Published: August 9th 2012August 9th 2012
Let me preface this by saying I like Peru. I like the food. I like the pisco. I even really like most of the people. There are some that just don’t seem to like me.
On my first visit to Lima in 2008, I arrived a day before my colleague. I was staying in a nice neighborhood, Miraflores, so I decided to go head out for dinner on a popular drag, Calle de las Pizzas
(or Pizza Street). Bars, restaurants (lots of pizzas, naturally), and artisanal stands line both sides of this well lit pedestrian mall.
I found a nice open-air café and grabbed a table for one. After a leisurely meal of arroz con mariscos
, I hung out sipping my pisco sour while chatting with the waitstaff to learn about all things Peruvian. At around 10:00, my waiter leans over and tells me, “Sir, we have a nice table for you over by the entrance”. I told him I was fine where I was, to which he responds, “No, you REALLY should take that table over there”. Still puzzled, I took the hint and relocated.
After I got settled at my new table, I glance back to
my former seat and met the chilling gaze of a man sitting right behind where I had been. He cradled a plastic bag in his lap. It was clear my waiter was trying to get me as far away from this guy as possible and as into public view as the café would allow. For about 20 minutes, I pretended to be interested in the people-watching on Pizza Street while I felt his stare burn into me. The waitstaff would continually come by and make nervous small talk with me. Finally, he abruptly got up from his table and stormed out of the restaurant.
About 10 minutes after his exit, my waiter comes over and asks if I can walk to my hotel. I nod. He says, “Go now. Don’t run, but don’t stop until you get there.” But why? “That man behind you was a very bad man,” he replies. I exit the restaurant, head off in a brisk stride, and keep my head on a swivel, surveying every passerby. I make it without incident to the hotel.
The next day, I meet up with my boss and tell him what had happened. We head out for
dinner, and I tell him I want to stop by the restaurant from the previous night to thank the waitstaff. They smile when they see me approach unharmed, so naturally I have to ask just what went down 24 hours ago. To my relief, they explain that he probably wouldn’t have killed me. BUT, he is
notorious for targeting solo businessmen and either roughing them up for cash or holding them for ransom. Hmmm….well, that’s comforting. I guess good customer service in Lima takes on an entirely new dimension.