We have arrived in Greece after a somewhat adventurous trip, as befits the day. We landed in Athens to take the train to Thessaloniki. We were tired, having arisen more than twelve hours before (3:30 a.m.). Finding our seats involved trekking through 3 cars, with hand luggage, trying to guide it down the narrow aisles without running over anybody's toes. All this required a lot of maneuvering and squeezing past other passengers, and, well, you just cannot pay attention to absolutely everything, and in the process, a pickpocket relieved Demetrios of his wallet.
Demetrios, alarm spreading over his face, noticed it as soon as he had sat down. The train was to depart in 5 minutes, but he had to go back inside the station to inquire. The two minute warning was announced and he wasn't back. I began to panic, debating wether to grab out lugage and get off the train, or to go on without him and wait for him to catch up. (In a calmer state of mind, I can see the latter choice would have been disastrous; a person sans wallet is well and truly stranded.) But he did make it back at the very last moment.
We spent half an hour evaluating the situation. One good thing was that his cash, though only a small amount, had been in another pocket. I was holding most of it. His passport had been in yet another pocket.
The driver's license is easily replaced; ditto the Social Security card (but now somebody had that number) and the Medicare card. It was just the credit card and two debit cards to worry about. "But to use the debit cards, a person will have to know the PIN," I said. Oh, but he, disregarding the warnings that come with the PIN numbers, had written them down on a slip of paper he kept in his wallet. They were unlabeled, but not all that hard to figure out. !
The thing to do, obviously, was to call the bank in America and the other bank in England and report the cards stolen, but (another long story) we didn't have with us any of our three mobile phones. Demetrios had the idea to ask some fellow passenger to use his phone, and offer to pay the person.
So that's what we did. The young Greek couple across the aisle from us were very kind and told us a thief, a Polish man, had been caught in Car 5. They had been there and seen it. Car 5 was where we had entered the train. So the young couple went back there to make inquiries on our behalf. (I think they assumed, from Demetrios' American accent, that he might not speak very good Greek.) No luck; the thief had been detained by the security officers, but then released.
They let us use their iPhone and half an hour later, both banks had cancelled Demetrios' cards and had told us nobody had attempted to use any of them.
So the consolation is, we aren't out a singe cent. And the bigger matter is, we met a terrific young couple, with whom we exchanged contact information. (Somebody in England recently observed that older people need to make friends with people of all ages NOW, so the young friends will be close and old friends by the time our contemporaries die off.)
Demetrios, in the aisle seat, fell to talking with them, and very soon the topic became politics (what else?). After about an hour of this, I had to stand up to stretch my legs, and after I had stood fifteen minutes at the end of the car observing everybody, I came back and whispered to the other three, "In case it matters to you, you have a very large audience."
Over next three hours, one or two people would join the conversation, get off at their stop, to be replaced by another one or two moving into their seats and joining. Others only ever listened, but by the time we arrived in Thessaloniki, no fewer than ten or twelve people, besides the original 3, had thanked Demetrios as they departed. "I feel inspired now," and "I cannot thank you enough for your words," were the sorts of things they all said.
"What on earth did you say?" I asked as we arrived.
"I told them to be proud of being Greek. They said we need a leader, and I said keep discussing it, keep praying about it, and a leader will arise from among you. They felt we were already defeated and I said the fight is not over until the last one of us stops fighting. That sort of thing."
He is still upset about losing his wallet. He says he feels somehow responsible, as if he had failed. I reminded him of the magicians who bring people on stage from the audience and remove their wallets, watches, rings, and whatever else without their victims - or the audience - being aware of any of it.