previous life, perhaps, my wife and daughter had it out with pigeons. So it seems that EVERY time we take a foreign trip, the pigeons email each other and prepare for my wife and daugther’s imminent arrival. They load up with poop and without fail take a nice big fat dump on either my wife or daughter or both. It never fails. They have been pooped on in Melbourne, New York, Paris, etc. So when we got to Barcelona and it was apparently a pigeon haven, I was certain the pattern would not be broken. One day, while on a hop-on hop-off Bus Turistic, we were sitting on the upper deck and I saw lots of pigeons flying around and almost in slow motion, something like segments of â€œKill Billâ€ or â€œCharlieâ€™s Angels,â€ I saw a pigeon take a dump in flight and the blob hurtled ever closer headed for my wife when it splatted well and good on MY HEAD!!! Needless to say, the Kid couldnâ€™t stop laughing and my sparse hair cover did little to prevent the stuff from lodging firmly on my scalp. Letâ€™s just say I donâ€™t like pigeonsâ€¦good reason to eat more of them…heehee. I actually heard that feeding them bread gives them constipation. Next time I’ll buy all the old bread the neighborhood bakeries have to offer and plug them up for weeks. Perhpas a batch of expired immodium crushed and sprinkled with birdseed would be good too…
So back to the main story. One day, we decided to head out to the suburbs of Barcelona and visited the Monasterio de Pedraldes, a 13th century monastery with phenomenal architecture, interesting art and a nice courtyard. Before entering, we noticed the place was quite deserted and I asked my family to pose near a tree for a photograph. The day was not quite cold and not hot, so my wife had put on a nice wool jacket that we purchased from the last season of clothing designed by the legendary Yves Saint Laurent before he retired several years ago. Needless to say, it was a special piece. Suddenly, something fell on her head and a blob of poopy looking substance was on her shoulder. Pigeon poop! We moved away from the tree, more poop straffed us like a squadron of kamikaze pigeons were circling above and we were rather frantic. Two nice looking folks walked up, pulled out Kleenex, started helping us wipe it off. But oddly, I noticed there was just TOO MUCH poop, that it smelled kinda like mustard and it was not quite right. We had let our guard down, it must now zoom up to red alert! I quickly warned my wife in Cebuano to watch her wallet. We moved into the sunlight and closer to the entrance of the monastery. I reached back and caught the manâ€™s hand INSIDE my jeans back pocket and he was already extracting several large Euro bills, so I immediately grabbed his wrist, twisted and screamed at him and he quickly scurried off before I realized we were truly almost had. The woman hurried away and they got nothing. I was worried they had other accomplices in the gardens so I didnâ€™t do what I should have, and chased the guy and pounded his silly face into the cobblestones. We quickly entered the monastery, spoke to the receptionist and they called the police. We figured out that they had a little squirt bottle and they nailed us with a mixture of mustard and water that was all over my wifeâ€™s jacket and my shirt and jeans. My clothing was worthless, but my wifeâ€™s jacket was a real concern. And much worse than that, was the feeling of nearly being robbed. It was very discombobulating. I went to school in the middle of Harlem in New York and never once was I mugged, and I have never been pickpocketed before either. We tried to recover within the monastery grounds, photographed the orange trees and quickly took a cab back home. But there is a slight silver lining to all of thisâ€¦ my wife hunted for hours for a cleaner who could fix her jacket. By late in the afternoon it was looking bad until one lady at a cleanerâ€™s asked how it happened and she was so horrified that these hooligans would do something like that, that she actually cleaned the jacket right there on the spot while my wife waited and she refused payment!!! God bless her soul. As for the would-be-thieves, if I ever get the chance, I would NOT HESITATE to slice off your cojones and sautÃ© them in butter to be served to our pet Labrador for breakfast. Or maybe I could strip you, slather you with sugared water and chain you to the nearest red ant hill I find. Think I would cringe at your tortured screams? Think again. I hope you rot in pickpocket’s Hell!