Saturday, December 05, 2009

Robbed at long last

I've managed to make it a long time without getting robbed. In the U.S. my apartment was broken into on 9/11/1 - one of the lowest crime rate days in U.S. history - and my car stereo and CDs were stolen out of a shady parking lot near the stadiums in Seattle, but I wasn't there in person when either of those happened.

It's not for lack of trying on the theives' parts down here. Practically every time I got on the subway in Santiago, Chile someone had their hand in my bag. And, you might remember the scary incident in Mendoza, Argentina when two punk kids ripped my messenger bag off me while I was biking which made me wipe out in the middle of a highway. But, they dropped the bag. Every time someone tries to rob me, they come up short. Until last night.

I was walking from a bar to a restaurant in a nice enough area of town with a girlfriend from the U.S. when a short man ran at us. He got to Amy first but I put myself in between them as fast as I could and we were both yelling and getting defensive, ready to take this little man down. By this point he was closer to me and had his hand on my bag which I was not about to let go of, until I saw he had crazy, desperate eyes and a 3 inch blade raised and ready to jab into my right shoulder. I let go immediately and he went running down the train tracks we had been crossing.

A half block up we saw a cop and I started walking toward him and yelling, hey, we just got robbed! No one paid us any attention, except to glance curiously at us. The cop sort of slowly wandered over to us and asked a few questions, were we ok, what did the guy look like. Then he took his time - a full 10 minutes - searching the dark tracks while we stood uneasily waiting for him to come back. I mean, we had just been robbed in that exact same spot. But a lot of times they'll ditch the bag and anything else except the money, and if he came back holding my purse I wanted it, so we waited.

Eventually he did come back with another man in tow. He had wrestled up some poor, illegal immigrant from wherever he was camped and asked us if this was the guy. "No, no, that's not him" we said several times before this scared young kid finally got that we were not accusing him of a crime. He had a dark red mark above his right eye, and I really hope that it was a birthmark or an old sore as Amy speculated and not a recent pistol whip on my behalf.

The policeman finally let him go and I thanked him for trying. He asked if I wanted to make a 'denouncement.' I said, is it really worth it? He seemed to think it was but then when I asked how long it would take he said, "You'll be at the police station until about 4 am." It was only 11. I politely declined, opting to keep our dinner plans and maybe come out of it with a semi pleasant evening instead, and he walked with us a block before we caught a cab.

During that block he started to try to lecture us on the importance of safety. "You have to be careful... if you had just taken a cab..." I cut him off right away. I thanked him again for his help but told him I didn't need a lecture. I am always safe. We were in a well-lit area with a ton of people around, early on a Friday night. I wasn't alone and I wasn't calling attention to myself. I live here and I speak the language, and I'm not going to take a cab every time I need to walk a few blocks just to avoid any potential danger. I'm a woman, not an idiot, and there's nothing I hate more than being treated like some sort of delicate flower that needs constant protection.

I also hate it when people tell me I need to be careful here, because it's not that Buenos Aires is dangerous; LIFE IS DANGEROUS. I happened to be crossing train tracks in a nice part of town, but the exact same thing could have happened in literally any other spot in the world. BsAs is a huge city, and as such it has more theives due to sheer population. But I actually feel a lot safer here than I do in New York, for instance.

I wasn't really that upset. Amy was more angry than I was. I didn't cry and even during the actual ordeal and immediately after my heart barely raced. (Clearly I'm the kind of person you want around in an emergency - cool under pressure, baby!) But I wasn't upset because I knew it could have been worse, we reacted the best way we could, and I had almost nothing of value in the bag, unlike Amy who had just been paid, so really it was lucky they got my bag. She bought me dinner as a consolation prize, plus I had no cash so she sort of had no choice.

And, just because I'm very type A and wanted to write it down, here is a list of everything the bastard got.

A beautiful black leather handbag that I just bought
My umbrella that I've been trying to lose for 2 years ever since I bought it to replace the last umbrella that I loved and always resented it as inferior
My trusty Guia-T guide to the buses in Buenos Aires
A half-full bottle of water
A purple clutch I bought in Philadelphia 3 years ago and was the best purse EVER
Inside the clutch:
My crappy red cell phone I managed to keep in working condition since Chile, plus all the numbers stored inside it
My keys, with an elephant keychain Casey brought me from Africa and a flashlight keychain I've had for years
My favorite pen, I have no idea where it came from but it was very ergonomically pleasing
An easily replaceable chapstick they sell in every pharmacy here
An assortment of bobby and safety pins
A sweet black wallet I bought at Nordstrom's and was the best wallet EVER
Inside the wallet:
My WA state driver's license that I hated
My AAA card
90 pesos in bills (less than $30)
4 pesos in coins (almost more valuable than the 90 pesos, coins are to be hoarded here)
A variety of receipts and business cards that for some reason I found important

A few things I was NOT carrying:
A debit or credit card
my passport (which I never, ever leave the house with if I don't have to travel)
My camera (or video camera; see?? This is is why I've been so nervous to go out with it!)
My sunglasses or their cool case, having taken them out just before leaving to make room for the umbrella

You may think it's odd that I am able to recall such a specific list of items, but the reason is because I had randomly decided to clean out both purses and my wallet the night before. So I had a good mental inventory of what was lost, which is nice because otherwise I would be wracking my brain thinking, "but what else??"

So, yeah. It sucked. But, it's also not that big a deal. PLEASE, unless you are my mother who is obligated to do so, do not post comments telling me to "be careful." If I weren't a careful person, this would have happened a lot more often to me in the past.

Coming soon - an upbeat post filled with fun updates such as the rockin' Manu Chao concert, a killer wine debut party, and sooner rather than later, my very first edited video segment.


AmberAnda said...

I'm so sorry to hear about the robbery but I'm really happy no one was hurt, lost anything really valuable, was traumatized, or had to cancel dinner plans! As some one who has been robbed while with you, I can attest to the fact that you are very cool under pressure. I admire your balanced, realistic outlook on safety, especially in foreign countries. Looking forward to hearing about the Manu Chao concert!

Anne said...

Okay, if I may so eloquently say, THAT EFFIN' SUCKS! Not a fun way to start a Friday night, but I'm glad you were with a good friend who picked up the tab. Would you like us to send you some numchucks (sp?) in your xmas package?! You could pick up some sweet moves if you pop in the Napoleon Dynamite DVD.

Your big sister

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

You really have to be an absent minded, irrealistic, unconcious, irresponsible teenager to go out by night in South America without a body guard! Aunt Michelle always told you to be more carefull!

Bah, jokes apart, that was a cheap way to build yourself memories and have something to tell to your grand children about Buenos Aires.

jrteacherlady said...

MAN that sucks!!! But I'm very impresses with how you handled yourself!! I would have been a crying shaking mess... So I guess the moral of the story is to carry as much in your pockets as possible:)

Good luck with the next purse...

Anonymous said...

I'm very glad to hear that you didn't get stabbed (or jabbed) through the shoulder, and I wish you luck in finding a replacement replacement umbrella that isn't quite as inferior!

ElizaBeth said...

Thanks for all the well wishing! And, who made that Aunt Michelle comment...? I just call her Mom but her first name is Mary. Weird.

Anonymous said...
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ElizaBeth said...

To the anonymous poster whose comment I just deleted - I absolutely appreciate your point of view but I would prefer not to display it here. I try to keep as positive a vibe as possible on this blog. I hope you understand and continue to read!

Momma Archer said...

Robbed at knife point? You. Are. Just. Killing. Me.

I LOVE YOU said...
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日月神教-任我行 said...
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