Monday, 9 July 2012

Pickpockets in Recoleta

On Saturday, John had to work until 2 pm, so I went for a stroll down the Avenue 9th of July and saw the Obelisk, the government house, and a huge bookstore located in a renovated theatre.  When he got home from work, we had a late lunch and continued our day as turistas, walking down to the Recoleta cemetery to see many of the tombs, including Eva Peron's, the beautiful parks and the Floralis Generica Monument.  Our intention was to then walk along the park to Carrefore's, which is a BA version of Walmart.

As we were walking along the park, I felt something hit my back, not once but twice.  Suddenly a woman tapped me on the shoulder and told me that I had bird poop on the back of my jacket.  She was dabbing it with a napkin, and pouring water from a bottle onto another napkin so John could help clean off my coat.  It all happened so quickly that it caught me off guard.   Then she pointed out that John had bird poop on his jacket too.  I looked, and he had tons of it all over the back of his coat.  In order for both of us to have that much bird poop on us, it must have been a giant flock of birds.....

And that's when my spidey senses went on full alert.  There was no way that both of us could have had a bird poop that much on our backs of our coats.  I grabbed my day bag and checked - sure enough the side zipper was down.  I quickly looked inside - my wallet was still there, as were my camera and my iphone.  Fortunately, John had just put his camera into his backpack before we entered the park, and he checked to make sure that his wallet was still deep in his back pocket.  I grabbed my bag and held it close to me, and looked around.  There was a man there with the woman, but off a bit in the background, holding onto a bag that was slung over his shoulder. Loudly, I kept telling the woman we were fine while still clutching my bag to my chest, and she finally backed off.

John wondered, "Could it be bird poop?"   Not possible that one bird could poop that much on both of our backs.
"What about tree sap?"  But it wasn't sticky, and it is the middle of winter in BA.
I dubbed the grey mess all over our clothes 'gypsy juice' and we had to go shopping with our clothes and my hair still full of the stuff. 

Here's a photo of our coats and the 'bird poop':

My day bag may not be as pretty as some of my purses, but it is a great travel accessory.  It has deep pockets and when the pickpocket unzipped the one compartment, there was a side piece of fabric that prevented him from reaching into my bag and grabbing my wallet.  Regardless, I found myself checking my bag, and the contents of my wallet several times on our way to the store, just to reassure myself that all the contents were safe. 

Here we are at the Floralis Generica Monument, me holding the ugly day bag, just a few minutes before we got 'pooped' on.

Shortly after we returned to our flat I googled 'scams in Argentina.'  Guess what the number one scam is????  Of course, the fake bird poop scam.  We were lucky that we realized so quickly that this situation was a set up, and got out as quickly as we could.  I've been approached with other scams before (help me translate this letter, look at this ring I found on the ground.......) but was able to recognize them and walk away without even engaging with the scammer.  Because this scam began with the woman already touching my clothes, it was as if I was pulled in immediately.   It was probably a matter of less than 30 seconds before we disengaged, but it all happened so fast and could have ended much differently.  It was very unsettling and thank goodness we didn't lose anything.

In some cultures, having a bird poop on you is considered good luck.  John and I were definitely lucky on Saturday.

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