Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Gypsies, Tramps, & Thieves

Before I went to Italy a few years ago, I read several travel advisories about roving gangs of thieving gypsy children. Their m.o.would be to swarm tourists, create a diversion, and strip their victims of all their valuables. Although I never encountered any myself, almost everybody else I know who has traveled to Europe did and got a very good story out of it.

My aunt and cousins were in Rome when they were surrounded by a band of about 15 children, who approached them begging, palms outstretched. Although my aunt and cousins look like sweet, gentle marks, they have lived in New York City most of their lives and are hardened and merciless. When the children tried to form a circle around them my cousins fell into defensive formation around my aunt and began savagely kicking at the children with their pointy toed cowboy boots. The children quickly moved on. Even my aunt was surprised at her daughters' ferocity and said,

"Oh, my babies!"

Another friend was walking alone when she found herself suddenly surrounded. They managed to empty her bulging pockets in seconds and were off. Sadly for them, she had a terrible cold and her pockets were stuffed with nothing but tissues full of snot and germs.

The best one happened to another friend while she was actually in New York City. This was her first visit to the New York, and she had had one of those magical days in the city that only New York can offer. She was marveling at the city, drinking it all in outside Saks on 5th Ave. when she looked over and saw some scruffy little gypsy children on the corner smoking. One little girl, who looked no older than 8, was provocatively dressed and strutting back and forth in front of the boys she was with, waggling her hips like some pint sized hooker. My friend said to her companion,

“Oh my God. Those kids are smoking.”

The little girl overheard her, and immediately ran up to her, sucked on her cigarette, exhaled and yelled,

“What the fuck did you say? What the fuck did you say, you fat fucking whore?”

My friend, in complete shock, froze, while the little girl continued,

“Hey, bitch. My brother over there," motioning to a boy no older than 10, "he wants to know… how much… you’ll charge…to FUCK HIM!”

Terrified, my friend whirled around to get away from the little girl, and when she whipped around saw this haughtily elegant woman in a full sable coat, loaded down with shopping bags, step off the curb to signal a taxi, trip, and faceplant right on the street.

That was just too much, and my friend grabbed her companion and ran off, laughing hysterically.

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