Caring gestures in BA

Buenos Aires stole my heart and my necklace — and gave it all back with interest.

On our first day of a long-anticipated trip to South America, in November ’04, my grown daughter, Linda, and I settled into our centrally located hotel in Buenos Aires, Las Americas Hotel (Liberdad 1020). We put our passports and valuables in the safe and headed out to find one of the restaurants recommended to us for dinner.

It was about 5 o’clock. The sun was shining and the sidewalks were crowded with businesspeople going home for the day. I had just commented, “What a beautiful city this is. It feels just like Market Street in San Francisco,” when Linda, noticing a strange-looking man who passed us from behind, said, “I don’t trust that guy.”

We dropped back into the flow of people and let him get ahead of us by about 50 feet or so, but he turned around, came back toward us and suddenly started running. Reaching out, he snatched my necklace right off my shirt and raced away!

I stood there, shocked that such a thing could happen. I noticed that Linda had a bad scratch on her hand from trying to grab the guy’s arm.

Immediately several passersby who had seen the theft stopped to ask if we were okay. A policeman appeared, wanting to know what happened and encouraging us to go to the Police Department and file a report. Since the necklace was just costume jewelry, and I did not think that I could identify the culprit, I declined, but we appreciated the support and concern extended to us.

We proceeded on to dinner and gradually recovered our equanimity. My daughter said, “The thing to do now is to make this whole before leaving Buenos Aires.”

Fortunately, just after the theft, she had looked down at the sidewalk and found the pendant from my necklace. The thief had dropped it. So all we needed was a chain for it. The next day we saw a display case in our hotel lobby that included various chains for sale. We asked to have the manager show them to us, and we chose an appropriate one that would serve nicely. Linda paid for it while I slipped the pendant on it and placed it around my neck.

As we finished the transaction, we told the manager what had happened and why we were replacing the chain. His reaction was immediate.

“What?” he asked. “Here in Buenos Aires? Near this hotel? We cannot let that happen!”

With that, he reached into his pocket, gave Linda back her money and apologized profusely for our having had such an experience in his city.

Well, what could we do after such a genuinely caring gesture except say “Thank you” and assure him that we would leave Buenos Aires with only good memories of the wonderful people we met in his city.

As an avid traveler, I know these things happen all over the world, including on our beloved Market Street in San Francisco, but the care and concern shown to us in Buenos Aires was remarkable and warmed my heart, and I could leave the city with my heart and my necklace truly restored.

Livermore, CA