Tuesday 2 April 2013

Just call me the Thief Whisperer

A Shocking Liar

Or Totally Paranoid

It all just depends on what you conclude after reading this post.

Graffiti aerosol artist Sofles's handiwork.
I have a bit of a love hate relationship with public transport. I see its value in cities but I just think that the people who really need it are often the ones who are the most at risk when using it.

This was really evident to me when I lived in Scotland. I often caught buses to get into Edinburgh from the little village I was living in. And I felt really sad about the large number of elderly people who had to catch the bus because it was the only way they could get out to do their shopping.

It took some of them a long time just to climb in and out of the bus. And then they often had to stand because younger people would not offer them a seat. They then had to try and hang on to something when the bus was braking constantly all the while juggling their walking sticks, shopping bags and trolleys. Anyway, to this day I really do not like to see elderly or vulnerable people travelling alone on public transport and I always keep a watchful eye out for them.

I personally have never had any cause for concern using public transport and I often use trains no matter which city I happen to be in.

On Saturday I caught a near deserted train into the City in the middle of the day.

I sat in the end seat in the "Quiet" carriage and noticed only two other passengers in the front of the carriage.

I kept my sunglasses on as the sun was shining brightly through the windows. I put my earphones in and sat back to have a relaxing journey listening to my favourite tunes.

After two stops, I saw four teenage boys step on board and walk towards me one after the other. The first boy walked straight through to the next carriage. The second boy sat down in the seat opposite me and said he was "going to stay put."

The third boy sat in the seat in front of him and the fourth sat next to me.

Of all the seats that were available in the carriage they chose to sit right on top of me.

I immediately became uncomfortable.

They talked amongst themselves for a minute or two before the young guy sitting next to me turned and asked, "Hey, what brands do you like lady?"

What brands do I like? Lady?

I told him that I was pretty sure that we would not like the same brands at all.

He looked about 15. He then started reeling off a list of brands such as Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Nike etc as though he had learned it by rote.

"You know what I mean?" he asked.

I told him that sure I had heard of the brands but I was not into brands and they were way too expensive for me.

He turned to me and said, "Well you sure don't look like a lady that doesn't like brands. Look at you, you're wearing Prada sunglasses."

Truly, who notices brands?
They're quick I will give them that. Yes, I was indeed wearing Prada sunglasses but with my hair covering the logo.

I quickly told him that a friend got them for me in Thailand and they were knock offs (lie). Instinctively I held onto my bag and phone a little tighter.

I took off my glasses and held them in front of me and said loudly. "They're great don't you think? Just like the real thing. Maybe you could get the brands you like over there for next to nothing too."

He then told me he was dressed in all new Ralph Lauren gear and then his mate told me that he was dressed from head to toe in Tommy Hilfiger.

I am not sure what reaction they wanted. If any.

I told them that they were pretty lucky to afford clothes like that (all the time thinking that they probably had nicked them from the local department store).

"Oh that's because I am a lawyer", came the smartass reply.

His mate said, "You can't say that you idiot, you've got to go to college to do that".

"OK", he said, "I'm a thief and I paint trains."

And that I guess was probably closer to the truth.

He shifted closer to me forcing me to move as close to the window as I could get.

Trying to break his current thought patterns (thank you Edward de Bono), I told him that my best friend's son is a graffiti artist and he paints trains all over the world and gets paid lots of money to do it. I said, "I bet he wears all the brands you guys like and doesn't have to steal to get them."

"What's his name then?", two of them said in unison.

"Ummm, his name is um, .....Daley Wilson (a big fat lie)" I offered.

"No", the guy sitting next to me said. "What's his tag?"

"Mmm", I said, "I am not really sure. Tell me a few and I will see if I remember."

Vinson, Sofles, SIROC, they yelled out.

"I think it's the second last one, that sounds really familiar." I said.

"Wow, lady, that is amazing", the boy next to me said. "You really know him? Wow, you know Sofles?"

Well I know of him now, anyway.

They then got up one by one and I hoped that meant that they were getting off at the next station.

"See you then lady, have a real good day. Say hello to Sofles for us when you see him next." one of them called over his shoulder. 

