Or, The Yellow Brick Road is Not So Shiny Any More
I feel badly for my husband Mike. When I met Mike he was living in the Pacific Northwest. He was born and raised in Seattle and he lived with his front door unlocked when he slept. It wasn’t something he did unconsciously he just never needed to lock his front door when he went out or when he was home.
Then I showed up and nearly had a coronary the first night I realized he was leaving the doors and windows unlocked. I was born in New York and wouldn’t have dreamed of doing this ever. I had then moved from New York to California and I lived through the terror of the many nights when the Hillside Strangler was lose and we not only locked windows and doors but in some cases we even nailed the windows shut. Mike wasn’t used to my need to lock everything up and he has always trusted those around him. For me, people have to earn my trust.
Recently, the unthinkable happened to Mike and he was the target of a pickpocket ring while we were visiting Rome. He was devastated. It never even occurred to him that he had been targeted but after 12 seconds of watching the group and he interact I asked him if he still had his wallet and sure enough the little ‘bastards’ had lifted his wallet, and his faith in humanity, with it.
We have since had to have serious conversations on staying safe and not allowing others to target us. I feel badly for him because this has caused him to have to question what people are saying to us and the validity of their questions and even made it harder to trust anyone.
Since his wallet was lifted we have twice more been targets but these times they got nothing and they realized we weren’t playing around.
The first time three kids wanted to help us with our luggage onto the train in Rome; again, they separated me and Mike and I knew immediately what they were doing so I yelled his name and they moved out of my way, but not before one of the girls was trying to open the zipper of my raincoat.
The next time was here in Madrid where a woman came up to Mike and started to ask him if he could help her. With his hands still inside his pockets he told her he didn’t speak Spanish and couldn’t help. She turned away disgusted.
Some of the major adjustments we have had to make include; we prop our luggage up against a wall and one of us stands with our backs to the luggage; we both walk with our hands in our pockets and even when people come up and try to ask for help or questions we leave our hands exactly in the pockets. The only thing in those pockets are now used Kleenex so I dare anyone to try and lift what they feel. We don’t carry anything of value in open pockets. We have zippered pockets all over all of our garments and we are both now wearing two coats with zippers everywhere and that still isn’t where the money is kept.
What distresses me the most however is the feeling of anger I feel now when we walk around; no longer can we talk freely with people. Not being able to trust others until they earn this trust is hardest on Mike. He has always been open and willing to chat with others about our lifestyle and where we have been and what we are doing. Now we have to watch what we say and to whom; we have to watch others around us to see who is eyeing our luggage; we have to be careful with taxi drivers and where we use an ATM, and more.
The other day the taxi driver didn’t want to get out of the taxi to help us unload the luggage. I told Mike to sit tight and I got out and unloaded the luggage. Then I gave him the money for the cab fare. Too many stories have been written about taxi drivers getting their fare and when the passengers get out they take off with the luggage hoping to score big. Mike was wondering what I was doing and I had to explain it to him and again I felt badly that thinking the worst of people was part of my job in order to keep us safe and not victims.
I wish the world wasn’t like this. I wish I could make things go back to the way they were before Mike met me and he didn’t need to lock his front door. Unfortunately times have changed and this is the new world we live in. So while we won’t stop traveling we will be more cautious with who we talk with and what we do. Building relationships everyplace we go is what we do; building them and not being victims is what we must do. So if we meet please don’t think badly of us if we take time to trust you; you see, the world has changed; we haven’t. We are still the same warm and friendly people we have always been; we just wait to see if the people on the receiving end are worthy of that friendship.