OK; now pay attention. I’m only going to say this once…
My wife and I just returned from a week and a day in Spain; Barcelona and Mallorca, to be exact. We were in Barcelona to witness and celebrate the wedding of a daughter of close friends; we were in Mallorca celebrating each other. And therein hangs this tale…
Before we left for Barcelona and even after we arrived there, friends warned us to be careful of pickpockets. “They’re everywhere,” we were told. While that may be true, not once did we encounter anyone bent on picking a pocket. I fancy myself a savvy, even vigilant, traveler so I was on high alert, especially in crowded areas like the one surrounding Antonio Gaudi’s visionary cathedral, the Sagrada Familia (an overwhelming emotional experience for me), the Gothic Quarter of the city (charming, narrow streets, filled with shops and cafés), or Tibidabo (the neighborhood and amusement park that crowns the city, accessed by a funicular). Nary a sign of foul play or evil intent, just four happy days of sunny but cool weather, seaside restaurants, and glass after glass of rosé wine with old and new friends.
So off we went to Mallorca, an island in Balearic Sea, a thirty minute plane ride from Barcelona. Our hotel was on a quiet lane in the old quarter of Palma, Mallorca’s capital. If anything, the town and the island was even more charming than Barcelona: the people could not have been friendlier, the café life in the small placas that punctuate the town was always lively, and the food—tapas and more glasses of rosé—was delicious. Maybe it was the mood of the place or maybe all the rosé I consumed, but I began to relax.
On Day One, we wandered the winding streets and lanes of Palma, did a little shopping for the grandkids, and, in the evening, found a charming little restaurant for dinner. (Dinner, by the way, is a late night affair in Spain; one doesn’t even think about eating dinner until at least 9 o’clock.)
On Day Two, we took the clickity-clackity old train over the Sierra de Tramuntaña, the backbone of Mallorca and a UNESCO world heritage site, to the village of Soller. From there, we took a tram down to the beach where we sat in the bright sunshine and shared—guess what?—a bottle or two of wine with friends we had met at the wedding in Barcelona. That night, back in Palma, we noshed on pizza, washed down by mineral water. Just kidding!
On Day Three, we rose late and found a wonderful small bistro for lunch. Our server took our picture. We wandered back toward our hotel, this time doing some serious shopping, four full bags worth of shopping. Here we were, two crazy kids in Mallorca, grateful and happy.
I never felt a thing. I touched my back pocket and realized my wallet was gone. For a moment, I thought I was mistaken: maybe I had left it at the restaurant or had dropped it into one of the shopping bags I was carrying like a rented mule. But then it hit me: no; my pocket had been picked. Just then my wife’s phone dinged, alerting her to a new charge (nearly $200) at a perfume store. Not ours. Then another ding and another new charge, this time at a clothing store—about 500 Euros ($540). My heart was sinking fast. The game was on and maybe already lost.
We hurried to the perfume store where the first nefarious charge had been made. The clerk there said, “Wait; are you James Kirkpatrick? I knew that man wasn’t American; he couldn’t even speak English!” Immediately, the shopkeepers searched the security camera footage and within seconds found the culprit. The police were called. When they arrived in plain clothes, they downloaded the image from the security camera and forwarded it to a face recognition service while we went to the police station to file a report.
Now it’s time to make this long story shorter. At the station, we filed our report with the help of a translator. Then our plain clothes police friends came in and showed us a photo of the culprit’s driver’s license. A few minutes later, they returned to inform us that they had caught the man, along with an accomplice. And then, several minutes later—wonder of wonders!—they came back holding my wallet! The cash was gone, but no big deal; my wife carries the cash. Two credit cards were missing (we had already blocked those), but everything else—my driver’s license, a passport card, all the detritus of my life—were still there. The thief had abandoned my wallet on a windowsill and the police had found it!
Hashtag “Happy Ending!” All the charges on my cards will be reimbursed. The Mallorcan police are heroes! And the next day, we took a thank-you box of pastries to the good ladies at the perfume shop. When we told our story to them and to a few other people, the reaction was one of happy disbelief. Happy for our good fortune, but disbelief in the crime. Safe little Mallorca, like everyplace else in this spinning world, is changing fast.
If it’s true that all’s well that ends well, then we’ll breathe a sigh of relief and leave it at that. That night, we had our best meal yet and celebrated with a bottle of rosé. Maybe two.
I’ll be right back.
Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer who lives in Chestertown. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy Magazine. His new novel “This Salted Soil,” a new children’s book, “The Ballad of Poochie McVay,” and two collections of essays (“Musing Right Along” and “I’ll Be Right Back”), are available on Amazon. Jamie’s website is Musingjamie.net.