As they were walking towards the door they stopped to look at the map on the wall, so I took a picture of them with my phone. Bits of kids with their flash gear on that look pretty harmless, no?

Notice the one in the middle has his collar up so you can see the Ralph Lauren logo - I thought only old men wore that brand.

The two teenage girls at the front of the carriage each turned around and gave me a knowing look. I said, "Jesus Christ" and breathed a big sigh of relief.

These kids really scared me.

I just wondered what they saw when they picked me out to sit down next to. Alone? Am I now one of those people I used to feel sad about on Scottish buses?

As the train pulled out of the station I looked into the next carriage and noticed familiar caps. They did not get off the train at all, they had just moved to the next carriage.  

I would have loved to tell them what I really thought but I decided to engage with them and use the only thing of any use that my ex taught me, Bullshit Baffles Brains.

I am not sure I will choose a deserted carriage to sit in any more though. My intuition wasn't telling me positive things about these kids...I got the menacing signal loud and clear. That has not happened before, ever, and I have met all kinds of strange people on public transport and on my travels.

PS Sorry Sofles, whoever you may be, for using your name in vain. I think it was for a good cause and just so you know, you clearly have some influence. Please use it really, really wisely because we truly have some **(*)(*)*)*) up kids around.


  1. That was scary! I worry about the kids when they get off the train and walk the 5 minutes home, not when they're on it...

    Just what is our society becoming?? Sigh....

    1. You don't have a choice about your kids having to use trains to get to school but I would never let them travel alone if I could help it. I just heard on the radio that the problem is we don't say NO to kids anymore. For some kids the first people who say no to them are the police or the teachers. This lack of respect is pervasive in our society now and it doesn't just come from teenagers.

  2. Sounds like you did the smart thing with those boys Lilly, scary indeed, you never know. The next thought is that hopefully they will just steal and not harm anyone.

    1. They were skinny little teenagers but together they were threatening. I was carrying a large bag and if it came down to it I probably would have hit them with it. Perhaps they were not going to try to steal anything but it just felt they were up to something.

  3. You handled a scarier situation very well. I suspect they wanted to scare you. I doubt they wanted to talk about Prada sunglasses. There has been too many problems lately in Chicago on public transportation and just plain city streets. Hopefully the police can get better control but the warmer weather typically brings out more problems.
    Be safe.

    1. I am not really sure what they wanted but they sure were confident and cocky. My gut instincts were telling me to beware. I wonder what their parents think when they come back wearing designer clothes. I thought teenage boys liked surfer brands not yuppy ones.

  4. Bullshit Baffles Brains! Thank goodness you learnt that lesson Lilly and applied it beautifully.
    I have never been in a position like you described but I think I will start practising some bullshit so I'm prepared.
    Great storytelling my friend!!
    Take care and big hugs
    Peggy ♥♥♥

    1. He was an expert in that and I did learn a few things. I always take public transport into the City but never ever have felt frightened before. I was determined to be cocky back and not show I was scared. It is the pack mentality that I detest. Hope you are well Peggy.

  5. That was very very scary....They sounded rather menacing.....I think you addressed the problem Wonderfully.....And very bravely, too! I'm not sure I would have been so brave.

  6. You just described a worst nightmare of mine. I'm always so nervous with public transportation. Even if I'm with someone, you just don't know who else is there. But then I'm a nervous person by nature.

  7. Holy shit, Lilly...that scared me to death. We don't have much public transportation here in Kansas City. A few buses but very few are used other than in the downtown area. I would of been petrified had they surrounded me like that. That was very clever to say the glasses were a knock off. Perhaps that's why they targeted you.

    What's wrong with kids? Don't they have something better to do than riding around on trains looking for trouble?

  8. Oh this time continuum of zones is confusing. I just realized I read this yesterday April Fool's Day but it was already April 2 there. I'll conclude this was not a silly April Fool's post. Some blogger are prone to April Fool's Day posting. Just thought maybe there was some joking going on in this story.

    1. Hi Bill, no it is a true story not an April Fools joke. Kids in packs are scary and I won't be travelling on my own in empty carriages from hereon in. I wish i had the guts to give them what for but wasnt game.

