The current state of the economy seems to perpetually weigh on the minds and wallets of many. There is worry, a sense of uncertainty that makes us guarded, bracing for some sort of future hard knock that could throw us off kilter.
Soon to be graduating, I too have fallen victim to thoughts of unemployment and financial woes. However, recently I was reminded of a simple truth: everyone deals with a lack of dough differently. Potential coping mechanisms include begging, borrowing, job multitasking or, as I experienced, stealing.
This past summer, I was the victim of an inattentive subway Pick-Pocket.
It was the type of crowd that accumulates after all down-town businesses spew their employees out onto the sidewalks at the end of a nine to five day. The release is short-lived. Almost immediately, all move en mass to the tube lines below. There, weary and in need of a decent dinner, we stood back to back, waiting on chipped concrete islands for a train that would take us to our next destination and, eventually, home.
Nothing separated the encounter from anything else I had come to consider normal commuter chaos. Gritty metal smell, faint perspiration, someone breathing on the back of your neck as you push forward towards a yellow line, make a dash towards snapping doors. Inside, everyone plays some sort of unspoken etiquette game in which one is not allowed to make eye contact with other passengers. Instead, focus shifts to ads featuring beaming Chinese women, women who learned English as a Second Language in ONLY TWO WEEKS. Instructions on how to pull the dangling emergency brake cord (tempting, despite no crisis being imminent.) The flickering of overhead fluorescent lights. Movement of pixilated graffiti scrawled on uneven brick walls.
Though not allowed to acknowledge other passengers, one is allowed to stand close to them. A new rule, set to replace eye contact, states that where there is space, there is opportunity for another rider. It is understood that bodily boundaries are wasteful. Such borders could house another arm, leg, shoulder, torso, if the occupier would be so kind as to allow it. So, we allow it.
It makes sense that I wasn’t aware of a hand being added to the mix. It is also understandable that I wouldn’t feel a subtle shift happening in my handbag, a stranger carefully groping the last bit of untouched territory in the cramped car.
My trip was short, my stop the second on route. I got off quickly, eager to get on my next mode of transportation: the bus. It was only after I had gotten back to my house that I noticed something was off. While searching for my keys, I realized that I had been unzipped. The interior pocket of my purse was wide open, its contents splayed out in all directions. I didn’t recall ever opening it myself, let alone hastily grabbing at what it contained.
It was then that I realized that I had almost been robbed. I say almost because what the thief managed to steal was of high utility but little cost to me.
He stole a maxi pad.
Why? I’d like to think it was a fluke. Perhaps he saw the bulging pouch and thought I was packing wads of cash instead of wads of thick, feminine products. But alas, I was a poor woman on my period, not a rich lady hauling twenties.
My mind reeled with plausible sequences that could have followed the encounter.
Did he realize his error and immediately drop it onto the grimy floor?
Worse, did he shove it into the front of his coat without a second glance?
Even worse, upon pilfering it, did he smile a little on the inside, watching me exit, knowing I was none the wiser?
Did he make the discovery on the next platform, surrounded by New Yorkers who are not phased by anything – not even a dirty man, frozen with shock, holding a crumpled, pink-wrapped sanitary napkin in his outstretched palm?
Did he remain unaware of his mistake until he was alone, back at the abode, ready to add it to a growing pile of embezzled items?
When he pulled out the pad, was he disgusted with himself more for what it was, or the fact that he accidentally pinched it?
When he pulled out the pad, did it make him question why he was a Pick-Pocket in the first place? That maybe this was the Universe’s way of telling him it was time for bigger and better ventures?
When he pulled out the pad, was he pissed at me?
I don’t know. What I do know is I am lucky he took the only disposable possession I had.
Future lessons gleaned from the experience would involve being less oblivious to my surroundings. Furthermore, I plan on continuing to stock my odd purse compartments with maxis. Enough with trite practices involving money hid in your socks. I recommend that all people, female and male, cram their pockets, wallets and bags with pads. Banks may fail, Stocks may crash, Recessions may occur. Nevertheless, as I have demonstrated, lady wares protect in more ways than one.