ICANN people love defining things, and a few people at the meeting here in Cartagena have disputed whether this anecdote meets the strict definition of “mugging”.
Okay, I didn’t wind up with a knife in my ribs, they weren’t carrying firearms, and they didn’t get my wallet.
But they were going to beat me up (at the very least) if I didn’t give them what they wanted and it’s really just blind luck that I managed to blag my way out of it.
I often find that these kinds of stories are better related in first-person present tense.
So it’s 4am, and I’m blatantly flouting ICANN’s security advice by walking, rather than getting a taxi, back from .CO Internet’s rather nice afterparty to my considerably less-nice hotel.
But it’s only two or three short blocks, and I’m inside the walled city, so I reckon I’m safe.
Two thuggish-looking blokes quickly appear beside me and one of them starts mouthing off in unusually good English about how I owe him money for a coke deal I’m apparently somehow implicated in.
I’m not kidding.
I forget the details, but the gist of it is that I need to give them both an unspecified large amount of money for some drugs that I stole or something and that Bad Things will happen to my face if I refuse.
Unfortunately for the Escobar brothers, it turns out that at 4am, with half a bottle of Colombian fire-water in my belly, I’m invincible.
Or believe myself to be, anyway.
So I decide to play dumb, and just carry on walking. I figure I’ll pretend for as long as possible that I’m simple, or don’t speak English. My hotel is in sight by this point.
“Okay,” I say, confused look on my face, after he finishes his story.
“So you give us money?” he says.
“Okay,” I say, not giving him money.
“You give us money now.” he’s not asking this time.
“Okay,” I say. Walking a bit faster.
This goes on for two blocks. As dumb luck would have it, by the time he starts to loses his patience we’ve already reached my hotel.
Of course, at 4am, my two-star dive has its doors locked, and I have to ring the buzzer to get in.
Normally, the young girl on the desk buzzes me through two seconds later. Of course, normally I don’t show up in the dead of night accompanied by two burly Colombian guys yelling about drug money.
So she understandably doesn’t want to let me in.
Trying to buy time, and unsure whether this is a violent scam or a genuine case of mistaken identity, I tell the guy he can have his money in the morning. Just drop by, pick it up, no worries.
I buzz again, but she still doesn’t want to let me in.
“You give me money now.”
I usually carry a bunch of small-denomination bills in my pocket when I’m on unfamiliar turf, for precisely this kind of scenario, so I grab a wad of notes and stuff them into his hand.
“Okay, here’s your money.”
Buzz again. Still no response.
I’m trying not to notice that the money I’ve just given him amounts to about two US dollars, but he clearly has noticed and is quite angry.
I’m told I now owe him 57,000 pesos, which strikes me as unusually specific.
Fortunately, I never get to find out why he settled on that amount. The girl buzzes me through and, after a brief struggle, Scarface eats door.
End of anecdote.
To me, it sounds like a mugging. Drug guys threatened to beat me up and I gave them $2 – that fits the definition, right? It may be the lamest mugging in Colombian history, but it’s still a mugging.
Anyway, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Next time, I’ll try to get stabbed or something.