The Pickpocket of San Telmo

It is fair to say that our enjoyment of Buenos Aires has been adversely affected by the fact that we no longer trust the locals and have been constantly on guard whilst walking the streets.

On Sunday afternoon, I went with our dear friends, D R and M O, to visit St Ignatius Church and to inspect some tunnels which link the Church to some of the nearby government buildings. Huckleberry B chose to remain behind to attend to some chores.

Whist walking on the street, the three of us turned a corner. Suddenly, we each felt something liquid hit our heads and clothes. It seemed to have come from above. Wiping my face, I found a grey substance on my cheek. It stank. Before long, we noticed that the gunk had also fallen on the back of my cap, on my backpack and down each of our backs, despoiling ourclothes.

My first thought was a `pigeon’. But there was too much gunk for a single pigeon. Perhaps a squadron of diabolical Argentine pigeons with evil intent? Or, perhaps, a sewer pipe had leaked?

None of these thoughts, however, were fully formed because, within moments, a kind Argentine appeared waving paper tissues and making offers to assist us. He was well dressed, with a suede jacket. He smiled brightly and spoke some English.

After a few moments, the worst of the gunk was wiped away and our good Samaritan was gone. At the time, none of us registered that whereas he was walking ahead of us before the incident, he left in the opposite direction, disappearing behind us.

We jointly decided to return immediately to the hotel because we were in too much of a mess to walk the streets with any measure of self respect. Moreover, an unpleasant odour lingered. Upon my return, Huck B laughed as I told her that we had been jointly baptised by a bird with an upset stomach – that being our thinking at the time – and we put my dirty clothes in a bag to be cleaned.

As we had enjoyed an enormous steak meal for lunch, B and I decided to forgo dinner and get some sleep.

It was not until the next morning that I realised that my wallet was no longer in my possession.

It has now become obvious that the well dressed man – who just happened to have paper tissues available when we were in such dire need for them – swiped my wallet from the front pocket of my pants whilst `helping’ to tidy me up. Our hotel staff assured us that we are not the first victims of this trick. Either the man himself, or an accomplice, probably used a spray can to shoot the gunk in the air, into our path.

In any event, the thief and his merry band of banditos must not have believed their good fortune when the hours rolled by and my credit cards remained active. They managed to spend over $A12K before I discovered my wallet missing the following morning and moved immediately to block my cards. Remarkably, an attempt to present one of my cards was made whilst Huckleberry B was physically talking to an operative from the credit card company.

Ultimately, the fraudulent charges will be reversed and our only monetary loss will be the cash we had in my wallet. More worrying, perhaps, is that the thieves now also have possession of my driver’s licence and photocopies of each of our passports.

In any event, we have cancelled each of the stolen cards, filed a police report with the Buenos Aires constabulary and informed the Australian Embassy. I am eternally in Huckleberry B’s debt for her calm head in a crisis.

In any event, we leave Buenos Aires with mixed feelings and varied memories.


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