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Posts Tagged ‘The New Yorker’

Photograph by Martin Schoeller

Photograph by Martin Schoeller

I’ve had my pocket picked. It happened a few years ago in downtown Chicago (the Loop). As I was leaving a sushi place, two men walked over to me. One stepped in front of me and one stepped behind me. The man in front paused in the doorway, dropping the smoothie he was carrying. He apologized and fumbled with the cup, as though trying to mop up the mess. The other man pressed up behind me, as though he hadn’t been paying attention, and was trying to walk through the door. He was carrying his coat over his arm, I remember. I noticed him but my attention was focused on the man in front of me. That guy apologized again, then hurried out the door. The second man pushed past me, and took off in the opposite direction. A few moments later, I realized that my wallet was missing. I hesitated, wondering if I’d left it inside the place. I looked back. By the time I decided I really had been robbed, both men were gone.

The two guys were pretty clumsy, I think (how repeatable is that M.O.?), but I was sufficiently distracted by them, and they got me easily. And this despite the fact they were memorable—I noticed them the second I entered the place, two middle-aged men in nice suits. (They were also black, and when I realized my wallet was missing, I at once chastised myself for thinking that they had stolen it—white liberal guilt in action. Hence my looking back into the place to see if I’d left my wallet on the counter.)

I was reminded of this experience because I recently read Adam Green’s excellent article on Apollo Robbins in The New Yorker. The two of them also made a wonderful short video in which Robbins demonstrates his craft. Many things described in both the article and video rang true for me. The primary tool used in robbing me was directing my attention away from my personal possessions. I also know now (from the article) that the first man was the “stall” or the “stick,” while the second was both the “shade” and the “tool.” (And there might have been even more men operating as part of that outfit, such as a “duke man,” who gets handed the wallet so the other men are clean.)

As for what happened to me and my wallet after the robbery …

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