Your intrepid editors know no bounds of frauds and this one was, for even us, new and funny. The Romana or the Gypsies of Europe are a persistent threat to the unaware. They will requisition anything not nailed down, actually if nailed down they may take the nails too. They seem to be the tax on the dim or unaware. Unaware you wallet is in your back pocket? They are not. Unaware that you put your smart phone on the café table, they are not. Unaware of what is going on with the zippers on your backpack while standing in a queue or on a crowded subway – they are not.
You can spot them everywhere there are tourists, they sell a bit of rosemary or mint for good luck. If you give them a bit of change, three things happened, you show them and their look outs where you keep your money, if you are too abrupt you may get nudged and now something in your pocket or back pack is missing, and if you say thank you, no… life will go on. There is no reason to be nasty – in fact there are many reason never to be nasty. If you behave in a nasty fashion – you double your chances of being a target. They have a very cooperative operation of beggars, good luck sellers, lookouts and dip professionals (the pickpockets). They also have enforcers aka muscle nearby if you get into a scuffle with one of their one, you will get hurt.
Are they organized crime? Sure they are, they will gouge the state for wellfair, live in the cash economy and steal what you allow them to steal. Any money you give for good luck or to a beggar, or you loose to a dip expert, goes back to the collective.
I have watched them work and been nailed once. They took my wallet from a zippered pants pocket. Dang they were good, and elegant – they mailed my wallet back to me. Trust me they had enough cash for the postage. I have a real respect for the process and the dip experts.
In June coming down an escalator in a train station in Seville, Spain station an old lady spilled the contents of her shopping bag just past the bottom of the escalator. It was the escalator leading to the first class carriages of the fast train to Cordoba – a good spot for decent pickings. As the back up on the escalator occurred I instinctive grabbed my pockets and found a woman’s hand in pocket. I grabbed it – pulled it out and said “bueno, pero no lo suficiente” – essentially – good but not good enough. I laughed and than she smiled. She was tall and had long slender fingers – perfect for the dip. That s the first female dip expert I had ever seen.
Not but 4 days later in Cordoba – I took a respite from being an investigator and became a tourist. I went to visit the Cathedral of Cordoba. Built as a Mosque and turned into a Cathedral it is rich with history – and gypsies. At one of the entrances to the court yard one woman had taken up a position to be visible but not in the way and was begging for money for her and her poor child. She had the studied look of messy, a bit dirty – but never smelly. She looked up with a very sad look with her lovely dark olive complexion and her rich brown eyes and asked for some money to help her and her – blue eye red headed child!
Sonora es imposible. Usted tiene ojos marrones hermosa y su hijo tiene azul, no es posible debido a la genética. Este debe ser un “alquilar un bebé.”
In Short – Ma’am it is impossible. You have lovely brown eyes and your child has blue, it is not possible because of genetics. This must be a “rent a baby”.
She was very quiet and then I laughed, and gave her 2 Euros and she managed an exhausted smile. I toured the Cathedral, left and went for a long walk and whom did I find several hours later, but the brown eye women and her blue-eyed child walking briskly. I asked her how things went and she said fine and she added that she gets more donations for the blue eye kids than the brown-eyed kids. Also that I was the only one ever to point the issue of eye color, she was unaware of issue of genetics.
However, even a beggar understands marginal utility.