Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Barcelona Thieves

I head off to Sundance Film Festival on Friday. Until I have a report from that five-day frenzy, here is a little something to get you started. I wrote this for my good friend Joe Pike's blog. The scene: Spain in August of 2009...

In my short 22 years I have visited over 200 cities in 17 countries. I’m still working out my list of top five cities but I have it pinned down to New York, Dublin, Paris, Venice and No.5 is to be determined. I like to think of myself as the anti-tourist, and arrogantly so.
I laugh to myself when I hear tales of woe from people who make classic mistakes: being lured to the world’s largest ball of twine or buying that ring for grandma from the guy who swore it came right off the Pope’s hand. But hubris is a tricky friend and I certainly got what was coming to me on my most recent trip to Barcelona.
My passport was stolen.
Yep, that’s right. Magellan over here had her most important document swiped, leaving me panicked in a foreign city running around like a moron trying to get help from anyone and looking a lot like those people I mercilessly mock.
I was traveling with my family and while I was watching the car with my brother and stretching our legs someone rode up to us on a bike and started speaking in Spanish and French. We don’t speak either and I’m pretty sure this guy picked up on that as I was sporting my Minnesota Twins (Joe Mauer to be exact) t-shirt.
As he pedaled off it dawned on us that this guy was a clever decoy. We had been duped. His henchman opened the other side of the car and swiped my mother’s purse, in which were all three passports.
To be polite I’m going to censor the stream of expressions that spilled out of our mouths. Brother kicked off his Birkenstocks and took off barefoot after the thief. But it was too late. There would be no heroic end to this tale of woe.
And all I saw of Barcelona was the inside of the police station waiting room and interrogation room.
As for the locals, I met Phillip, the six-language-speaking, delightfully sarcastic tourism officer assisting the drunk, hysterical and impatient tourists who were also taken for a ride. I also became acquainted with some of the city’s finest as I looked at mug shots.
The Barcelona cuisine? Well, that chocolate bar and Fanta from the vending machine certainly exceeded my expectations.
After three hours we left the station with a police report. What was supposed to be a long, relaxing weekend turned into a disaster and we were out of there before 10 a.m. the next day. Sorry Barcelona, you didn’t make the top five cut but you definitely took me down a few much-needed notches.
It Could Happen to You
In all seriousness, if you should find yourself in a similar situation the first thing to do is file a police report. The US consulates cannot issue new passports without an official report. Second, locate the nearest Consulate General because only these can print new documents. Call them and get their hours of operation and any other information they require from you. For us, our passports could be reissued within a day but not all are the same so make sure you have all the info from the specific U.S consulate in the country you are visiting. And third, don’t freak out. People are much more inclined to help you if you aren’t in hysterics - and trust that it will all get taken care of.
You’ll get home. And a good tip is to travel with copies of your passport because this expedites the process at the consulate and many hotels require your passport number at check-in.

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