Friday, February 5, 2010

Pick-pockets and sex trafficers

I went to a seminar last week that my school offered about what our experiences here were going to be like. It was run by the activities coordinator here at school and was meant to give us advice about where to go and tips on how to look less like tourists and more like Italians. The seminar was very informative and I found myself feeling more Italian by the end of it. The reason I mention this is because the guy who ran it, a pretty funny little guy, gave us advice about pick-pockets and sex-trafficers. These things are real here and while they don't happen often or in plain sight they do happen. The first bit of advice he gave about pick-pockets was not to set down your coats or pocketbooks when you're out because they'll get stolen. Duh. He then said not to put a hundred different things inside your pockets unless you wanted them stolen. Its very easy for the pick-pockets around here to slip things from you in crowds. Again, Duh. The useful advice we were given is also sort of obvious but isn't something you'd think of normally. When walking along the streets, wear your pocketbook on the side closest to the buildings. I wouldn't normally think of this but it makes alot of sense. Pick-pockets here are mostly drive-bys. Guys on Vespas and bikes will speed up, snatch your bag, most likely make you fall, and speed away. He mentioned a little later in his seminar that sex-trafficers aren't easy to spot but are easy to avoid. "Sex trafficing," he said, "is not going to happen on the street. Men aren't going to jump out of a big van and take you away. Mainly because we don't have big vans here but also because they are smarter than that", and this is true. It takes men of a certain intellect to sex traffic without getting caught. Sex trafficing, according to him, takes place in the bars and clubs. If someone orders you a drink, gives you a drink, or if your drink is delivered, you're most likely being roofied. Order your own drinks, he says, and you'll avoid being a sex-slave for the rest of your life.

Its only been a week here and already I've seen pick-pocketing and sex-trafficing in action. I went to a bar called the Red Garter/Sizzle the other night. This bar would be totally awesome if it weren't teeming with American students and Italian guys who are all DTF. The restaurant portion of the place, Sizzle, specializes in American delicacies like burgers, fries, and milkshakes, plays American sports on their huge plasma televisions, and offers discounted prices on American beers every Tuesday during the beer pong tournament. The Red Garter portion, the dance club, plays nothing but American favorites like "I Kissed a Girl" and "Sexy Bitch". Boys and girls turn into sloppy messes from 12:30 onward; girls make dates with Italian boys and boys get angry at American girls for it. I never allow myself to get this way in these places because, as my dad so often demanded of me, "Do not make yourself a target." This proves to be a good thing because I reduce my risk of pick-pocketing/sex-trafficing and am able to observe the frenzy of American stupidity the way Italian's probably do.

I met an Italian guy there who was clearly all about the ladies, but he took the time to notice how drunk I wasn't and struck up a conversation with me. His name was Vinny, his English was nearly perfect, and he complemented me on managing to remain sober. "It's nice to speak with someone who is pretty and also not fucking falling." We talked for quite a while. He made fun of me for being from Jersey and we joked around about my bad taste in beer when a man starts pushing past us to get to the edge of the table where I was sitting. This was strange because I was in the corner and Vinny was directly in front of me. The guy literally shoved me over and stood standing next to me for about five solid minutes. He was grimy and ugly with some seriously busted teeth and reeked of Italian B.O. Vinny whispered to me "I'm watching him in the mirror (which was directly across from us). If he does anything I'll start something with him." Tough guy. Anyway, Vinny explained to me that this man was a pick pocket and we watched together in the mirror while this man picked approximately 45 different pockets. There was a coat-hanger behind me and it was disconcerting to watch because his body remained stock-still but his hands were a frenzy of motion. I'd been smart and was wearing my coat and holding my small pocketbook undearneath my hands and so had nothing to fear. Vinny warned me not to raise any sort of alarm because this man probably carried some sort of knife and you could never tell what guys like that would do. The guy took a couple of jackets and then left. I witnessed the art of the pick-pocket firsthand and later found out one of my really good friend's jacket had been stolen. There you have it, readers, pick-pockets alive and well in Italy.

Sex trafficing is a completely other matter. I have a friend who got roofied. She'll deny it if you ask her but she definitely was roofied. For one of our school orientations the school rented out a club from 8:30 until 10:30 for us to dance and eat some free food. They gave us some free drinks and we were allowed, if we chose to, to stay at the club without paying cover for a regular night out. The club was called Space Electronic and I had heard already from some Italian friends I had made that this club was notorious for putting roofies in drinks. My group of friends and I went for the orientation and the club was actually pretty cool. It was three levels, the middle had a gigantic dance floor and the top was for VIP's. The underground level was also pretty sweet, with fish tanks and a really smooth looking bar. The DJ for our little party kind of sucked but as soon as the night started to come to an end he started putting on better music. My friends and I decided to leave though because we weren't feeling it and knew the place was about to get way too wild. The next day I asked a friend of mine how her night had turned out. She didn't remember. She purchased one drink in the VIP lounge she and her friends had aquired and had it delivered to her by a shot girl. She said her night ended in her head after the first drink. If she hadn't of been with another group of guys, she'd most certainly have been sex trafficed. Sometimes I wonder how people get comfortable so quickly in foreign places when we're warned time and time again not to. Upon further investigation I discovered that Space Electronic was one of the only bars in town slammed for roofies. I'll not be going to that bar again.

In short, I'm learning valuable lessons in Italy about how to be less of a target. I'm learning how to be more careful and cautious with my drinks here. I know better than to let myself get out of control wasted when I go out with my friends. I've gotten some useful tips on how to spot a pick-pocketer. I'm feeling pretty good about myself here, but not so good that I'll let my guard down.
Anyway, enough blogging about scary things. Arrivederci, for now!
Love, Gabby.

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