You can ALWAYS be too careful

Our last day in Buenos Aires.

Jo: “I wanna go see the La Boca neighbourhood.”

Me: “Ok…. Wikitravel says that it’s a poorer part of Buenos Aires and Lonely Planet says that travellers should be careful even when you’re walking about in daylight. EEeee… thorntree forum says got mugging one le. What’s there to see at La Boca again?”

Jo: “Colorful buildings”

Me: “Hell no!”

I hate to admit it, but between the two of us, Jo is the more gungho traveller. She’ll charge on to see new things, while I’m the one who’ll check all the guidebooks/websites, weigh all the pros and cons before deciding if I want to go to any of these so-called attractions.

This attitude extends to other aspects of our travelling style, including the way we pack our valuables when we go for day trips around town.

Jo saunters around town with her phone in one pocket and everything else in a sling bag that she clutches in front of her chest.

I have…

a) A pocket of loose change
b) A different pocket for bigger notes
c) A dummy “mugging” wallet
d) My handphone
e) A money belt with my passport and even bigger notes
f) A backpack with all our valuable electronics.
g) An external waist pouch with my ready use ATM card, keys and other loose items.

In other words, on a typical day about town, I look like Batman… if instead of having a kickass utility belt, Batman has bulging pockets for his knickknacks.

Somehow, in spite of Jo’s sulking, I managed to convince her to go to town for a tour of Teatro Colón (Buenos Aires’ main opera house) instead of La Boca. As usual, we decided to take a subway at San Juan station that was near our hostel.

As we got onto our train carriage, two VERY burly men and two frail-looking old aunties with very big coats squeezed onto the train with us. They forced themselves between me and Jo and essentially sandwiched me between the four of them.

We knew that something was up because the rest of the train carriage was empty and they seemed hell bent on separating the two of us. We were also sort of clued in when we saw the other passengers (even the sleeping ones) IMMEDIATELY putting their heads together and whispering amongst themselves,while pointing in our general direction.

(Of course) We shouted to each other to watch our belongings and started clutching our things close to us. Coincidentally, that was also the instant when I had the epiphany that splitting my eggs into so many baskets was not the brilliantest idea I’d ever had. I’m surprised I haven’t been hauled into a police station for running my hands up and down my body in public while trying to push away two old ladies.

Two minutes and one train stop later, the gang of four forced their way out of the train and gave me a push back into the carriage for good measure.

As we stood shellshocked in the carriage, I started to assess our damages. Sure enough, my “dummy” wallet was gone. My external pouch and backpack had also been unzipped, the cash inside them was gone (though they kindly left my ATM/credit card unmolested). Most amazingly, they managed to get my phone which I had been clutching on to for dear life. There was only an instant when they were barging out of the train that they managed to brush my hand off my pocket for (what seems to me like) a fraction of a second (These guys were pros).

Jo, on the other hand, lost a grand total of nothing.

Careless Jo: 1
Ultra careful TW: 0

Silver lining is that except for my ego, we were both unhurt, but instead of Teatro Colón or La Boca, we ended up spending our last day in Buenos Aires being bounced between two police stations and sitting for five hours in the waiting room waiting (of course) for a (drunk) English translator so that we could file our report.

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4 thoughts on “You can ALWAYS be too careful

  1. I’m really sorry to read about your experience with theft in Bs As. It happened to me some months ago in Córdoba — I was the dummy with the big pink and blue backpack. If you want to feel better about what you went through, check out my obliviousness:
    http://springbyker.wordpress.com/2012/05/20/dumb-things-i-did-on-vacation-leaving-my-wallet-unleashed/
    At least my Spanish is finally good enough that I could file a police report in that language — some consolation…

    • Yikes… looks like you had it worse than me. But you are right though, it’s only through events like these that we are able to see the kindness of strangers (and friends)

  2. Pingback: Not so Evil | TW and Jo's Excellent Adventure

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