MIDWAY: El stupido
It was a gathering of the dispossessed. The blonde girl in short shorts had put her bag between her feet while she paused to eat. When she looked down five minutes later, it was gone. The harassed lady on the corner stool, toiling over her form-filling, was in charge of an entire school trip. Her bag contained everything — cards, identities, insurances. Tap! tap! went a man at the restaurant window. She glanced up from her food to see what he wanted — whereupon that bag went, too. And then, of course, there was us.
Location, location; distraction, distraction. If you’ve travelled the world for half a century and only been mugged three times, that sounds tolerably impressive. LA, Calcutta, Nairobi, Cairo
... no problem. But losing your passport three times in Barcelona? That’s a deal more shaming, as my daughter (who lives there) says, labelling her parents “Stupido!” and delivering her umpteenth lecture on the necessities of perennial suspicion and central locking.
Duly curdled, we must contemplate the rituals of robbery again. The trip to the police station; the wait in a desultory line of Japanese, Germans and generally miserable robbed; the painful failure at Catalan speaking; the familiar pink form to be filled in and taken to Her Britannic Majesty’s consular finest.
However, it’s the cost of calamity that takes your breath away. That will be GBP71.50, says consular girl as she hands over two sheets of vellum. For both? No, each. GBP143 in all, she adds brightly.
And thus, scrimping, borrowing, finding a card that works, we pay to be allowed back into Britain before having to spend GBP97 a time to leave the country again. Total cost: GBP337. Oh! and would we like to contribute any leftover coins to the Barcelona survival fund for destitute Brits?
So: three times scammed, three times humiliated, three times ripped off. Three times instructed to trust no one, help no one, drive on by. Three times a weary tick in police report boxes. It’s not victimless crime, because your own self-esteem is the victim. It’s just the high price of trusting nobody in a world where trust comes at GBP71.50 a throw. Stupido! Stupido!