She wasn’t beautiful.
But she had the advantage of youth.
Probably in her late 20s. Enough to get her into the noticeably attractive category. Farmgirlish with a milk complexion that had not been tainted by the sun.
None of that immediately caught my attention, though, as she crossed the Zócalo in front of my camera.
What did catch my attention was her hair band. Purple sparkles. With cat ears. The type of accessory you would expect to see on an 8-year old girl. But her plunging decolletage proved otherwise.
Obviously, a tourist – in that getup. Hello, Kitty meets Miss Kitty.
I went back to taking photographs of the major buildings around the plaza. After all, I needed pretty pictures of Mexico City to share with you.
When I looked up again, there she was beside me.
“Excuse me. Could I look at your guide book?” “Of course,” I said, trying to find a socially neutral visual point between her hair band and cleavage.
I was correct about her tourist status. Yorkshire. On her way home from a sojourn in Australia.
Because I have never met a stranger not worth chatting up, I launched into a lecture concerning the buildings surrounding the plaza. She opened my guide book and tried to direct my attention there. But I was on a roll.
I must have looked like a combination of Don Quixote and his nemesis, the windmill – and there was some question of who was tilting at what. Arms flailing. Pointing here and there.
On one of my pirouettes, I noticed a fellow standing nearby, but just out of arm shot. I thought he was merely being cautious.
When the interest of my new-found audience started to wane, I told her to keep the guide book. I could get another. After all, she was only in town for a few days. She might find some use for it.
That seemed to surprise her – the gift, that is. But it made me feel as if I had done my good deed for the day.
As I was walking away, I turned to wish her a pleasant flight home. She was looking at the fellow who was standing behind us. And he was shrugging.
Only then did it occur to me what had just happened. I was almost a bit player in a classic three-party pickpocket scheme.
I was the mark. She was the plausible diversion (required by criminals and magicians). The bystander was the talent.
I have warned friends over the years of this bit of urban guerrilla warfare. And I have seen it work in Rome and Barcelona. Come to think of it, it was successfully used against me two years ago by a group of children in Cihuatlán.
But knowledge is only the first step to wisdom. In my case, I know that being distracted by secondary sexual characteristics can often lead to trouble. Even so, I willingly jumped on the ride.
Had it not been for my shameless exuberance, I could easily have lost more than my lunch in Mexico City.
But the Yorkshire lass was a perfect metaphor for Mexico City. The place is not really beautiful. But it is attractive and has its own charm. It can even be engaging. With just a soupçon of danger that keeps the jaded interested.
I initially had hoped that I could manage to stuff my visit to the Tortilla Grande into one post – maybe two. But I could not boil it down that far.
So, for approximately the next six posts, I will attempt to relive my five nights in Mexico City.