I will say right now that the wallet and its complete contents, including passport, were recovered, with the exception of the $65 US.
But at that moment I didn't know this would happen. It was one awful hell of three hours, after our lovely lunch in Nice's sunshine, across from the Market. We immediately drove back from Nice to Bar-sur-loup, where our computers were, to try and deal with the stolen passport -- me calling the embassy in Paris, then started the call to the US consulate in Marseille to begin the process for emergency passport, el V had just started the skype process with the bank -- and then came a message into el V's e-mail, saying my wallet had been found with passport and all inside. Three more e-mails followed, one from the airline. We turned around immediately to drive back to Nice -- the drive is about 35 miles, over twisting, winding, steep mountain roads, no short one, especially at rush hour. Thank lordessa we have French friends who speak French. And that there are Finnish tourists in Nice, with good eyesight, and deep concern about doing the right thing.
I knew those two gypsies were following me, I felt them going into my handbag, and I pulled it away, four times. The fourth time I felt bumped, I looked inside and yes, the wallet was gone. If I'd known they were gypsies I'd have been more proactive. I couldn't figure what they were -- I noticed them immediately because they didn't look like anybody else in Central Nice -- and their make-up, especially their lipstick, was awful, so bright and thick and just wrong.
But I didn't think "gypsies." I thought 'refugees,' so I was trying to be more charitable than suspicious. A whole other story.
|Instruction posters warning against gypsy pickpockets.|
Gods what a collection of people, half of whom didn't know each other or me, came together to save el V's and my vacation. Indeed, the last thing, M, the Finnish gentleman said to me when returning the wallet-- and he doesn't speak English or French very well, but well enough! "Now you can enjoy the rest of your holiday." Finns see holidays as a very serious, even sacred, business.
The business in selling stolen passports is beyond enormous. Perhaps, my yelling and pointing, and I taking off after them and confronting them scared them to death, so they had just gotten the cash at that point and threw the rest away?
The thieves truly were clumsy -- so must be in training. I could try and take comfort in the near certainty their handler - brother - father - cousin - uncle has now beaten them badly. That was something else about them -- they looked sub-par intelligence. But on the other hand they were good enough to finger through the three little bags in my handbag -- they were good enough to determine by by touch the three top bags were not wallets or cell phones. The wallet was wrapped in a sweater on the flat bottom of the bag with these other things and a small folder of Nice tourist activities on top of the sweater -- and the bag was closed. But I did feel them each of the four times they went into it. That's what's so weird, and why I felt so despairing and filled with shame and guilt. Not to mention that I'd had this happen to me just back in October, 2015, though here, not abroad. Even now when I think of this, I get nearly sick with guilt and sheer fear, knowing so well from that other experience what it means to have your documents stolen. How could I be in the position to allow this to happen AGAIN?
El V, I and D were so kind, supportive, non-judgmental and calm. It was find out first if indeed you did not by chance leave it at home, then call passport office, American Express and the bank.
|Ventimiglia, on Italy's Ligurian coast. One goes there via an astounding scenic route of Alps and the Mediterranean coastal highway, though both French and Italian tunnels.|
M, the Finnish gentleman who spied my discarded wallet, found a woman who spoke English, who went through the wallet, found the Delta - Air France boarding pass, called them, who gave her and the Finn our e-mails (my computer wasn't on), after trying to call our phones, which don't work there. Delta also called and e-mailed. I called Delta back, who then gave her the Finn's number, and I called him.
He also said, in his so-called non-existent English, "The French girl, who speaks English, is very good."
White Knight M replied to my e-mail of thanks, giving me the details of his side of the story. He found it with the zippers open, on a window ledge of the street where it happened. The woman who speaks English and he tried even finding me on social media. When the woman opened my passport though, my boarding pass fell out of it. So she had the brilliant idea of calling the airline. The woman who answered their call found us in the system, our e-mail and our phone numbers.* Too bad Verizon won't support an international phone program for our makes of phones . . . .
M is such a lovely fellow -- strongly built, white hair and beard, balding, but distinguished with a serious expression on his already tanned face. He's the grandfather everyone would want. He wouldn't take any finder's fee or the bottle of champagne I and D donated to the thank you fund. He saved my vacation of a lifetime of dreams. How did I get so lucky?
Yesterday, the first thing el V and I did was send a notification to the airline in praise and thanks of the employee who was so quick-witted and helpful.
* El V had suggested I throw away the boarding pass at some point when he noticed I still had it. Why I didn't discard it, I cannot recall, due to jet lag and exhaustion. Maybe I thought it would make a good book mark? Boarding passes have served that function for me often -- not that there was any time for reading on this trip. But! if I had thrown it away -- I shudder.