When our tour group was slated to take a ferry to the island of Santorini, our director Rachel wanted to lighten our load for this side trip. She suggested that we send our unneeded suitcases to the hotel we would use on our return to Athens. Hauling excess luggage across town was a big job, so she took my husband Steve along, and they cut costs by riding the Metro back.
Rachel knew that taking the Metro was dicey. During the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009, Greece had no resources to prevent illegal immigrants from flooding in, so Athens was overrun with desperate people, some of whom still struggle to survive. Many have turned to picking pockets, and the subway is an ideal locale for getting hands-on.
After having Rachel point out a few likely candidates, Steve noticed that though pickpockets dress like tourists, they reek of body odor – maybe because they don’t have access to a shower? Some drew suspicion by running up the escalators, probably making a getaway after scoring. So, between those escalator sprints, and the fear of getting caught, it seems likely that even pickpockets who’d bathed would work up a seriously stinky sweat.
A key tell to watch for, according to Rachel, is people’s eyes. Men tend to focus on cleavage, so males taking more interest in men’s hips are likely looking for loot. She noticed one guy motion to another, seeming to indicate Steve’s pants pockets. There she drew the line. No client/volunteer-luggage-handler of Rachel’s would be robbed on her watch. Despite Steve’s protests, she positioned him against a wall next to a safe-looking woman, then planted herself in front of Steve, arms crossed, eyes narrowed. He finished the commute without losing any worldly goods, but pride slightly bruised. He didn’t realize that Rachel’s guardianship had been sent by the deity Athens is named for. Opa, Steve was blessed by Athena, goddess of wisdom and protection!