Friday, February 4, 2011

Even light-er fingers

The trip to the Argentinian capital had not started well. I had contracted a stomach bug that resulted in me requesting an airplane sick bag before take-off and upon touching down in the city, I was met by an agent from our travel company who imparted more bad news:

"Your father's had his wallet stolen."

Well it perhaps was the typical Buenos Aires experience, but they had only been there a few hours.

It transpired that the newly arrived state had in fact been the cause of the problem. Having taken an overnight flight from Europe, Dad and our family friends reached Argentina at nine in the morning, which was too early to check into their hotel rooms. They decided to leave their bags behind the front desk and go for a short walk. Unfortunately, this meant that they were carrying pretty much all their valuables, including passports, cash and credit cards. Given that, we should perhaps be grateful that Dad ended up loosing only his cards and some cash.

I confess, three days later, he's still not feeling particularly grateful.

A google search revealed that the trick used on them was a common one in Buenos Aires. This wasn't a simple snatch from an unguarded pocket, but rather a diversion scam. A grey gunk was dumped on the party from high up, probably from a balcony. A few passers-by then exclaimed in consternation that bird poo had splattered these poor visitors' clothing and rushed forward with napkins (that they just happened to have) to help them clean up.

When I saw Dad back at the hotel, the backs of his trousers and jacket were splattered with this mess. Evidently, pterodactyl-sized diarrhetic fowl flock to the skies in South America.

Even though they suspected a scam, my Dad and our friends weren't able to escape this 'kind' cleaning process until they were down one wallet.

Their first step was to cancel the credit cards before returning to the hotel. They were then directed to a police station around the corner only to find that they couldn't report the crime at that location. Apparently, in Buenos Aires, crimes must be reported in the district in which they occur. This deeply unhelpful legislation led to a taxi ride back to the literal scene of the crime and a visit to a second police station.

Here, they had more luck. After a wait for an officer who spoke English (during which they watched a match between two English football clubs on the TV), they explained what had unfolded.

"So you did not actually see those men take your wallet?" the officer confirmed. "It could not have been them."

"There isn't really much doubt," one of our friends remarked in dry humor.

The officer had looked amused.

Two days later found us all packed and ready to leave Buenos Aires for our journey south. Our travel agent met us again to take us to the local airport for domestic flights.

"It's so unfortunate!" she said in disbelief. "Our company hasn't had anyone loose a wallet since..."

Two years ago? Five years ago? That one summer in 1986?

"....since November."

November?! It was only the end of January now and how many people honestly booked a trip over Christmas?

The insignificance of this crime-free duration was confirmed one night later when we sat down for dinner at a restaurant in Ushuaia, the southernmost town in South America (or indeed, the world). We were dining at the ridiculously early 'gringo' time of 8pm and the table next to us was therefore likewise composed of foreigners; a group of five Americans. Half-way through the meal, a snatch of their conversation reached us:

".... the most defining moment was getting mugged in Buenos Aires!"

I suppressed the urge to high-five them. Dad poured himself another glass of wine.

Still, it was only one member of our group who lost their cards. This meant the only person really inconvenienced is ... my Mum. She's still in the UK but most of Dad's credit cards were joint between them and they've all been cancelled. I doubt she'll be buying anything from Argentina for quite a while

No comments:

Post a Comment