PORTUGAL: Help! Thief!
We’d been warned about thievery aboard bottom-class night trains, but didn’t
have much choice if we wanted
to exit Portugal and visit the Normandy Coast in general, and St. Malo and Mont
St. Michel specifically. So we set out late in the day
and enjoyed
the scenery… Portugal is a rather empty country between Lisbon and the France
border, but truly rustic. There are farms, trees that were
new to me, rolling grassy hills. . . Very pleasant, if lonely looking.
Joining us in our compartment were a happy young couple and a dour young man
who looked more like a Russian prison escapee than
a tourist. Handsome, with a light brown butch haircut, couple of nondescript
tattoos, constant frown. . . he didn’t

seem to speak any language,
and Sharon wondered later, “Why no luggage?”

We got the answer about 3:30 a.m. Hunkered down in the corner with my bag
secure below me, I woke up around
midnight
to find him apparently departed. Good. I stretched out, reasonably comfortable,
but woke up about 3 to see the
him standing in the walkway, staring out into the passing night. He turned and
looked through the door window at me, and
I waved slowly. Don’t know why I did that.
I thought I’d better stay awake, but I didn’t. Woke up shortly after,
thought “OMIGAWD!” and felt below the
seat for my
bag. Gone!
This was followed by the loudest and most obscene shouting I’d ever
screamed and cursed in my fairly long
life. Worse language than a pro football fan. Things like “The +++++++ got the
camera, the computer, my pills! WE’ll have to go home! ****! That ****!”
HELP! THIEF!
I’m glad I don’t know my blood pressure reading at that point. “Your money or
your life” came to mind. Along
with murder, revenge . . . But both were impossible, the swine was gone. “That
*****ing **** of a *****!” I pounded on
the walls outside and raged up and down the hall. No one came to my aid. There
was no cop, no conductor, nobody but me,
An Enraged, Crazed Victim.
Then an elderly gentleman approached me slowly and cautiously from the toilet
end of
the car and asked in accented but clear English
if my bag was missing. “YES!” I inadvertently shouted at him. He made
Quiet-Calm-Down gestures and motioned
for me to follow. He led me to the toilet room, opened the
door and there was my stuff
on the grimy floor, black bag wide open, computer, camera outside, pill bottles
on the bottom. . . Everything
was there!
Nearly in tears of joy, I returned to the compartment and hugged both the bag
and Sharon. I went from the
depths of anger to the height of happiness and relief.
Moments later, the car now quiet after my scene, I heard an elderly
woman’s wail: “MY SAC!” (pronounced sock),
“MY SAC! The poor, pudgy old woman was weaving her way toward our end of the
car, where a pair of officials had finally appeared. Apparently they had to
have coffee before responding to my yelling. They didn’t look overly
concerned.
Nothing was going to help. The miserable ******* had taken everything the
old lady had and apparently
got off at a whistle stop.
Now our joy was tempered by pity for that poor woman. And a little
sadness over the lowest elements of the human condition.

Moral: If you must travel on such a train, sleep sitting upright with your bag
tied to your ankle.