Of el padre and paranoiaPosted: April 25, 2011
Two really spectacular things have happened over the course of the last 24 hours. The first: the arrival of my father for a visit. The second: the delivery of a sheet of warnings for wealthy travelers to my father upon his check-in at the over-the-top Hyatt hotel where he’ll be staying during his visit.
Let me directly quote two of the best helpful hints on this special sheet:
Bullet point number five: “Do not accept help from strangers when potential ‘stains’ on clothing, etc…”
I have no idea what this means but I find it truly engaging. I myself have never excepted anything from anyone “when potential ‘stains.'” As far as ‘etc.’ goes, maybe. But I’m certainly not going recount those moments here.
Bullet point number eight: “If an inconvenience occurs, do not resist. Try to remember details for the police report.”
Um. Yes. I, luckily, am never resistant to inconvenience. And when an inconvenience occurs, I always remember the details. Though I can’t say that I do so in order to report such details to the police.
I realize the bizarre nature of this little leaflet is due entirely to translation issues, but I love it. I love it even more because rich porteños seem generally and exaggeratedly afraid of their own city. It’s true. Buenos Aires has a high level of crime, though not particularly violent crime. But the lengths the well-off go to and the amount they complain seem somewhat ridiculous to me–particularly in the central neighborhoods where, if one pays decent attention, one is usually quite safe at any hour.
People will try to pick your pocket, sure. They’ll steal your cell phone right out of your hand in some neighborhoods.* One particular favorite of the local robber is to pull a purse or back-pack off of a pedestrian as they speed by on a motorcycle. (This is detailed in bullet point number 6 of the warning list).
I particularly enjoyed my father’s reaction to the hotel-provided precautions. Every time we walked by a motorcycle today he’d walk over and hold out his wrist–offering his watch to the cycle itself, usually unoccupied. He saw a pizza delivery fellow on a bike and jumped back a good foot and (jokingly) shook in his boots.
It’s a city. A big city. A poor city. And frankly, if I were a thief, I’d be lining up outside my father’s ridiculous hotel just waiting for the chetos to walk out with their $1000 purses and smug, if slightly terrified, expressions.
*Very luckily, the only run-in I’ve had during my stay with the criminal element was when I was walking to catch a cab in the center one morning around 4 or 5 a.m. A kid walked up to me and demanded that I give him my phone. I said no. He tried to grab it. Failed. Then ran away.