I always hear horror stories about people getting their wallets, phones, or even entire purses stolen in Parisian metros. I had prided myself on avoiding thefts… until last night.
After grabbing a refreshing cone of gelato from Grom on Rue Montorgueil with my friend Chae-hee, I navigated to my line at Chatelet station and then stopped by a Franprix to pick up some more ice cream to bring home for Tyler. (It’s been extremely hot these days!) When I took off my backpack to pay, I realized that my bag was completely unzipped… and my wallet was missing.
I immediately entered into panic-mode, cancelled all my credit cards, and started creating a mental inventory of everything I lost: my carte de séjour (residency card that allows me to live in France), carte vitale (insurance card), cheques vacances (vacation allowance from work), and a precious photo of baby Tyler in his baseball uniform… not to mention the beautiful blush Saffiano leather wallet that held all these items :'(
The next day at work, I recounted the story to my colleagues (including HR), who then urged me to leave work right away to file a police report. Apparently, some thieves have taken out large loans or abused health insurance cards with stolen identities. A formal declaration of stolen items is necessary to prove fraud here. It hadn’t occurred to me that this was something I should do; I figured things get stolen all the time and the police would surely laugh at me for complaining, “Some dude is out in the wild with my pink Prada wallet!”
I rushed back to my arrondissement’s commissaire de police with my passport as ID verification. After nervously walking past six security guards, I approached the front desk.
“Bonjour monsieur. Hier soir, quelqu’un a volé mon portefeuille dans le métro…”
“Vous venez d’où ?” Where do you come from?
“Le 5ème.” The 5th arrondissement.
<Chuckles> “Vous avez un accent Américain, non ?” No, but where are you from from?
The officer went on rambling in French for a good 15 minutes about how much he adooores California (mind you, there were people in back of me in line). He then triaged the issue and handed me off to another officer to complete paperwork in a separate room. This guy was even more friendly and wanted to know how I found life in Paris, how I learned to speak French, etc. I told him I missed the Chinese food back home (giving a plug for The ChopChicks of course) and that opened up the flood gates. An entire hour later after bonding over Asian food and our shared love for pandas, I emerged from his office with a huge list of new restaurants to try and even the names of nice châteaux just in case I planned to get married here one day.
I absolutely love encounters like this, which only really started happening when I was comfortable enough to converse in French. The human connection that sparks over a shared language (along with appreciation for another trying to speak in your native tongue) is just incredible.
While I probably won’t see my pink Prada again (good thing it’s summer sale season), I’m on my way to recovering and reapplying for whatever items were lost. Make sure you stay aware of your surroundings in crowded trains and file a police report as soon as something happens! It was certainly not as intimidating as I thought it would be 🙂