Monday, September 20, 2010

thoughts on Barcelona

I'm a bit worried about Barcelona, as it is the "pickpocketing capital of Europe." (I'm not actually quoting that, I just read some articles and made up the name.) Thus follows my anxious mutterings and ideas about this city. It is not necessarily logical stuff, though there may be the occasional logical thoughts thrown in there for variety.

Sadly certain measures are not available to me; I am not, for instance, going to buy a pickpocket proof bag with hidden metal mesh in the strap and fabric. My canvas bag will have to do.

Essentially I have to figure out how to keep my ID, one credit card, cell phone, a bit of cash, and my camera safe. ID and credit card = money belt. Or bra. There's that. Cash = front pocket. Probably in a wallet. (Okay, I am now going to admit this -- don't hate me parents -- I have lost 20 euros out of my front pocket while in Spain. But guess what, I'm 90% sure no one pick-pocketed me -- I think it just worked its way out because I was wearing loose pants. This is why I think a wallet is safer, even if it is more obvious. Though I would be sad to lose my new red leather wallet. :( ) However, I worry about the cell phone and the camera. Is the bag safer? My front pocket safer? Should I somehow attempt to put those in my bra as well? I already wear my bag on the front of my body, and it has a zipper. Should I use twisty bands to secure the zipper to the strap? But at that point, wouldn't a snatcher just try to cut it off? I'm not too worried about the band, but actual bag could be cut with some ease, I imagine. I will almost certainly have my camera in the bag. Should I put it inside another bag and safety-pin that bag to the top of the bag, so it is harder to access?

I suppose I could put my cell phone in my money belt (or bra); it's not like I call people when I'm out and about. It's more an end-of-day thing. I can sleep on my bag in the hostel. I've done that before. No taking out of maps. I shall spend some time with a map of Barcelona before I leave so I have a good idea where to go. Sadly all of the places I want to go are (of course) prime areas for pickpockets. (Drawing out maps in one's sketchbook, as I tend to do, both helps one remember what street names are and also provides a slightly less conspicuous reference. In my opinion.)

((I used a map publicly in Paris, but I would argue that doing so after doing a 360 and having a pretty good view of all around you is not terribly dangerous. Also never in crowded situations. Paris is not particularly rife with twisty medieval streets, unlike Granada and (as I understand it) parts of Barcelona, and its gardens are filled with tourists and citizens, unlike Madrid during certain times of the day.))

I feel I can decrease risk somewhat by sketching more rather than taking pictures more; do pickpockets think that sketching students carry lots of money? And if no one sees me reach for a camera, then there's no guarantee that I have one. Of course, then I would be a sitting duck. Sort of. I usually sketch only inside places I've paid to get into (do pickpockets regularly pay fares to access museums to target tourists? It seems counterintuitive.)

It seems, according to most websites, that virtually anyone who approaches you is probably (potentially?) a thief. (Ugh, the fucking rosemary ladies in Granada are apparently in Barcelona too. "NO ME TOQUE!" shall be my byword screechword. ["DON'T TOUCH ME!"]) (As are the "Do you speak English" postcard girls of Paris. "NO. NO. NO.")

This makes me sad/terrified, because one of the "scams" listed is a pickpocket pretending to be a tourist who was just robbed. And that was me! What if the people on the street that day had thought I was a thief? Though perhaps the fact that I would not have thought to ask for money from a total stranger made people more willing to help me. Also I was enthusiastic about the suggestion of making a police report, which I imagine a potential thief might not be.

The thing, I'm pretty alert (and getting more so all the time, le giant sigh). I check regularly for my things, if I have to stop at an intersection or if I want to take a picture I check around me, I walk quickly (and aggressively, erk), I put my hands on my pockets if I am ever doubtful. But I also know that anyone who truly wants to take something from me can probably accomplish it. Thus, I am nervous.

I have decided what I think ought to be an exciting line of research for computer scientists: the no-card ATM. This ATM instead scans your fingerprints, pulls up the account that is registered under those fingerprints, and then lets you type in a PIN code. Wouldn't that be splendid? No losing your card! And unless one assumes unprecedented violence, how can one steal that particular bit of identity? Of course, one would have to get one's fingerprints re-scanned every so often (my left thumb, for instance, had a bit of a fingerprint translation when I sliced off that little piece at the tip.) But still! Similarly, a cell phone which only allows you to call after scanning a fingerprint might be useful. (Or a few.)

One could make a similar argument for passports, but that worries me a little. I shall have to consider.

On a more pleasant note, there are a host of things in Barcelona I'd like to see. Much architecture. La Sagrada Familia (a cathedral-ish structure by Antoni Gaudi, though I don't think it's technically a cathedral, as I don't believe there is a bishop in residence), the Barcelona Pavilion (Mies van der Rohe!), a couple of houses by Gaudi (Casa Batllo, Casa Amatller), though those sound rather expensive and therefore may drop off the list. Or a buzz around the front might have to suffice. I am thinking about buying a "Barcelona card" which includes using the Metro and admissions to some of these museums.

Hum dum de dum. . . planning.

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