The best part was visiting the Tourist Police in the center of the city because, I was told, that’s where a foreigner will get a good hearing and an officer who speaks English and perhaps two or three other popular-in-Greece tongues. As soon as I said hello, the officer blanched, reached for the phone, said a few worried words, and passed the phone to me. The woman on the other end asked me my problem: I was pick-pocketed on the train. Where? On the train from Piraeus. I see. Close to Piraeus or closer to center city? It happened just before we reached the first station out from Piraeus. I realized they had my wallet just as they disappeared on the platform. Ah, close to Piraeus. Then you must go to the Piraeus police station. That’s rather a long trip, and I’m just come back from the islands. Can I go tomorrow? Of course you may go tomorrow, but if you do you must remember to tell them the theft happened tomorrow. Crime must be reported the same day. So I should go right now? That would be best.
So I left for Piraeus, something of a jaunt that requires legs on each of Athens’ three subway lines. The newspaperman at the Piraeus station allowed that the police station was a very long walk. I should take a cab. Sorry, I don’t have any cash for a cab. I don’t have my debit card, and I don’t have my credit card. Ah, stolen on the train, yes?
Yes. Which way do I walk?
If hands could make supercilious gestures, his made one. It meant something like Further than you can manage, pal. But he was wrong. After a pleasant enough walk through all the smells a port town can muster, and after precise instructions from a very pretty cosmetics purveyor in a pharmacy that was doling out free bp checks (I thought it best to decline), I found the police station right where she said it would be: six blocks further on and just across the street from a rather posh women’s wear shop called Zara.
Another trip to another fourth floor. All the police in Piraeus seem to be undercover. They’re certainly under-dressed. The receptionist in the sleeveless undershirt and cut off jeans, told me to find Room Ten, which was behind a cage door that clanged like the main gate I passed through when I taught a course at the Green Bay Maximum Security Correctional Institute. Room Ten didn’t hold out much promise. I explained myself to Black Tee Shirt and Biceps while Torn White Tee Shirt and Bulletproof Vest pretended to listen. BTS didn’t ask when or where the crime was committed; he didn’t ask if I could identify the malefactor though, later on, he did suggest that were a lot of Iraqis, Pakistanis, and Afghans who looked suspicious to him. I think he was suggesting that this was a crime of retribution against the imperial invader.
He gave me a form to fill out: My name, my address, my father’s name, my mother’s name, my passport number, the city and date of my birth. All essential for solving my case. He stamped the paper with a rubber chop and wrote some private message within the chop. Then, with another stamp, he validated the first and signed that. He Xeroxed the page, gave me the copy, punched two holes in the original, and inserted in in a two ring binder that might have had life as a prop in Brazil or The Adding Machine. Maybe Modern Times.
What happens if I see the guy on the train tonight? Can I arrest him? Yes, you can, opined Bulletproof Vest. And tomorrow, what if I find him tomorrow? You can arrest him, dial 100, and bring him to the station.
At which Black Tee Shirt and Biceps added the codicil: But after tomorrow, you can’t do nothing. Statute of limitations: two days.
Can I punch him in the nose? Bulletproof adjusted his Vest, and Biceps twitched with new-found animation: We arrest you, sir. Now, we find your wallet, we send it to US Embassy. Maybe they send it to you.
At this point, I noticed that Jesus was kneeling before a large rock deep in his Forty Day Desert so rapt in prayer that I figure wallets turn up here all the time. Just in case, I got off at the next station (that turns out to be the stop for a pro soccer stadium) and checked all the garbage bins.
It seems that Greeks soccer fans leave long and drizzling trails of honey and melted ice cream for the local dumpster divers of whom, this evening, I account myself one.