Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Ripped Off Twice – In One Morning!

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Yesterday we went downtown, in search of a replacement glass for one of our chandeliers. The chandeliers in our house are old-fashioned, and each bulb has a tulip-shaped, glass shade around it. We had broken one of them. What was the chance we’d find one just like it? Slim to none, but if we could even find the right size, we could buy four of them (which is how many bulbs there are on that chandelier). We had tried before, last week, with little success. That is, we had found several models, none exactly the right size, and none particularly pretty. This time, though, we had in hand a card from a shop that apparently specialized in chandelier glass.

So off we went, on the bus, and traipsed happily around downtown, asking our way. Nobody knew where the street was. They would say things like, “I think it may be that way,” so we went that way. Still nobody knew where it was, until suddenly, we were on it, and there was the little shop.

We entered it and, having brought along one of the other glasses just like the broken one, showed it to the man.

“I had one just like it,” he said. “I know I had…” He looked around, and a few moments later, produced one identical to the one we had brought. Amazing! It’s approximately 35 years old.

Now what I should have said is something like, “That’s good, but Demetri, do we really want that particular model, or shall we look around, while we’re here, for something prettier, and buy four of them?”

But what I said instead was “Doxa to Theo! Glory to God!” so then the man knew he had us, as in over the barrel.

He smiled and wrapped his merchandise in newspaper for us, then wrapped our own piece similarly, and put both in the bag. And then charged us twice what everybody else in town had quoted us. That made it one expensive piece of glass!

We walked out rather miffed, but still pleased and amazed to have found exactly what we needed. To cheer ourselves up and rest our sore feet, we headed toward the sea, where there are a lot of sidewalk cafes, and had lunch at a very nice one, just sandwiches.

It was a glorious day and the sea was sparkling and showing some whitecaps. A large ship was anchored out in the bay straight across from us, but in the distance, waiting its turn for a berth in the port, so it could be unloaded and perhaps re-loaded. A ferry boat was making its way in roughly our direction, and a tugboat also passed us.

The parade of people was also fun, teenagers in Mohawk haircuts or in plum-colored hair; businessmen who at first appeared to be schizophrenic, until you realized they had cell phones clipped to their ears; shoppers, tourists. A beggar woman came by and said, “I am the mother of two; give me some money.” Numerous African vendors came by our table with large pieces of corrugated cardboard, to which they had affixed their displays of sunglasses, CDs, postcards, trinkets. You look AWAY from these people to signal your lack of interest. I looked away. Into the distance.

That is a big mistake in Thessaloniki these days. When people approach you, especially Gypsy beggars, the first thing you should look at, immediately, and glue your eyes to, is your purse. Mine was beside my chair and a little behind it, and behind the shopping bag, to make it both less conspicuous and less reachable. Somebody did reach it, though, because when we got up to leave, it had disappeared.

There wasn’t much in it, for that very reason. I had less than ten Euros in it (that is, less than about $14) and two pairs of glasses from the dollar store that had literally cost me a dollar apiece (but I had two more pairs back at the house), and lots of clean tissue left over from when I had that cold. There was a flash drive which I regretted losing because it’s how I transport what I write at home on my laptop to the Internet Café where I have access to my blog and my e-mail. It also had pictures of my granddaughter, Kelly, on it, which I shall have to ask her mother to re-send. I was about to post the cutest of them on my blog… But a flash drive is easily replaceable. There was a set of keys to the house, but that’s also easily replaceable. (Christos says we should now change the lock.) There was no credit card, no checkbook, and nothing with our Greek address on it. My Virginia driver’s license WAS in the purse, so that will be a minor nuisance when I get home. I had taken our passports OUT of the purse and put them in a drawer. In fact, the main thing of value the thief got was the purse itself! Or rather, that would have been the case when the purse was new. It can’t be worth much now, though. It was my mother-in-law’s, and she’s been dead 9 years, and I’ve been using the purse four years. In short, somebody sold his soul very cheap!

When we got home, I called the credit card company, just in case, and also notified my bank, just in case. Then I lay down on the bed and cried.

“I don’t know why it’s so upsetting,” I blubbered to Demetrios. “It was only a purse, and there’s no catastrophe involved…I just feel, well, as if I’d been sort of violated!”

“You were violated,” he said. “And made to feel foolish, too, which hurts the pride.”

Bingo! Damnable pride. Yes, I’m stung that somebody managed to sneak my purse right out from under my nose, when I thought I was being so careful. I even had one leg stuck out sideways thinking maybe if anybody approached he would trip over my foot. But somebody outfoxed me. Pride, pride, pride! The incident wouldn’t smart if I weren’t proud. Humility would have protected me from that. Lord, have mercy!

On our way to catch the bus, we passed three shops specializing in purses, but didn’t find what I wanted. Oh, well, I have another purse here that Mena once gave me. I shall try to get by with that, although it is small.

Hints from Helen:

Always carry a purse with a shoulder strap, and always use that shoulder strap. That way, even if you are sitting at a sidewalk café, you can keep your purse attached to your person at all times.

A cheap-looking purse might possibly be less attractive to a thief than a designer purse.


Emily H. said...

I'm glad you didn't lose anything too important. And at least you got a story to tell out of the ordeal.

When my family lived in Italy we got ripped off many, many times - starting with the first day we moved into our villa. The movers had so nicely unpacked the moving truck in such a way that they really had no trouble finding my father's power tools and re-packing them onto their own truck that very evening!

Another time we were shopping in Shoe Alley, packed with people, when a man's hand came around from behind my father and reached into his shirt pocket for his wallet. My dad, being quick, snatched the hand and squeezed hard! The thief let go but by the time my dad turned around, he had disappeared in the crowd.

And then there's the time... Well, you get my point. At the time these things were terrible but they are like fond memories now, oddly enough. Pray for those who do you mischief.

Hints from Emily :)

Keep your money in your bra and your other valuables in a fanny pack worn beneath your shirt.

Gypsies work in groups, adults and children - keep your eyes on your purse and ALL the people around you.

DebD said...

So sorry about both incidences - most especially the purse. We were also very blatantly robbed in Florence... very upsetting. In our case they got a whole lot more money and our brand new digital video camera :(

Elizabeth said...

I am so sorry to hear of the distressing theft.
Sending hugs....

Wendy said...

I carry a purse with a shoulder strap, AND when ever I sit I hang the strap over my knee, with the purse on the ground under the table or in front of me if there is no table.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Emily, I can't keep my eyes on all the Gypsies at once; that's the whole idea. One will distract you while the other robs you. So I keep my eyes and hands on my purse.

Good for your Dad!!

Wendy, I also now have a purse with a shoulder strap, and here in Greece, it stays over my shoulder when I sit down; that's to say, in my lap.