Monday, February 19, 2007

The danger is real

The Chicago Tribune had a Travel section article about Buenos Aires on Sunday.

As a service to readers, I provide this executive summary: Buenos Aires. Wow! Tango! Meat! Evita! So cheap!

Let us examine the article via a few brief excerpts:

So . . . is it a cliche to compare Buenos Aires to the tango?
Yes. Next!
There is something about this city, a vitality strongly flavored by anger and angst and, in talking to folks, an indefinable but palpable sense of yearning.
Actually, I think the vitality is beef-flavored.

And now, though it pains me to do so, I must set aside snark for a moment to address one aspect of the piece that does a true disservice to readers:
And speaking of danger, alluded to a couple of times and rumored to be rampant in Buenos Aires: It's an illusion.

No doubt stuff happens, as in any major city--but in nearly a week of clattering over bright and less bright sidewalks and in crowded subways, typically lugging a visible $1,000 camera, I wasn't hassled at all, nor did I hear of any problems from other visitors. . . .

The closest thing to a crime I experienced was being approached by an unattractive streetwalker.
I have no idea how he can make a sweeping pronouncement about danger being an illusion based on one week, although granted he did speak with "other visitors." Wait. Actually it's not clear if he spoke to them. Perhaps other visitors were expected to report street crime to him? But they didn't. So all is well?

There is a depressingly unequal distribution of wealth here. Walking around displaying a camera equal to several months' salary is probably not the best idea. Street crime definitely happens. You don't need to be afraid, but a little paranoia and good judgment go a long way.

I cringe when I see people
  • walking around with expensive cameras on their necks
  • busting out their shiny iPod on the street
  • leaving their purse/bag sitting on the chair next to them at a cafe
  • digging out a 100-peso bill from their purse/wallet and making no effort to hide the fact that there's more where that came from
Hell, I am tempted to steal from half these people just as punishment for their own fecklessness.

It's about discretion, about not making yourself a target of opportunity. I can't imagine anything that screams opportunity more loudly than wearing $1000 around your neck.

As for the unattractive streetwalker: All these attractive people in Buenos Aires and he was approached by someone unattractive? It's a crime.


stephanie said...

As for the unattractive streetwalker: All these attractive people in Buenos Aires and he was approached by someone unattractive? It's a crime.

well, but you don't know the author ...

generalizing from one's own experiences is one of humanity's flaws, but it's rampant in travel writing. how hard would it have been to ask for some crime statistics?

Doug said...

I take an alternative approach to fend off would-be, petty thieves. On an average day strolling through BA or any other big city I wear an eye-catching amount of bling: gold chains, diamond earrings, $2000 cameras, iPods --nano & mini, pinky diamond rings, snake skin knee-high boots and a pair of the latest Prada sunglasses: rain or shine.

I find that in general people assume I must be important and don't bother me. Just another approach to be considered.