Shoving on the Metro (and Becoming a Jaded Traveler)

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Shoving on the Metro (and Becoming a Jaded Traveler)

Postby KOVAKS on Wed Sep 17, 2008 9:05 pm

Contributed by Mary Arneson:

If we had read your site in advance... we wouldn't have entered a car on the Madrid Metro with people pushing toward the door but not making any move to get out. When my husband and I simultaneously found two girls with their hands under our shirts (who then pretended to be deaf), we wouldn't have bothered to appeal to the people around them for help. We couldn't understand why the guy sitting in the seat by the door acted as if we were some sort of crooks ourselves. Nobody made any response to our shouting in German and English that there were pickpockets on the car. We think that at least six people were part of the pickpocketing crew, and we felt lucky to get out with no losses, especially since the zippered fastenings of our "secret" under-shirt pouches had been opened, and my fanny-pack (worn in front - under my jacket) was also unzipped. Afterward, I kept my outdated AAA Card in a conspicuous location as a decoy, while hiding the actual credit cards in the deepest pockets, and my husband used his pouch only as a decoy, while keeping his valuables in a hidden pocket behind the regular pockets of his shirts. All we lost was the value of our unused multi-ride Metro tickets, because we just didn't feel comfortable on public transit after that experience, and our daughter flatly refused to try the Madrid Metro again under any circumstances (even though she was the one who could speak Spanish).

We ended up being very untrusting, so we waved away the women handing out sprigs of rosemary, told the postcard-sellers and CD vendors in the restaurants to go away, refused the services of the shoeshine guy at a sidewalk cafe, and even scowled at a sweet little old lady in Seville who came up and said to our daughter, "do I hear someone speaking English?" (She darted away when I glared at her, and I felt guilty about being such a monster.) If we had realized that these were come-ons for well-known schemes, we would have spared ourselves some bad feelings about not being "nice."

In fairness to Barcelona, though, we were approached by a guy in the train station there who was quite pleasant, gave us brochures for a Hostal (small hotel without restaurant) in a nice area close to lots of things we wanted to see, and didn't seem to be involved in any scams at all -- Mario, working for Hostal Eden, which was a nice place in a good location and really did have free internet. (Yes, we did erase our "history" and make sure not to use any financial services sites.) The only scams we were approached for in Barcelona were the ones with the rosemary sprigs, and those also showed up everywhere else we went. The Barcelona Metro and the bus seemed friendlier than those in Madrid. Maybe the local authorities actually did something in response to all the complaints (and pushed the local talent to Madrid and Seville, where we certainly did see signs of them).
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