Is stealing morally wrong? As I child I was taught it was. You couldn’t even get forgiveness in Confession if you didn’t first give back whatever you’d stolen, which in my book made it a seriously-stupid sin. After an experience in Figueres yesterday, I’m not so sure it’s a sin and I’m certain it’s not worth the effort.
Figueres is across the Spanish border from Perpignan; you’re still in Catalonia but there’s a stronger Spanish flavour. It’s a nice little town with two claims to attention. It’s the birthplace of Narcis Monturiol Estarriol who invented the submarine, and it’s the birthplace of Salvador Dali who had a slightly weird moustache and did a lot of very weird paintings. People queue for over an hour to get into the Dali museum; hardly anybody queues to check out the submarine man.
Anyway, we were in the Dali gift-shop - always the most crowded place in any cultural location - when I bumped gently against a woman. She murmured ‘Perdone, senor’ and that was that. Or it was until three minutes later, when I swung round to say something to the present Mrs Collins only it wasn’t the present Mrs Collins by my side but the perdone woman and she wasn’t just by my side, she had her hand in my bag. Or had she? Almost as soon as I registered her hand was in the bag, her hand wasn’t in the bag and she was talking to her friend. I checked: keys, phone, satnav, all safely in the inner zipped compartment where I’d placed them. Nothing gone. So I told the p Mrs C, in a loudish voice, what I thought had happened. About twenty seconds later the Spanish woman and her friend made an unhurried but firm exit from the shop. We followed, equally unhurried but firm. The Spanish woman and her friend dawdled at a shop window for 3.5 secs, then with a quick backward glance, set off down the street. We followed. They quickened their pace and turned a corner; we trotted after them. When next seen they had done some real speed work and were disappearing at the end of the street, again with that non-furtive-but-definitely-checking glance over the shoulder.
And that was it. I’m not sure what we’d have done if they’d turned round and come back – probably started to sprint away ourselves. Was this woman Catalonia’s worst pickpocket? Maybe. If she hadn’t been dipping into my bag, why did she and her friend clear off soon afterwards and go barreling down a number of streets at near-Olympics pace? The p Mrs C and I gathered our breath and agreed I’d been guilty of tempting a Spanish woman to break the seventh commandment.
There is another explanation. Somewhere in Figueres today, two respectable middle-aged women are telling their friends about the near-escape they had after being chased for no reason down a series of streets by a pair of clearly-crazy but frighteningly-fit old gringos.
Is stealing morally wrong? I dunno, but considering the high level of skill required, not to mention the physical and emotional expense, I’d hate to have to do it for a living.