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Random Notes: More Friendly Locals, and the ol´ "Mysterious Liquid" Gag...

So last night I went into a small restaurant by myself, a little corner place called Plaza España, on Avenida de Mayo near where I live. I was actually testing this place out again because a few days earlier they really pissed me off; I went in trying to get a seat to watch a soccer game, and they studiously ignored me for about 20 minutes until I left. So tonight I was determined to give them one more chance, or else commence a personal vendetta against them for the rest of my stay here. Lucky for them, they did me right this time...

Anyway, the point of the story is this; I have again found the locals to be extremely friendly. As I was eating and chatting with the waitress, the couple next to me picked up that I was a foreigner. At some point I asked the waitress for some chilli sauce, but she didn´t seem to understand, or else they just didn´t have any at the restaurant. So the couple next to me offered me some of their chimichurri sauce, which is kind of similar. Not only that, but they offered me some of their asado, or grilled steak. I´m talking about a chunk the size of your fist. They didn´t know much English, and my Spanish is still rudimentary, so I basically left them alone. When they left, they patted me on the shoulder and said ¨Bienvenido!¨ Welcome.

So to some of you this might sound like another boring anecdote. But, believe me, on a Thursday night in a foreign city, when you´re utterly alone and in desperate need of some kind of human interaction, these kinds of experiences make a big impression.

The Old "Mysterious Liquid" Scam...

There was a reason I told you that story first, because this one is not quite as charming...

The other night I was walking with a friend on one of the side streets off of the main avenue in Buenos Aires, called 9 de Julio. This is one of the widest streets in the world, maybe the widest, I don't know, and so there are one or two ancillary streets that run parallel to it but don't get much traffic. Anyway, we were on the side street and it was shadowy and deserted, but mind you the "world's largest street" was just a dozen or so meters away, so it wasn't a bad neighborhood or anything.

We stopped to check the map, and as we did I could see three people ahead of us, in the middle of the next block. One person was looking at a map, and sort of making like she was lost, however, she did not look anything like a tourist. The other two were idling by the side of the road. Nothing overtly suspicious.

As we passed these people, I felt some kind of liquid hit my neck and my back, and so did my friend. The people tried to call attention to us, and wanted to help us clean it off. Even my friend was confused and thought maybe a bird had shat on us. However, I'd heard about this scam before, so I just gave the people The Finger and we sped away in the opposite direction.

This is a fairly common ploy; some would-be thieves squirt you with some kind of liquid, usually meant to simulate bird sheiza. Then in your momentary confusion, you lose sight of your bags, and maybe you even ask this "nice random person who just happened to be nearby with a rag" to help you, while they grab your wallet or anything you have loose on you. This same thing happened to another friend of mine while he was sitting with his backpack on near the congress building, but he lost a camera like that.

Well, this was definitely amateur night...and they picked the wrong Gringo. I came out of the whole incident unscathed, but with a T-shirt stinking of fish sauce and a conviction never to check my map ostentatiously at night. Which, come to think of it, is a pretty sound policy.

The lesson here is just that in Buenos Aires you have to keep your eyes open, because just like in any other major city there are people looking to rip you off. If you stay in New York long enough, a pidgeon will shit on you, and if you stay in Buenos Aires long enough, a fake pidgeon will shit on you and try to rob you. So, whether you're here, there, or in Maumee, Ohio, keep your eyes open...

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