Through my eyes

living my life without regrets

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Sock Thief

Getting to our rented apartment at 1832 Thames, Unit 5A in Palermo was easy enough.
While we mostly communicated with Jeffrey from www.RestinginBuenos while in Toronto, our contact here in BA is Guillermina. We had arranged for pick up from the airport and sure enough, a lady with a sign was there to guide us to Aldo, our driver who drove us to our rented flat. On the way I received my first lessons about BA and also in language. Aldo preferred Spanish and I agreed that this would be easier. Naturally I missed a bunch of words, but I got the basics.
BA is an assortment of smaller towns, there is no single town called Buenos Aires.
The district is Buenos Aires and so is the county called Buenos Aires. Similar to NYC, where there is no NYC but five boroughs that make up what people call NYC. About 20% of the total population of Argentina lives in BA proper, so the area is huge but relatively clean and green; not at all what I have experienced in Central and South America. Aldo’s diction was clear, so I could understand him well; much better than I thought I would. The drive from the airport was about 35 KM and took about 45 minutes.
At the apartment, Guillermina‘s father, Miguel, gave us a hearty welcome and showed us the intricacies of the A/C ,
the use of the strange keys, the internet connections and passwords, etc. We have not yet met Guillermina but she called us on her cell phone to make us feel welcome. After initially feeling strange in our new surroundings, we quickly felt at home. We did not go out that day because of our sleepless overnight flight and just crashed to sleep like babies until the next morning.
Our first trip out was to find some provisions and that was an easy chore since the Supermarket is just one block away on the next street over. The prices are less than in Canada or the U.S. but not cheap. We could find everything we wanted just not in the quantity or variety we are used to. We bought bread, cheese, butter, milk, eggs, o juice, wine, beer, fruit and we are all set for a few days.
So, now where do we start?
Walking in ever increasing circles from where we live now is a good system. So we walked around the block in ever increasing spirals. Sure enough, not far from where we are, we find Plaza Serrano, a well known spot to find handmade jewelry and artsy knick knacks. In an open air setting local artists try to sell their wares. No yelling, no pressure, no haggling. You like it, you buy it. Very low key and very friendly. This is a nice spot in Palermo’s Soho, which they call our part of town. In fact we liked it so much that we sat and had our lunch right there. The establishment we chose was set like an open air cafĂ©. We had a special coffee each and tried a cheese and ham Empanada. Our neighbor, a young man of about 25 years of age, preoccupied with his computer tablet and his cell phone paid us no mind. The weather was pleasant, sunny and mild and with a slight breeze the feeling that life is good came over me.
As is customary here, people come up to you and just put an item they want to sell on your table, leave it there for a few moments, then come back and retrieve the item or you just give them the money for the item, Yes, the try to sell you what they have but there is no pressure, you have the choice. Leave the item where it is for retrieval or buy it. Very simple, no arguments and perfectly understood by all participants. So I was a little surprised when my young neighbor was approached by two men in their 20s who peddled socks this way. Both of them fanned a stack of socks out so that all colors were visible and I believe you could make your choice. It seemed very harmless and they did walk away without an argument when the young fellow with the computer did not want to buy any socks. In fact they walked away rather quickly and separately. And seconds later our neighbor with the computer yelled;” Hey, where is my cell phone”
Then things happened extremely fast. Both sock men tried to run away but one was not fast enough. The proprietor of restaurant grabbed the sock man by the neck and held him until the police arrived. The first Policeman to arrive was on a bicycle. While the Officer was busy with the suspect, a bystander yelled at the Proprietor and they even came to blows and kicks and fists for calling the police. Then a police car showed up, then another police car and finally even a private car with men dressed in civvies, toting clipboards and official looking badges. The bike officer was sent to find the run-away sock man but it was fruitless. A lot of commotion and heated arguments were exchanged yet somehow I just sat and watched it all. It was like a live TV show, emotions ran high, tempers flared and even kicks and punches were exchanged yet somehow the attitude was to not take life too seriously. Yes, the young man with the lost cell phone had to tell the police his story but he was calm and smoked a cigarette and just stood there. Yes, the police arrived quickly and in force but they knew their limitations and did do the paper work and the bystanders, too had their opinions. Even the thief took his fate in stride, sitting on the ground waiting for something to happen next.
It was a bit surreal and not at all as hectic as it would have been in NYC for example.
My lesson from this incident is to not leave my camera lying on the table nor to have anything loose hanging off my belt. I now clip the camera to my belt and have the belt of my fanny pack clipped to a steel loop that was part of the set up of the fanny pack. Argentina, it seems has thieves.

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