  9. Smart ass kids! Grrrrr. I've experienced the likes of them on NYC subways. People in my personal space (on nearly empty trains) makes me very uncomfortable.

    Glad you were fast-thinking and safe.

    xo jj

    1. I have never even been scared on NYC subways as they are usually so busy. Hope it was a one off.

  10. Hey Lilly - sounds like being on a bus from Dalkeith to Edinburgh! You handled a potentially difficult situation very well. Take care out there.

    1. Mmmm Mike well you know I have caught that bus many times. How strange because we may have shared the same bus trips and never knew. I really miss your blog.

    2. The Ranter has returned...! www.auldreekierants.blogspot.com

  11. Hi Lilly,
    Even if they weren't planning to rob you they were planning to have fun ruffling your feathers. I have use public transport here in Boston 90% of the time and haven't had many problems (knock wood) even when traveling at night but - I never let myself sit in an isolated section. I always sit near the front. I never put 2 ear plugs in when listening to my Ipold and always have it tucked inside an inner pocket. (Mostly I don't listen to it.) I have had fabulous experiences including a subway jam session concert at 10:30 pm on a Friday night.
    When I was younger, I had some kids say some nasty things to me in broad daylight. They were in a small group (where they get braver and bolder) and said that I was a tranvestite - because of my big feet I assume. I just looked at them.
    Sit near the front of the transport, don't wear your most expensive stuff (especially jewelry), be careful using cell phones (we have a lot of technology thieves working the public transport (or T as we call it in Boston).
    I want to say, once more, that I've made several friends and picked up a couple of dates in my girlish days because of books they or I were reading so - the good, the bad and the ugly all co-exist.
    BBB - pricelss.

    1. Thanks for such a great comment and such good tips. Big feet? Another thing we have in common. Hope to go to Boston some day.

  12. That would have terrified me! I have issues when dealing with the unknown, like strangers who suddenly want to be chummy and invade my personal space. You did a really good job at dealing with it, especially since your gut was telling you there was something to fear.

    1. My head always does battle with my gut instincts but this time I listened. I don't mind chummy strangers but young teenage boys generally do not want to talk to me as a rule. Way outside their demographic lol.

  13. Once I was skiing and I was in line for the lift alone. (The guy I'd gone with hadn't made it down yet). It wasn't busy, so they were sending individuals up without pairing them. But a snowboarding kid of about 16 asked if he could share my lift. I was taken aback since it was unnecessary. He was a big guy with piercings and a modified mohawk. And chattered at me all the way up, talking about his family and places he liked to snow board, then wished me a good run at the top. Totally blew my stereotype right out of the water!

  14. With recent events in India, your post should hit home with women. A sad effing world, showing no signs of improving. I look at my generations goals from the sixties and seventies, and think we did nothing of any lasting change. It's like something out of Clockwork Orange out there.

    Best wishes to you.

  15. That was pretty scary Lilly and there sure is some lesson learning too.
    I don't know what those kids were upto but thankfully you dealt with them well.
    I am very wary of stranger youngsters specially if they are in a pack and causing a ruckus.
    I am equally paranoid of large crowd .
    What kind of society we are becoming with so much of trust deficit .Being civilized should have meant better behavior in public towards strangers but I find it totally otherwise.

  16. Holley moley, Lilly! That was just awful. I was on the edge of my seat reading this. That was truly intimidating. Please be very careful. I don't think I've ever been on a train by myself. Now I don't want to be.

  17. That is terrible. No, I don't think you were being paranoid as they were up to no good that is for certain. Bloody idiots. Stay safe.

  18. I agree with Sarah teenagers usually keep well away from us oldies if there is the opportunity. They are probably seeing what they could pinch or at least bragging about their recent exploits. Packs of people, yes 3 is a pack, can be scary. You did the right thing, never show anyone you are scared. Can Can gave some sensible advice.

  19. How awful to be accosted like that and super scary. I'm been scared on a train before but never as you described. Maybe they were trying to rattle you but why why why does it have to happen.

  20. It's happened to me - It is so frightening


Thanks for your comments.