Is there anything scarier than the idea of an accomplice?
I first learned about the concept when I moved to France after college. In Marseille people love to warn you about pickpockets, always plural.
See that guy, asking if you dropped a Euro? What trouble could he possibly be? But he has an accomplice, who takes your wallet while you’re distracted. If anyone bumps into you on your left, their accomplice on your right is probably cutting your purse.
Accomplices don’t have to wear uniforms, or matching t-shirts, or anything like that. So conceivably anyone could be working together, and in my mind everyone was. That’s the thing about accomplices.
See that elderly woman crossing your path slowly to feed an injured pigeon a leftover baguette? Well she might be accomplices with that construction worker climbing down the ladder of the building next door, and the two of them could be in cahoots with one of those teenagers listening to music. Which teenager? I don’t know, maybe the one closest to us? And hey that injured pigeon could be in on it too. Don’t rule anyone out, that’s the thing about accomplices.
I don’t think Marseille really has too many pickpockets because my wallet never once got stolen. But it’s a hard thought to shake. And now in Amsterdam, a city with I think even less crime, my fears have moved up Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Now I no longer worry about losing my money, I worry about losing my dignity. And unlikely accomplices are still the problem. I’m fine with making a fool of myself at the cash register, but what about the possible exchange the cashier has with the next customer after I’ve left?
“I can’t believe she brought the oranges she wanted to buy to the register, instead of weighing them with a small derelict machine at the back of the store and printing the weight of the oranges on a sticker and bringing the sticker to the register.” The next customer will say, and the cashier will be right there with her.
“I know – what does she think this is, every other grocery store in the world?”
Yesterday when someone asked if I needed a receipt I said no, which in Dutch is spelled nee and pronounced neigh.
“Neigh.” I said, somehow making eye contact with all thirty people in my vicinity at once. And then a little louder, in case it hadn’t been loud enough: “NEIGH.”
I threw in a bunch of thank-you’s too, but those are harder to spell.
I think there are two solutions to being worried about having dignity stolen by groups of unlikely strangers: either have no dignity to steal, or a never-ending supply.
But I haven’t decided which to do, so I’m always somewhere in the middle, walking around with the exact amount of dignity I need to get by.
I took this photo yesterday so I would have a photo to post with this.