An anecdote on methods, strategies, and counters
I had originally told a friend that I likely wouldn’t even be writing about this as these events are omnipresent here and are hardly abnormal. As for many in other places these are not quite so common and can be a rather traumatic event, I decided to document it if nothing else for posterity-sake.
A little background on what transpired and is transpiring. I am a target here. No ifs, ands, or buts. I have blue eyes, light-brown hair, a different complexion, and sometimes wear clothing that, although intentionally tattered or ripped or dirty, still gives me away as a foreigner. There is literally minimal I can do to “go grey” at certain times during the day, in certain places, and with certain people that will not reveal me as foreigner. Not speaking Spanish, not blending, not a clothing change, because some things I possess are clear indicators. During the day, shades, hat, and certain clothing may aid but it’s not a guarantee.
That day, 2 days ago, I was also in a very bad mood. Tension at home, son was disrespectful, bad day at work and I was going to the store to pick-up a couple of beers and snacks to chill-out after a long week of work. I was snarly, admittedly.
The minute I pulled-up there was a guy standing in the parallel-parking area in front of the store. Now, this alone doesn’t stand-out because we have here what are slangly-termed “watchimen”, those guys who stand around claiming to watch your car for you while you are inside shopping (they don’t), in case anything happens to your car they’ll take care of it (they won’t), and in exchange you give them some change after your shopping experience for doing so. There are regulars that run areas/radii and sharing/taking that area is frowned-upon and will cause sometimes violent altercations when livelihood is threatened. I’ve seen this happen first-hand.
As we use this store for small-stuff or stuff in a pinch in the evening on occasion, it’s not at all unfamiliar and the regular watchimen were accounted and present but keeping distance from this guy, an early point-of-note. I got out of my car and immediately the guy approached me – hardly surprising. In Spanish, he started aggressively asking for money, calling me a gringo (it’s assumed I have millions), and telling me what he was going to do to me if I didn’t comply. I had my mask on and he didn’t advance physically in any way so I ignored him completely without giving away any signs of annoyance, bother, or intimidation whatsoever.
Inside, I knew this would escalate as I left so I found an aperture I could look out of to see if he had any apparent accomplices with him. No signals, no interaction, no focused looks. Seemed to be working alone. Went about my business. To get an idea of how my mind works in these circumstances, the thoughts that crossed were – there will likely be no intervention on my behalf (and, therefore, on his either) due to social-distancing and fear of the virus so I will be given the time and space to handle things how I see fit. Any potential legal-case will be backlogged until way into 2021 at minimum due to the pandemic and logjam of the national court-system so there will be no fear of legal repercussions should this escalate, from him and, therefore, for me as well. I was wearing a mask and face-shield, and it was night, so my identity was somewhat questionable, or potentially claimed as such.
Upon leaving, he approached again as he was waiting by my car for me. I remember being intense, focused-anger, very irritable – but attentive. He stepped in front of me and I made one command – “distancia” – distance. He backed-up but told me he was going to take my money and assault me. I ignored completely with zero care, attention, or change. As I opened my car-door, he started reaching inside his pocket. I shut the car-door and just stared intently at his hands, focusing on nothing but. Not his words, his face, his “body language”, just his hands and my body was square, coiled, and ready to move suddenly – in his direction, not away.
He seemed to notice and quickly pulled his hands out, going “tranquilo, tranquilo, todo bien, mae!” (Calm down, calm down, everything’s good, dude!”) I turned my focus to his eyes and I remember my gaze being super-intense and blank. As he kept backing-up, I quickly opened my car-door and jumped-in, locking the doors behind me. He kept his distance and starting berating me, threatening what he was going to do to me had I not gotten in my car. (the universal male sign for trying to regain pride after target-picking incorrectly) The worry at this point is having your car keyed or knifed as you drive-off, so as I was leaving, I slowed down and started at him in parting. He put his hands up palms-out and I drove home, really thinking nothing of it.
These events here are pretty common-place (and will increase as time goes on with the current crisis) so I didn’t really think anything of it. Forgot about it after I got home, probably after driving away. Didn’t even mention it to my wife until this morning after something reminded of it. After talking to a couple of people about it, I guess it was actually an attempted-mugging gone wrong. I didn’t have the time, the care, or concern to over-think or post-event assess. We often take these events here for granted, whereas in Canada it would be a rather big deal.
I have had a lot of these instances happen over my 10 years here – attempted property-entry, target-profiling, attempted-muggings, posturing from distance, hands going into pockets, aggressive panhandling. They have really become commonplace, especially for a foreigner. Often, foreigners become victims. I hear it regularly on social-media: expats that have mugged, robbed at gunpoint, targeted, home-invaded, pick-pocketed, etc. It is a different playing-field from down-home so events that often happen here and are treated nonchalantly, are not so much down home. I tend to gloss-over that fact rather regularly.
Now, I have no doubt buddy-boy got lucky as the night progressed and was successful as time went on. He does this for a living, especially now. This is his profession and he knows it well. A lot of people that enter his territory are fearful of distance, uber-focused on item-retrieval, probably tired after a long-day at work, making just a quick-stop (so what could happen), and in familiar area close to home. Perfect for a victim-in-waiting.
Again, I am documenting this solely for learning, understanding, informative purposes or I likely wouldn’t have bothered but I realize people can glean info from these anecdotes. If you’re one, it was worth putting pen-to-paper.