Super Hero Laura_9345

Señora Laura, Camera Rescuer and Super Hero Extraordinaire

This last Saturday, the Eleven O’Clock Dad and I stepped out for a few hours to take some pictures.  Among the many novelties in our day, here were the big two:  a) our camera was stolen, and b) our camera was quite miraculously returned to us.

But we might not be so lucky next time.

First, the story.  In the Born district, we stopped to grab some food.  When we finally found a place to sit, my husband unwound his camera from his wrist, where it lives when we’re out and about.  He set it down between us, and as we began unwrapping our food, a young man approached me.  At first I thought he was preparing to ask for a euro or two, but he couldn’t seem to get the words out, which really disturbed me.  I wondered if he had a speech impediment.  But all he needed was a few seconds to distract us, which allowed his partner to do what he had intended:  reach in from behind, grab the camera, and bolt.

Instantly, my husband was on his feet, lunging for the boy with the camera.  Suddenly there were other bodies, then a scuffle, but I couldn’t tell who was who.  I saw my husband lose his balance, fall, then pop back up, then disappear around the corner after the thief, along with another man who had jumped into the fray.

As I stood there and tried to process the absolute knowledge that the camera was gone–because how could it not be?–a woman approached me and held something out to me.  I just stared at her, then at the object dangling from her hand.  Finally it dawned on me:  the thief didn’t have the camera; she did.  As I reached out and took it from her, out of my mouth came the words, “Tú eres un angel!”  (“You are an angel!”)  I must have said it three or four times, my emphasis building as I realized how true this felt.

So the woman, whose name is Laura, told me what this had looked like from her perspective.  Two young men had been following us, she said.  She and her husband had left the small market around the corner, and they noticed us, then noticed the two young men.  They had remarked to each other how suspicious the pair looked, and they knew from living in a big city that thieves target foreigners.  Although they had two little girls with them, Laura and her husband decided to observe for a few minutes, and sure enough, what they suspected might happen, did happen.

And here’s where Laura becomes a Super Hero.  No, serious.  Here’s where this probably thirty-something mom-of-two turns into Señora Increíble.  As the drama heats up and the guy with the camera starts to bolt, Laura’s husband trips him, a ploy which succeeds, slowing the thief down enough so that Laura can reach out, grab the camera strap, and rip the camera out of his hands.  Shall I replay this?  My new friend Laura grabs the camera away from the punk who is about to disappear with it forever, which stalls his getaway just enough that he must have had to decide either to stay and fight for it (at which point several men would have descended on him) or just run.  So he runs.  And my husband runs after him, not having the slightest idea that a real-life angel has already secured the camera and returned it to me.

You probably know what happened next.  The chase was like something from a movie, where two good guys (one of the witnesses had taken off with my husband to help him try to apprehend the thief) try to outrun a punk who knows the narrow streets and alleyways like the back of his hand.  They followed him down the street, around a corner, down another street, around another corner, and within a few minutes, he was just gone. When my husband returned about ten minutes later, sweaty, murderous, and defeated in equal proportions, he had the great surprise of learning that, while the kid had gotten away, he hadn’t escaped with our camera.

I still can’t get over the fact that this woman did what she did.  That she just jumped in, grabbed something she knew was about to escape for good, and returned said item to the couple to whom it rightly belonged. Gracias, Laura.  Te agradezco y te quiero!

Lessons We Learned

One.  This isn’t the first time someone has tried to get at the Eleven O’Clock Dad’s stuff.  A few weeks after we got here, we were in the metro one day, on our way to transfer to another line, and Miss Lavender noticed a suspicious-looking guy standing behind her dad, close enough that it seemed weird to her.  She also noticed that the small pocket on her dad’s backpack had been unzipped.  Being Miss Lavender, she gave him a fearless I’m-onto-you glare, and eventually he backed off and went to find someone else to steal from.  The take-away:  if you’re carrying a backpack, keep the money pocket zipped tight and fastened with a carabiner.  Huge deterrent to thieves attempting to ferret their way into the pocket in which most people keep their money, passports, and other valuables.

Two.  If someone approaches you with a crazy story, take it for what it is–a crazy story no doubt designed to throw you off guard, distract you, and set you up to be robbed.  When Eleven O’Clock Dad was approached just outside a metro station at Christmastime by a guy with a crazy story, he didn’t buy it, but he came home a mess.  What happened was this.  A guy told my husband that a bird had nailed him (if you know what I mean), and that he’d help him get cleaned up but that he’d have to take his jacket off.  He was insistent.  When my husband looked down at his jacket, it did indeed look like a bird with an unhappy stomach had targeted him.  He was annoyed, but he was also running late and the metros were about to stop running for the night.  The guy insisted:  “Take your jacket off!”  But doing that would have meant taking his camera backpack off first.  And you can guess the rest.  If someone’s got a story that seems too wild to be true, it is.  Walk away.  Now.  Otherwise you become vulnerable to theft, and your valuables may be lost before you can even process what happened.  By the way, it wasn’t a bird that got my husband; it was the would-be thief himself–with dark liquid make-up he managed to squirt on my husband’s jacket when he wasn’t aware of it.  Had my husband taken off his backpack in order to take his jacket off, as this character suggested, the backpack could have disappeared just that fast, along with the camera inside it.

Three.  If you’re carrying a camera and you plan to sit down outside, keep your camera firmly attached to you.  My husband decided that, to be smarter, he should have slipped his leg through his camera strap and slid it up around his thigh, which would have allowed him to keep the camera next to him but still sit comfortably, with his arms free to hold his food.  Even if your camera is right next to you . . . if it’s loose . . . it’s gone.

FourBe aware of who’s around you.  The fact that we remained blissfully unaware that two young men with bad intentions were tailing us was eye opening for me.  From now on, wherever we go, I plan to make myself continually aware of who’s around us–especially behind us.  An essential precaution.

Afterthought.  Some folks believe in angels.  I am one of them.  My angel’s name is Laura.  She is the mother of two little girls named Berta and Blanca.  And she’s got guts!

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