” Well “This I Believe” good listeners, I’m blessed to be here today with good news and bad news for you, and then good news again ! Most recently I had the great fortune to experience a wonderful European holiday, and got to do some truly incredible things that many of my fellow Americans only dream of.
I visited the unique buildings of Barcelona’s very own native son, Antonio Gaudi, and feasted upon zarzuela de mariscos at one of the city’s finest dining rooms. I partied all night long alongside the fashionistas of Ibiza, and laid on her renowned Es Cavallet beach the following day. I stood at the edge of the famous Field Of Miracles in Italy’s Tuscany region, and climbed to the very top of the miraculous Leaning Tower Of Pisa to make a cell phone call. In Vatican City, I stood in Saint Peter’s Square and gazed up to the balcony where the Pope blesses the faithful, and then stood in the Sistine Chapel, gazing up to the ceiling at Michelangelo’s masterpiece. And I climbed to the top of the Acropolis and meandered about the Parthenon, imagining myself at conference with the ancient Gods of Greece. But as spectacular as all of this was, there was one incident which was not all milk and honey.
On Spain’s sunny southeast coast lies the majestic city of Valencia, and while wandering up its winding allies one afternoon I, and a couple of members from our group happened upon La Taberna De La Reina, a charming sidewalk café. It was a hot day so we decided to sit down for a while and enjoy some cold Spanish cervezas and pulpo. I decided to treat to lunch and took my billfold out of my camera bag on an adjacent chair, putting it down alongside it. Shortly after, a middle – aged man who spoke no English and carrying a backpack came up to the table, put his backpack down on that chair, and took out several cigarette lighters for sale. Nobody was interested so he reached into his backpack again, pulling out what appeared to be an endless array of dirty looking plastic bags onto the chair until he found some used -looking pens and markers. Nobody wanted them either so he put the lighters, pens and bags back into his pack and moved on to a few tables down Shortly afterwards for some reason, I looked down at the chair and although my camera bag was there, the billfold was gone ! Now keep in mind, this was the beginning of my trip so there I would be in a foreign Country with no money, no drivers’ license, no health care cards and most importantly, no credit cards, for the whole rest of my time in a strange place. I quickly looked in my camera bag to make sure it wasn’t still in there, it wasn’t. Fortunately, Spanish is one of the languages I speak, so I jumped up and chased down and cornered the peddler at the end of the café. I told him in no uncertain terms to return my wallet, as he kept repeating “Yo no se, yo no se” (I don’t know). Well let me tell you, quite the scene followed with everyone at the restaurant gawking at me, and the waiter coming over to ask him to open his backpack. I grabbed to the bottom off it, but no billfold. My whole life was in there and as you can imagine, I was beside myself in grief and hysteria and anger as the peddler commenced to walk away. But for some reason I don’t exactly know, I chased him down again and made him, most reluctantly open up his pack once more. I grabbed the dirty – looking plastic bag inside on top, opened it up to look in and there at the bottom of it, was my wallet. I swiftly took it and told the waiter to call La Policia. He said he did but he didn’t, which made me wonder later if there wasn’t some sort of collusion going on with the thief. As it turned out though, the last bus back to our ship was in fifteen minutes, so we had to leave anyway. I paid the bill (with my retrieved credit card), and made an exit for the pier.
Upon reflection later in the day, I became amazed at how lucky I really was. What if I didn’t look down at that chair so abruptly to notice that my wallet was missing ? What if the thief hadn’t lingered so long at the other table at the café ? What if I hadn’t chased him down a second time, and forced him to open his knapsack again ? What if he had run away when I confronted him ? I am not familiar with the winding cobblestone alleyways of Valencia. And in all the years I have traveled the World and heard these horror stories I didn’t believe half of them because at all these exotic ports of call, I had never been victimized. Of course I didn’t let this one misadventure ruin my incredible trip, but it did reaffirm a notion I already had.
Many Europeans, and rightfully so, believe America to be “the land of guns and murder.” Had that happened here and I accosted my perpetrator, quite possibly he would have reached into his backpack, pulled out a handgun, and I wouldn’t be here with you today to tell you this unusual story. But you see, Spain has an incredible Socialist Government with strong gun control laws, and contrary to the constant blabber of the N.R.A. with their “if handguns were illegal, only the criminals would have them, and not us honest people” nonsense, in reality, with a total handgun ban, apparently nobody has them.
And now I believe I have finally realized an epiphany. This I believe, thank God for gun control. It probably saved my life. “
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.