Sven and the Pickpocket
"I was just walking along," Sven said, "but I was very careful!" Because when I was down in the subway on Saturday, they announced over the loudspeaker that I should be on guard against pickpockets. And that was just Saturday. So I was on guard today too. Pickpockets can even be up on the street." Everyone else round the table was looking intently at him sitting there with the window behind his back. It was late afternoon and a slight breeze made the venetian blinds tinkle. They were all waiting. Something about pickpockets might be a serious matter - something they should pay careful attention too.
"Well, I was just walking along, swinging my arms like I usually do when I walk..." He twisted, grabbed the edge of the table and the back of the chair so he could use his arms to help lift his bulk up from the chair, up into a standing position. His first attempt failed, so he moved his left hand more towards the center of the chair's back and then tried again. Getting up went better this time. He wasn't a young man. His knees had been giving him a lot of trouble. "Swinging my arms like I usually do...," he repeated when he had finally reached a standing position next to his chair, then he began to demonstrate how he usually swung his arm when he walked. He held his upper arm almost still while the lower part of his arm swept through an arc of more than ninety degrees, starting with his forearm straight down and then moving up until his hand was almost level with his chest. He repeated this several times, swinging his arm very quickly, as if he usually walked with short, quick, little steps.
"And then when my arm was about down like this...," he began to move his arm very slowly downwards and backwards, watching it all the way, until his hand was hovering near the back pocket of his pants. "Like this!" he announced when he thought his hand had come into exactly the right position. "That was when I felt my hand bump into something!" He looked around to see if everybody was following his narration so far. His eyes fastened on each face, holding stead a few moments each time. A little suspense wouldn't hurt. When Sven prepared a joke to tell at some festive occasion he had always to added a short pause to increase the excitement. It was working now, too, he thought and smiled. "And then fast as I could I looked down to see what I had bumped into, and I saw a hand! A dark hand!" He looked quickly around again at all the faces. His own face showed that he was getting close to what he wanted to say most of all. When he felt assured that everyone was up with him on this, he went on, "Then I looked up and saw that the hand belonged to a short dark-skinned lady! She must have been a skilled professional because she was able to make it look like nothing had happened! She just kept walking right along! Just like I hadn't caught her in the act at all! A smooth operator!"
"That's when I decided I'd better start keeping my wallet in the inside pocket of my suit coat," he told the others, and he patted his chest on the right side. His shoulder was pulled back to exaggerate the bulge inside his jacket. He wanted to share his experience with them. He was a man who knew his way around, he thought, a man who could take care of himself, deal with difficult situations. He wanted them to know that. Maybe he, himself. had doubted that a couple of weeks ago because of that other thing... But now it was clear that he was still on top of things.
"That's not a good place to keep your wallet," someone told him, "It's even easier to take a wallet from that pocket, than it is from the back pocket of your pants. All they have to do is pretend to bump into you and then slide their hand along the inside of your jacket, over to your walled. When they do that you just think they've bumped into or something. If you really want to to make it hard for a pickpocket to take your wallet you should keep it in the front pocket of your pants," he was told.
Still standing next to his chair Sven was quiet a moment or two and then he became completely immobile and deeply thoughtful. "But if I did that..., he said suddenly, "then when she tried to take my wallet, then... then it would look like she was feeling my crotch!" One end of his mouth began to curl downward in disgust. Softly, almost in a whisper, "And in public, too..." he added. He sat down heavily and awkwardly in his chair, his eyes dull and distant. He sank backwards, thinking, his back pressing heavily against the chair. Slowly, his attention began to return, and he leaned forward toward the table. He looked at everybody one more time, less confidently than before. "This is all very, very unpleasant," he said, still feeling how very close to the edge this incident had brought him. Not only had he nearly lost his wallet, but had he been guarding his wallet like they said, the right way, in his front pocket, then... Now his attention was once again directed totally towards the others. Yes, this stuff is very unpleasant," he said scowling. "There didn't used to be pickpockets like that." Disgust was now full on his face. There was some despair there, too.
The others wandered off. One after the other, not saying much. They were no longer young either.