Dear Parisian Pickpocket,
It was day four of our trip to Paris. We were going to explore the city, visiting the Champs-Elysees and other aimless wandering. We had just finished a delicious breakfast at Buvette (our second stop there during the trip) and were getting on the metro at Pigalle to begin our 27,000-step day. We were listening to music through our headphones, since all Parisians do that and who wants to look like a tourist? Not us. Our headphones definitely blocked out the fact that we were the only people on the train speaking English and looking at the map of stops above the doors. We definitely did NOT look like tourists.
When my music suddenly stopped as I boarded the train, I figured my headphones had gotten caught on some invisible pole and had come unplugged. For the five second time span in which my hands weren’t in my pockets as I found my seat on the train, you slipped into my trench coat pocket and were off the train–clearly you were a seasoned pickpocket (better than being unseasoned and boring, I guess).
I knew what happened as soon as I felt for my phone in my pocket, turning around in just enough time to see you rushing off the train. My first instinct was to ask you for my phone back, but since you were already gone, I don’t speak French and I’m definitely not ballsy enough to confront a potentially dangerous criminal, that wasn’t an option. Instead, I sat in my seat with a sinking feeling in my stomach and a look that was distinctive enough for a French lady on the train to tell me to report the theft to the train station. I did, and they directed me to the police station (which we decided to walk a half hour to… hence the almost 30,000 steps we took that day). Did I expect to get my phone back? Heck no. But you stole my phone and I felt like I was giving up if I just let you have it. Ha.
Little did you know, you helped me make the most of my trip to Paris.
Sure, I lost all of the photos I had taken up to that point–at the Sacre Coeur, Eiffel Tower, Versailles, of at least 800 different angles of the same three plates of food and more, but I had already experienced that. I uploaded a few pictures to Facebook, but other than those few shots, all I had were my memories. Thank goodness.
Without my phone, I became a lot more aware of my surroundings. You can bet that my hands were in my pockets for the entirety of any metro ride that I took for the trip (not that I kept anything else in my pockets). I noticed the children sitting with their parents on the metro who were dressed more fashionably than I was. I noticed the intricate tiles that lined the metro stations. I noticed the beautiful architecture that the city is so well-known for, from the iron railings on every balcony to the centuries-old historical buildings dispersed throughout the city.
I noticed how much pride the French people have in their country–the French flag was on pretty much every building you could possibly dream of. I noticed how kind the French are. Any time we had questions, they were willing to lend a hand, or to direct us to someone or somewhere that could help.
This might be hard to imagine in our plugged-in age, but without my phone, I felt more connected. I felt more aware of what was happening around me. I felt like I could taste the quality food we ate better without a screen between me and my plate. I could see the trendy fashion styles that Paris is so well known for (it was Paris Fashion Week while we were there, after all) because I wasn’t distracted by my phone. I was able to have more focused, distraction-free conversations because I wasn’t waiting for a text or a tweet.
“Without my phone, I felt more connected.”
What I did notice were other tourists–at amazing, awe-inspiring historical and cultural sites like the Musee d’Orsay and the Arc de Triomphe, people weren’t really looking at them. They were staring at their phone screens, trying to get that perfect Instagram shot. While I’m certainly, definitely, 100 percent guilty of using technology a little bit too much, it was shocking to be on the “outside” of the connected world for four days. My pickpocket helped me to realize that I don’t need to take pictures of everything. I don’t need to document every single things I do on social media.
What I do need to do, however, is be present. As cliche as it sounds, I learned to live in the moment during my trip to Paris. Even our nights spent in bars were more enjoyable simply because I wasn’t refreshing Twitter. I was absorbing the culture of Paris. I was looking around, taking in all that I could for my short trip to the city. If I had had my phone, I don’t know that I could have said that I really took in all that I could.
So, to my pickpocket, thank you. Although you had ulterior motives for taking my phone, you helped to make my trip. Sure, replacing my phone was certainly not an expense I expected after paying for the trip, but it ended up making my trip more enjoyable.