"It just makes me feel so powerless and dumb that I let it happen."
"I scratched the hell out of the body of my camera."
The Lost Photo
Smile for the Camera Buenos Aires, Capital Federal, Argentina
Wednesday June 11, 2003
Here's how I wish the story went.
I settled into the computer the internet cafe, placing my camera bag beside me on the desk. After a few minutes of email and news, an attractive young woman sat down at the terminal next to me and had some trouble. She gregariously approached me asking something in Spanish that I assume was how she should go about making the computer work.
"Yelling loudly I yank it from his hand." Immediately suspicious I casually reached around to check my camera and brushed a man's hand. I whip around to see her accomplice about to abscond with my bag. Yelling loudly I yank it from his hand, enjoying the stunned look on his face as he and the girl run for the door.
But that's not what happened.
I told the girl I didn't know how to help and turned back to my computer. I never saw the accomplice and sat in blissful unawareness for fifteen minutes as they made their getaway. My camera got stolen.
It's not the money or the lost photos that were in the camera that I still lament. I've already ordered another off eBay for about half what I paid for the first. All but one of my disks were safe in my apartment, and the one in the camera contained only shots of Buenos Aires. Except for one great sunrise shot, none of the photos was very memorable.
"It is a game." What bothers me is that I lost the game. And it is a game, at least in my mind. Every time I see through a scam or get through a crowd without being pickpocketed, I feel like I won... or at least survived to play the game another day. I feel like an experienced traveler who knows how to handle such situations.
But not this time.
The moment that haunts me is the instant the girl approached me and I looked up with a smile. I must have looked like such a chump to her. She saw me struggling to understand her Spanish while just behind me her friend was lifting my camera. I was clueless and enthralled by her beauty, she thought... and she was right about the clueless part. It just makes me feel so powerless and dumb that I let it happen.
"There's no way they can re-sell it." But I didn't go down without one last shot. Several months ago, shortly after leaving home, I figured something like this would happen eventually. So I scratched the hell out of the body of my camera and scribbled on every part with a black permanent marker. There's no way they can re-sell it.
Since it was in a bag they didn't know till after they were gone... but I wish I could have been there to see them open it and realize they'd stolen an $800 worthless camera.
"You have no eggs." I even wrote a message for them on the bottom of it. As they inspected the camera they found the words, "Esto no es tuyo, y no tienes huevos." Literally it means, "This isn't yours, and you have no eggs." I'll leave you to imagine what male body parts Latin Americans call "huevos."
It was quite coincidental that today I received an MP3 CD from a friend back home. He burned several songs from some obscure bands he likes... including one by "Modest Mouse" with a lyric I love. It seemed directed at the gang that took my camera.