Suitcase on wheels     stuck in the snow   sniffer dog

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

31. Busted! (B.A, Argentina)

On Friday night I met up with Juan and Pablo, another friend, and we drove across town to go to a tribute gig to Joaquin Sabina. Joaquin Sabina is a Spanish singer/songwriter who I'm told sings a lot about women and drinking - my Spanish isn't good enough to understand songs yet. Anyway, the band we were going to see was a covers band of him. The bar was packed full with a partizan crowd - everyone seemed to know the words to most of the songs (except me).

Anyway, during the gig I somehow got arrested by the Police. I'm not going to divulge what I was doing to get arrested, other than it was a fairly typical weekend activity for young fellas on a Friday night, that is frowned upon in some countries more than in others.

So, I was hawled off to the comisaria, interrogated by ten different cops (none played bad cop though), asked for my personal details including my parent's names and addresses, fingerprinted 21 times - 21 because I was a foreigner so they needed extra copies for whatever reason, and then asked if there was anyone I could call to help me out. At about this time my cellphone started ringing, it was Pablo at the gig wondering what happened to me. So he and Juan turned up at the station and Juan acted as my official interpreter even though the police thought my Spanish was bastante bien (good enough). Juan told me my offence wasn't serious enough to need a court appearance, but that I would have to spend a night in the cells anyway until they contacted my Embassy. I borrowed a denim jacket off Pablo - until then I'd only had a shirt on so was freezing, and sent into the holding cells. But not before the cops had stripped me of my belongings, including my belt and shoelaces.

Around BA - 39 - Puerto Madero night
Random pic: La Puente de las mujeres, Puerto Madero

There were 3 cells and 3 detainees - including me. One was a 20 year old in for the same thing as me, and the other cellmate I didn't speak to that night, but he was obviously in detox as the rest of us had to listen to his agonising dry-retching through the night. The cells were pitch black and freezing cold as they were exposed to the night air. Concrete roof, floors, and sleeping bench. I didn't want to enter mine as I couldn't see a thing and was paranoid about sitting or stepping in a turd or something left behind by a previous resident. So I curled up in a crouching foetal position outside my cell and somehow managed to semi-sleep like that for an hour, with my breathe warming my legs. By about 7am it was light enough to see inside my cell. There didn't appear to be any turds or piss lying around so I went in and sat on the concrete bench, which was freezing. Somehow the previous residents had had food, as there was an empty pizza box and soft drink bottles in the cell. So half the pizza box became my mattress for my ass (the other half had shit-marks on it) and the empty Fanta bottle became my pillow. I semi-dozed like that for another hour, still in a foetal position for warmth as my legs were freezing.

Although the night was bad, the next day was much worse. The jolly Inspector the night before had told me I'd be out by about 12pm, after they contacted my Embassy. But guess what, the Embassy is closed on Saturday, I could have told them that. And it was still damn freezing - the cells received no sunlight and being concrete stayed cold all morning. Pacing for warmth was awkward without shoelaces and a belt. I found a coin one of my pockets that the cops hadn't confiscated, and set about scratching Kiwi Was Here in the wall of my cell, which became A Kiwi Was Here which became A Kiwi Was Trapped Here For 12 Hours. By about 10am a crack of sunlight had appeared high on one of the exterior walls so I climbed up on my (unlocked and open) cell door to receive the light on my face. After about 5 minutes a cop told me to get down, and asked me if I'd like to take some sun. Very much, I said, but rather than let me out to sit in the sun I was locked inside my cell. Now the boredom really set in. The worst part was not knowing when I was going to be let out - no one was telling me anything and besides, no one was walking past my door to tell me anything. With every jangle of keys I'd be peering out between the bars trying to see if the cop was coming to my cell or that of my neighbours, which was always the case. By about 1:30pm I was getting really pissed off. Still cold as I hadn't stopped shivering, hungry and thirsty as I hadn't eaten or drunk anything, tired, but mostly plain bored, I kicked the door of my cell to get a cop to come. The cop told me they were still trying to contact my Embassy, but no one had answered yet. I started singing to pass the time - my favourite guitar singalong songs, well the ones that I could remember anyway. The acoustics of the square concrete cell were most pleasing. My neighbours never joined in but I suspect they didn't know the words to my songs in English. Finally, at 3pm a cop came and told me that my friends were here (Juan and Pablo) and that my 12 hours was up, I could leave. I signed for my possesions and we were out of there - first stop a gas station, where I bought some breakfast. Then I realised that the cops hadn't given me back my silver ring, but I really could not be bothered going back for it and besides it was probably gone for good anyway.

Around BA - 43 - Balcarce night
Random pic: Balcarce St, San Telmo

So there it is. I'd always wanted to spend a night in a cell just for the experience, but man, it sucked. It was cold and uncomfortable and miserable. The night was bearable but the day hell. And thanks to that night I have a bad headcold, again, I'd only just gotten over my previous one that I caught two weeks ago. I've been a bit of a sickly begger the last month - my diarea/fever, followed by a headcold followed by another headcold. I started taking vitamins to make up for my lack of vegetable intake but they weren't enough this time.

Oh yeah, at every Sunday asado at Juan's house I always have another crazy gringo story for him and his friends - things that have never happen to them despite them having lived here all their lives - starting with the time I fell from a moving subway car, to my fake peso story, to the time I rode in the cop car looking for car theives. But this time I told them - OK, there's gonna be no more gringo stories. This is the last one!


  • you had me shitting for a couple of seconds - until I realised you must be out to be posting...
    The 1st night is the worst mate, or maybe the 2nd & 3rd, but once you go beyond the boredom the experience changes, not that i'd suggest going down that path. at least here (Delhi) if you had that experience, cold wouldn't be part of's 40+ today. i'm on my way to the mountains as soon as...

    By Anonymous bruce, at 6:57 PM  

  • spent the night in auckland central in the early 70,s but we got fed and bedded. an experience and a lesson all the same, probably for different reasons though.I had to go to court and was represented by the right honourable david lange before he became the leader of this great country,sentenced to 9 mnths probation. Sounds like u could do with a good dose of mums chicken soup. luv Dad

    By Anonymous Dad, at 8:39 AM  

  • I could definitely do with the chicken soup... I think I might have bronchitis now, I've been coughing up nasty green things ever since... if it doesn't clear up in a few days I'll be off to the doctor for some antibiotics

    By Blogger mattyboy, at 1:04 PM  

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