I am currently in London. Yesterday, I went to the Thomas Exchange Global on the Strand to swap dollars for pounds, and I discovered this sign:
Immediately, I was horrified by the implications of the sign. Are all thieves identifiable because of their uniformly disheveled appearance? Are all thieves truly “thick as thieves,” conspiring and meeting to agree upon a collective, slovenly guise? I would assume this would be counterintuitive to the art of thieving, as one can best commit a crime with the elements of surprise and anonymity.
Equally disturbing, what are the implications regarding the lay people reading the sign – are we all children who need to be told a tale in which there are obvious villains and victims? The witch-like stepmother vs. the beautiful princess? Have we not all grown to realize life is a little more nuanced than a bedtime story – that evil can exist in any form?
Aside from the graphic, I also find it hard to believe that thieves use ketchup as a cover to usurp one’s personal belongings. Sure, I’m not technically from around here, but I do live in the world, and this assertion is a new one. Thieves squirt ketchup on unsuspecting victims, then pretend to help whilst pilfering your wallet. Wouldn’t the thief concoct a scenario that would seem semi-realistic? When’s the last time you, as a pedestrian, were squirted by a stranger’s ketchup?
However, to the credit of the sign, if there ever were a stranger squirting ketchup on me in the streets, he would likely resemble the above silhouette.
Anyway, I exchanged my currency and headed home. Plagued by memories of the sign, I googled, “weird London pickpocket sign.” I found the following:
Oh, so it’s an add from 2012 shaming MP Boris Johnson for increasing the tube ticket prices. Well, this makes a hell of a lot more sense, but now I am plagued with a whole new set of questions.
In my query for UK pickpocket graphics, I found loads of jpegs in which the pickpocket and the victim are identical, stock silhouettes. Why on earth would the owner of the currency exchange on the Strand select the anti-Boris Johnson graphic when compiling his/her sign? Is this subliminal political advertising, ineffectively targeted at tourists who have no idea what the hell Boris Johnson looks like, especially in caricatured silhouette form? Or does the owner of Thomas Exchange also not recognize Boris Johnson – rather, is he/she someone with a simplified world view? Maybe the owner of Thomas Exchange really things all thieves are poorly-dressed and have rumpled hair.
Looks like I, or you, will never know.