An unpleasant incident in Barcelona becomes a learning experience
After a series of business meetings in Barcelona last week, a colleague from London who was with me on the trip proposed a celebration dinner.
Being a fan of Picasso, he chose the popular 4-Cats restaurant, the artist’s favorite, in the old town area a few metro station stops from our hotel.
After dinner, we went to a square, where three opera lovers were singing popular pieces from Carmen, Aida and others. A circle of passers-by applauded them warmly. At the other end of the square, a man did a flamenco dance as accompanists beat drums.
I admire Spaniards’ talent in the arts world. The country of Picasso and Cervantes, and the city of great architectural works by Antoni Gaudi have attained a high level of culture.
An intense travel and work schedule over several days had taken their toll. We bid farewell to the street performers and headed to the nearest Metro station to return to our hotel.
As soon as I walked into the crowded car of the train, a short man in his mid-30s following me closely threw an electric shaver onto the floor.
He knelt to get it, but then his hands suddenly held both my ankles tightly, and he even flipped over my trouser legs, seemingly searching for his shaver. After a few seconds, he had his shaver and rushed out of the train even before the door was closing.
The train set off — and so did my cell phone from my jacket’s lower pocket. There must have been at least two thieves: Another guy unzipped my pocket stealing my phone while the short man served as his decoy. What a well-planned and orchestrated theft!
When I realized that a robbery had occurred and the thief was probably still in the car not far from me, I had no clue how I could determine who he was.
When I got back to my hotel room, I turned on my computer and deleted all the data that was on my stolen phone.
After a sleepless night, my colleague insisted on seeing me off to the airport, concerned that if something unexpected happened to me again, he wouldn’t know since I didn’t have my cell phone.
With a sense of foreboding, we again got on the Barcelona Metro. But the image of that short man and his dropped shaver trick rode with me. It had tarnished my sense of beauty for this wonderful city that I had longed to visit since 1992 when it hosted a Summer Olympics. After 24 years, I was finally here — and I had been robbed.
A friend who lives in Barcelona told me that it’s not unusual to be robbed in the city, and quite a few of the thieves are illegal immigrants. But there was no way for me to identify the country of origin of the two thieves on that train.
During my flight from Washington to Munich — where I went prior to going to the Spanish capital of Madrid and then Barcelona — Donald Trump was elected the next US president. One of his winning promises was to curb the number of immigrants.
Supporters of Brexit have hoped that it will mean the UK can say good-bye to globalization and the influx of immigrants.
And Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel’s advocating that more refugees be accepted into her country has caused backfire from fellow citizens.
Some opinion leaders call this anti-immigrant reaction populist nationalism. But so much of it is xenophobia-oriented.
I don’t justify thieves’ acts. But if we want to see fewer cases of theft in rich countries by poor people and immigrants, we should improve the living standards of the whole society, and shrink the income gap between poor and rich.
I hope Trump, UK Prime Minister May and all other global leaders will do that. Putting a high wall between the US and Mexico won’t.