This prompt is straight up my alley and I don’t even have to use my imagination. This has actually happened to me…In Madrid. All alone. On the first day of my arrival. I was so excited to be in Spain that I was not paying attention and somehow, some way, I was pick-pocketed.
It was a rainy day and I’d felt lucky to get into my hotel room so early. I threw down my bags and headed out into the city, anxious to see the Prado or some other site I’d read about in my Lonely Planet. In my haste I’d forgotten the cardinal rule of travel: put most of your money into the hotel safe. Also include your passport and any credit card you don’t need. I did none of these acts and ran off into the city in search of adventure and an umbrella.
In retrospect, I think that it was in the store where I stopped to buy the much-needed umbrella that someone lifted my lovely red wallet. I took it out to pay, fumbled to speak with the shop keeper in my marginal Spanish and dashed out the door looking for a place to lunch before spending a rainy afternoon in a museum.
It wasn’t until after I finished my sandwich and wine that I realized I was penniless. I dug through my pack, checked all my pockets, but my red wallet, full of ID, credit cards and 500$ cash, was nowhere to be found. The reality of this fact settled on me like a dark shroud. I was alone, in Spain, without a penny to my name and I owed a waiter for my lunch.
After chastising myself for being so silly and irresponsible, I mustered up my courage and tried to explain to the restaurant why I could not pay. The owner must have taken pity on me and realized my story was true. My face looked that upset and worried. He forgave me my bill and sent me back into the slick streets of Madrid, where I did my best to retrace my steps, trying desperately to locate the kiosk where I purchased the ill-fated umbrella. It took a while and in the interim I got doused on a street corner by a passing bus. Cold, wet and very forlorn, I found the place where I’d been earlier. I had my dictionary and tried to explain my problem…Wallet. Thief. ID and money gone. Had anyone seen anything?
The kiosk workers had not seen anything and had not found a wallet stuffed with 500 US dollars. By now my situation had sunk in and I knew I needed help. I dragged myself back to the hotel, which had thankfully been pre-paid, and began the necessary calls to Visa and home, where I had a good friend wire me money. I spent the bulk of my first day in Madrid stranded, alone and without a cent to my name. Western Union would not have my cash until the next day so I sat around feeling sorry for myself and cursing the person who lifted my wallet. I licked my wounds and read books until I could sleep, waiting patiently for the wire to arrive from America. Fortunately for me, the front desk clerk fronted me a Euro so I could take the subway the next day to Western Union. Visa also over-nighted a new card to me.
My relief funds arrived, I forgave myself my rookie-traveler mistake and ended up having a great time once that first day was behind me. The sun came out, I saw Guernica in person and spent many hours wandering the Prado and the streets of Madrid. To be stranded and alone in a city is not such a bad thing, I know this from good experiences. But to be in that situation because of a random act of theft made it feel like one long, very bad day.