I was walking around the Palermo neighborhood of Buenos Aires. It is one of the nicer areas of the city which contains boutiques, cafes, galleries and some interesting architecture.
I stopped to take a photo of a statue of Evita.
While I was standing and facing the statue I felt something splash on my back and legs. I looked down toward my leg on which I found a green goopy liquid. I quickly looked around. The substance looked like bird poop. I looked up to see if a bird had passed by and sprayed me. All of this was within a few seconds.
At the same time a couple walked by and sympathetically pointed at my leg then up to the sky and said "un pajaro". Indicating that a bird had flown by and pooped on me.
The lady approached me and said, "Tengo esto". She had a tissue handy. Also, she had a plastic bottle of drinking water and offered it. The man approached me and started to point out all the spots of goop on my pants.
The lady tried to use the water and tissue to clean the spots of goop. I said, "Gracias, tengo papel". Indicating that I had my own tissue. She still offered her water and tissue.
The man said, "Hay algo en su esplada". Indicating that there was goop on my back. The lady said, "Quitala." Indicating that I should take off my jacket. As I started to remove my jacket to see what was on my back. They both approached me closer. The woman was trying to offer the water and tissue to clean my jacket. And the man was pointing at my pants and making gestures as if he was brushing my pants clean.
Something inside me told me that they were too close to me. We Americans have a fairly large personal space barrier that we like to preserve. About 3 feet (1 meter) is all that we can tolerate when someone we do not know trespasses into our personal space. In other cultures the personal space barrier is much closer, including Latin American culture. I didn't want to offend the couple, but I felt that something was wrong.
I backed away and said, "Gracias tengo papel, lo hago...lo hago".
They were insistent and tried to help me clean my jacket and pants. The woman was trying to grab and clean my jacket with the water and tissue. I was holding it low to the ground because I had my camera and iPhone in the pocket and I didn't want the lady to pour water on it. The man was trying to brush my pants.
I happened to have my sunglasses on and was watching both of them. They couldn't see my eyes. I saw the man get close to my right front pocket where I was carrying my wallet. I realized that this was a con...a pickpocket con.
At that point I calmly backed away and said, "Gracias, voy adentro el edificio para limpiar lo".
There was an awkward pause.
The lady actually pointed to my camera inside my jacket pocket and said, "Arededor su cuerro es mejor". Indicating with her hands that it is better to carry my camera around my neck". I thought... how strange... better for me... or better for her.
They backed away and started walking off.
I quickly checked all my pockets to make sure I had everything... camera... check... iPhone... check... wallet... check... watch... check.
Luckily I was traveling light and it was a quick check list. I even checked inside my wallet to make sure that all was okay. I had everything.
As I glanced around to see where the couple had gone, I noticed that they were entering a cab. I thought... yes definitely a con. They looked back at me as they entered the cab and then sped away.
Yes, definitely a con. I remember that that were walking towards the building in front of me when they originally passed me, yet they had turned completely around, walked the other direction and got into the cab.
I've actually read about this type of con somewhere online.
I was glad that I escaped the con without loosing anything. However, I was pissed that my pants and jacket had artificial bird poop on them. I had just washed them the day before. I went inside the building and cleaned my pants and jacket the best I could. I realized that I was lucky to have escaped the con.
My wallet is a little pouch with a cord attaching it to my pants. I don't know if it served as a deterrent or not. Looking back, I still could have been pick pocketed or robbed. They could have stolen my camera or iPhone.
It was a close encounter and it makes a good travel story. Fortunately it had a good ending.
Be careful out there... I will.
Other common cons:
Location:Buenos Aires, Argentina