A.J. Twist and the phone thieves, Part 1

By AJ Twist / Posted April 6, 2015

My track record of travelling to Cuba and returning from Cuba with my IPhone has not been great. In a country where security is noticeable and prevalent, somehow I have managed to become a target for petty crime. In one case, it was a typical distract and grab routine and, the other, quite a bit more involved. Have a listen so that you can learn from my follies.

PastedGraphic-3 copyIn the first instance, I was in the midst of a night of all nights. I was travelling with my girlfriend and I wanted to show her all that Havana had to offer. We were having a “super-romantico” evening. We started at the restaurant La Guarida, probably the city’s most famous culinary destination but also one of its most romantic. We enjoyed our four-course meal at a candle-lit table near the tiny balcony over looking Centro Havana where the sounds of the city trickled in the window. Afterwards I wanted to show her the life of the Malecon at night. We headed to the corner of ‘La Rampa’ and the Malecon, in the shadow of the Hotel Nacional, which I call the “walk on the wild side”. Here is the gathering spot for younger, fun-loving Cubans of all sexual orientations. Needless to say, it is lively.

Into the midst I brought her with our taxi driver/guide/security guard/friend watching over us from a safe distance. Tonight he called me “Senor Blanco” given I was wearing my cream-colored blazer which could have been lifted from the costume room of “Our Man in Havana”. We sat down to take in the whole scene and suddenly a troubadour appeared offering to serenade my lovely companion. “Sure”, I said, and right away he delivered a perfect rendition of Bob Marley’s “No woman, no cry”. After that he asked if he could sing another and with a nod he went into a mesmerizing Spanish love song (at least, I presumed it was). Following this fine performance he asked for some money. I gave him a couple of CUCs, which is standard fare in these situations. He was not happy about his compensation and began to shake me down for more. I refused, rationalizing that I did not solicit his services – he volunteered them. As a compromise, he asked for my bottle of water which I handed over to him. As I was doing that, I noticed from the corner of my eye, a very tall, skinny ‘woman’ approaching me with determination and, before I knew it, she gesturing towards my crotch and whispering “sucky, sucky, fucky, fucky” in my ear. I was so shocked by this whole manoeuver, not necessarily from what she was saying, but by her invading of my personal space, which is so rare in Cuba (as accosting a tourist aggressively, can be reason enough for the police to haul someone away).

I instinctively pushed her away and looked over at my girlfriend and said, “Let’s get out of here”. As we were walking away from the scene, my girlfriend observed, “I think she took your phone”. And, sure enough, the phone that I normally carry in my breast pocket (for all the world to see) was gone. “We should go to the police,” she said and I just thought it would be totally pointless. The thief was likely long gone and I just might as well turn the page and forget it. At the hotel, I tried to track it using the “Find my IPhone” tracking option but a combination of incredibly slow Internet service and a GPS system that seemed to be disabled, proved it was futile. I just advised my phone carrier back home and called it a night.

By a strange coincidence, the next day we were enjoying a beer on the terrace on the Hotel Inglaterra and, sure enough, I see my thief proudly strutting down the boulevard (I could tell because the previous night she had a little sidekick with her who was not in drag and clearly they were an inseparable team), but what was I going to do? Run screaming after a transvestite through Parque Centrale in the middle of the afternoon demanding the return of my phone? No. I let bygones be bygones. Lesson learned. Or so I thought…


Stay tuned for Part Two of AJ Twist’s “The Phone Stories”



A.J. Twist is a Montreal based photographer and travel writer.


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AJ Twist

A.J. Twist is a Montreal-based writer and photographer. He is a frequent traveller to Havana,Cuba as well as many other exotic urban destinations.