But lately, it's been widely reported that around Rome (and I imagine other cities as well), there's a new ploy around to separate you from your money. And it involves your car. It also tends to strike at women driving by themselves, a category in which I find myself - often. But since I got literally hit up twice in the last month, I thought I'd share the experiences with you: Forewarned is always forearmed.
Essentially, people are coming out of the woodwork and hitting the side mirror of your car. This can be a person, usually someone on a scooter, and like the other night, in another car - but that's a bit more outrageous. You hear a rather loud 'thud' and are shocked, because you swear (and you are most likely very correct) that no one was even near you a moment before. They tend to go after women who are meandering, looking for a parking spot, so not fully paying attention to their surroundings. But the other day I was driving - fully in my lane - when it happened. Once they have you totally on a guilt trip, they hit you up with a "Just give me 100 euro and we'll leave it at that." Sure beats begging 100 people for a euro coin each.
They stop and signal to you to pull over. I do not - ever - open my windows to engage in conversations. This, is a precautionary measure I learned from living in the USA - where people come up to you and try to chloroform you to get your car, or worse. And after seeing The Vanishing, well, call me 'better safe than six feet under'---alive. And besides, if they can shout through the 3 foot thick windows at the post office to complete a transaction, their voices can certainly carry thru the window of my car.
|The new pocket pickers - who just stand there patiently waiting|
while you give them lots of your money - voluntarily.
In scenario no. 2 - I was perfectly in my lane, on a wide boulevard at that. The thud told me our side view mirrors just made contact. Nonetheless...I followed him as he pulled over, because I didn't want to illicit road rage. He comes over. I tell him I can't roll down my window (which btw is the god-honest truth, it's momentarily missing its motor, causing me endless grief on toll roads..but no matter, I wasn't going to do it anyway - see The Vanishing reference above). He tried shouting to me that I broke his side mirror...sees my absolute look of confusion -- I told him I was rigorously in my lane, and if he hit my mirror, it's his problem. Then, pointing to my side mirror, he motions for me to come look - "You see, your mirror was hit."
Yeah, right, I'm really going to leave my car and 'come and have a look' - I couldn't join him on the dark road even if I had wanted to, because I was too busy replaying scenes from The Hitcher. Besides, my car is 15 years old. If the side mirror was hit, it probably made an improvement. Seeing he was getting nowhere fast, and just before I unsheathed my trusty iPhone camera, he gave up. "Never mind, bella mia..." and he walked away. I opened my passenger window and called after him...to watch where he's going in the future.
I would suggest you readers do the same.
Driving away, I recalled when my purse was stolen - right out from under my car seat - while driving in traffic in Naples. They smashed the window and in my surprise (I thought an explosion had gone off next to me), I was stunned to see my bag floating right out of it and onto the back of a scooter. Either way, I counted my blessings that none of these incidents transpired in carjack happy USA - I'd have been separated from a lot more than just my wallet...