Today, my wallet was stolen on the tube. For the first time in four months of travel, after we passed through countries all poorer than Argentina, it was on the underground in Buenos Aires that a man with chinos and brown suede brogues finally brought that long run of safe pockets to an end.
Talking about it with my kids, I was grateful for the opportunity to remember that we all have choices. And that much of what comes to us in life is a result of choices we make. We in most of the West are luckiest of all, because we have more choices than most. In Gaza, with the blockade which restricts education, most economic activity, food supply and medicine, not to mention the incessant threats in the flights of Israeli war planes and drones overhead, many choices are severely restricted.
So our man in chinos made a choice while he was on the tube to reach into my pocket and take money that didn’t belong to him. He could have done something different, like not reaching into my pocket. But he chose to go for my wallet. Sadly for him, Paola and I chose to give chase. Paola instantly sprinted out of the train after him, and in a hope to stop her, he paused and gave her the money. Then once I had the kids and the pram off the tube and Paola was back to look after them, I took off after him. With the help of people slowing him down (and after leaping over a barrier in a way that I never thought the extra poundage on my belly would allow), I caught him on the stairs. Also sadly for him, I chose that I would rather lose half my day with the police pressing charges than have him go free and take money from people less able to lose it than us.
I got my money back. He is going to get a few weeks in gaol. The police warned that it would take a long time to go through the process of logging the crime, though the young policeman who was studying to become a lawyer was also clearly pleased that we chose to continue. I was wondering whether pressing charges was really necessary, but the incident reminded me that we all have choices. He chose to do what he did, and should face the consequences of that choice. If he gets a soft magistrate, then so be it and he will be lucky. I know I’ve made some bad choices and got off lightly. But either way, he will think twice and may make a better choice the next time.
So my thing to be grateful for today is the ability to have a choice.
(P.S. If he’d got away with it, I may have been less philosophical, and just plain miffed! That said, if I did, it would have been my choice …