The 'Gotcha' Report

photo: pont des arts, seine quai

The Pont des Arts was the scene of the action.

'Virtually Real' Member-To-Be

Email from Kevin McMahon. Sent via the Internet on Tuesday, 5. March:-


I just read your club 'report' from last Thursday and thought you might be interested in our experience after leaving the La Corona. We had been told by the Canadian farmer to beware of pickpockets because of his recent misfortunes on the métro, but basically paid no attention.

We left the café and decided to walk across the Seine on the Pont des Arts back to our Hotel in St. Germain. About 10 steps onto the pont we were jostled by a commotion behind us with suddenly four policemen running past and grabbing at us.

Much yelling in French ensued as both of us thought, 'what could we be in the middle of?' - and maybe we should quietly make our way away from there. In the confusion the prettiest policewoman I have every seen yelled in English, "We are police from the métro! Madam, you have been pickpocketed, please open your purse!"

A child about 11 or 12 had been grabbed and the police were searching him. Kathy checked herphoto: kevin, kathy, edgar, foto annalee ladouceur purse, incredulous, and found her wallet intact, but the clasp and zipper open. She had felt nothing. The policewoman told us they were driving on the quay and watched the boy with a newspaper as cover unclasp, unzip and grab.

From left - Kevin, Kathy and Edgar, the 'Canadian farmer.' Photo by Annalee Ladouceur ©2002

They screeched to a stop, ran out on the bridge and jumped all over us and him. After some additional explanation, the four cops, Kathy and I and the pickpocket got in the police car and were taken off down the quay with full siren and flashing lights towards Châtelet police station to file a complaint.

I pulled out my camcorder and asked if I could film the ride, but they said no, so I left the sound on and get some very excited French and English conversations with the blaring siren in the background.

The whole time I'm thinking, 'Is this some sort of elaborate scam - or have we really just been saved from the hassle, and vacation-ruining aggravation of a pickpocketing?'

Down we went with the police into the bowels of the Châtelet métro - past locked doors, others in handcuffs and plainclothesmen with ear pieces and cell phones - to the police offices.

Half an hour later the crime has been explained to us. Rumanian parents rent their under-13 children to Parisian crime syndicates who order them to pickpocket and hand over the cash they steal as their way of supporting themselves in the big city.

The beauty of the scheme is that children under 13 cannot be jailed, so any punishment is minimal. The bosses act as pimps demanding a sufficient cash flow. Fear flows down from above and aggravation flows up from the victims, but little is done unless they are caught in the act.

Kathy made a robbery statement and we received a copy of our complaint. We returned via métro to St. Germain.

The rest of the visit was uneventful pickpocket-wise, although we were very careful, and we are now happily back in the US with an interesting story, about having got a fast and noisy ride in one of those funny French Police cars.

Take care. Hope to see you again during our next trip.

Kevin McMahon

'Stumbled' On Café Métropole Club

Email from Alison Pilpel. Sent via the Internet on Monday, 11. March:-

I am completely hooked on this site after having stumbled across it by chance. I consider myself an honorary in-absentia club member and want to be enrolled in the suggested additional category of 'Virtual Member, London.'

I can't see why this isn't possible - after all there are no club rules and I can see photos of new club members so why can't I be a club member in reverse?

I could ask my boss for a webcam so other club members could see what's going on in the office - notphoto: club membership card that there is much - typing, phone calls, kettle boiling, etc. Maybe I could arrange a photo to be taken in the local 'prêt-à-manger' which is about as French as you'll get here.

Here is your 'official' club membership card. There are no 'honorary' ones, real or 'virtual.'

Anyway, I'm trying to persuade my American friend Randy - a long- term Paris resident and 'personage' - he's fighting Uncle Ben's Rice in court - you might have seen the TV interview on France 2 TV a couple of weeks ago - to get down to the café one Thursday.

I look forward to receiving my virtual honorary non-existent members card.

Best wishes

Alison Pilpel

Real and Virtual Club Follies

Bonjour Alison and Kevin -

Paris, Monday, 11. March:- Just as some real members at real club meetings don't listen to other real members at real club meetings about pickpockets in Paris, there are some real readers who want to become real members - but are in an intermediate state recognized as being in 'Virtual Membershiphood' - aka 'VMH' - but who don't bother read the 'About the Café Metropole Club' page.

If there were any real 'rules' on this page I could happily say that reading the page in question provides a lot of answers, such as the club's only real and official membership card, which is actually 'virtual.'

But since there are no real 'rules' on this 'About' page, the only thing that is actually real about it is this 'virtual' membership card for this magazine's free club in Paris.

While some 'VMH's have pooh-poohed its authenticity, other 'VMH's have clipped if off their computer screens, had them laminated and use them on dates in Prague or Hollywood and Manhattan for impressing attractive people of opposite genders, by claiming that they are really real members on an exclusive club in Paris.

I am sure this would work in London too, even if the date was only a jaunt to a local 'prêt-à-manger' to have a fresh 'Wimpy.'

As a special service for all aspiring 'VMH's there is an original reproduction of the official but 'virtual' membership card on this page somewhere. It is identical to the one on the 'About' page and the unsigned one that is being displayed around all the snazzier areas of Manhattan and Hollywood.

If you happen to be in Hollywood orphoto: shop, temps des crises Manhattan and happen to run into George and he happens to show you his laminated but unsigned official - but really 'real' card - I just want to say that George is really a real club member.

This shop has no relation to anything on this page, so don't let it worry you.

While George forgot to produce his card at the club meeting held in Manhattan in December, the club's secretary is equally remiss for having forgotten to ask him to produce it so it could be signed.

This, I hope, explains why there are no 'rules' on the 'About' page. They were abolished because nobody can remember them.

If club members do have the real 'virtual' membership card in their possession and they want the secretary to sign it, please be sure to get it laminated afterwards and not beforewards.

Being at a real club meeting might help things along too. On the other hand, unsigned membership cards are just as valid as signed ones - because the club has 'no rules.'

Finally, and this is merely a suggestion - if a club member who happens to be a Canadian farmer tells you about watching out for pickpockets in Paris, you should try not to forget to pay attention.
signature, regards, ric

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