Friday, January 11, 2008

Things that bugged me about Argentina (some still do)

Like everything in life there is always something else to every story, a flip side to every coin. Argentina is no different. I previously wrote about some of the things I liked about my new home. Now, after living here since 1999, I realized that I do look at some of my surroundings differently. Here are some examples:

1. Why can´t anyone be on time? At first I was just amazed at just how common it was for people to arrive late to just about everything. I had several jobs and most of the time I was the first one to show up. I realized that at the time that I used the bus, I was on a very frequent bus line (the number 10) and it was just impossible to arrive late for me. However, this city is very complicated and there are demonstrations, picket lines that cut-off traffic, streets that flood consistently, construction work that is unannounced--they just pop up like pop quizzes in school. One job that I had, right before I started my own company, was for a relocation firm in zona norte (north suburbs). Most of the employees lived in the south of the city and they had a very long commute. When there were strikes called they would literally panic because they would have no way of getting home. They had to not only cross the whole city but then take a bridge that unites the city with the south side and that bridge was frequently cut-off. During those times they would have to leave early and we would have to watch the news the next day to see if they would make it to work. Currently I am more and more amazed at how people manage to get to work at all much less on time.

2. Lack of choices in stores. When I first got here I noticed that the retail stores are so depressingly low in choices for just about everything. The toy stores are actually kind of depressing, any entertainment devices like stereos and televisions had so few choices and very expensive. Now I actually find it a little refreshing. Any locals who are reading this and have not gone to the United States are probably wondering what the hell I am talking about. In the States you are always surrounded by choices of things to buy: If you want a toaster, you have what seems like an unlimited number of makes, models, etc. to choose from. The same goes for coffee makers, stereos, running shoes, computer games, etc. Here, I bet you can count the different types of toasters you can buy on your fingers and then have some fingers left over to count the different coffee grinders you can get. I realize now that it´s due mostly to different customs. I mean, people still repair stuff here and not throw it away like back home for example. I really don´t mind not being bombarded by a constant sales pitch. I don´t even get catalogs in the mail here. Well, okay, I guess I would not mind at all if we could have Victoria´s Secret catalogs delivered, but nothing else is fine with me. I also have more time for other things and not so much time to ponder which toaster to get.

3. "Oh, look, they have tiles on their sidewalks. Don´t they look pretty?" Yeah, except that they become dangerously slippery when wet and after it rains and you step on a loose tile all of a sudden your pants are stained with all that dirty water that was resting underneath. I can´t stand the tile sidewalks. Although, I guess they are easier to clean and that is important since there is a stubborn small segment of the population that insists on not picking up after their dogs. Two negatives for the price of one on this one. Yeah, this one still annoys me a little bit.

4. No Refunds. There is not much to say about this one. It really bugged me and knowing that any and all purchases were final I mostly did not buy stuff. I went from a shopping paradise to no shopping cold turkey and this one was one of the reasons that helped me through this transition. So I would have one toaster to choose from and if it broke I couldn´t get my money back, but I could at least send it in to get it fixed and be happy that there was one less toaster filling up the landfills of the earth. This one doesn´t bug me as much since it does help me focus on buying only stuff that I absolutely need.

5. Parking by brail. Everyone does it. No one even tries to maneuver into a space and see if they could park without touching anything. It´s as if the motivation is placed on just the opposite. "That´s right, let´s see if I can park and make sure to touch both cars and if I can actually move one of them I could get extra points." I wrote previously about how I even saw someone go out of their way to bump into my car (the only one parked on the block) as they were parking. Amazing to watch this in action. Yep, I have had confrontations with people regarding this one and one day I hope to not care about something I would spend thousands of dollars on. Hey, it´s only money, it´s only plastic, glass and steel on four wheels. Something else that concerns me is the way people drive in general. There are some great posts by some other bloggers related to this topic.

Traffic Deaths in Argentina
Imagining Taos
Porteños Behind the Wheel Un Año Sin Primavera
By Bycicle in Rosario D for Disorientation
Traffic in Rosario: Rant 1 D for Disorientation
Traffic in Rosario: Rant 2 D for Disorientation

6. Those metal poles sticking out of the sidewalk into the street could really mess up your car. I thought they were so ugly, and dangerous. How on earth could the authorities permit this to go on? This is one of those that I did a complete 180 degree turn. I love those things. They are my salvation. Everyone who has a driveway should have them. Let me explain: We bought a house in an up and coming neighborhood called Palermo Viejo. Currently this is no longer an up and coming neighborhood, it is a red hot neighborhood. Now it is so crowded and it is impossible to find parking on the block. Parking space is so limited and in such demand that people resort to parking in front of your driveway. If there was something that gave me an urge to go out and buy a gun so I could shoot people it was this. I would call the police, but all they could do is give out a $35 peso ticket. Sometimes I would get lucky and get to confront the people themselves. That was good for a little release of pressure, you know let off some steam, curse and yell at someone and eventually lower my blood pressure. I put up with this because the city had come around one day and cut the poles that belonged to the house. Mine was the only house they got to that day. Now the poles are back in place and I swear I will chain myself to those if the city decides to come back and mess with them.

That´s it for now. Maybe I could make it a yearly thing and see if I could eventually dwindle this list down to zero. It could be my Argentineness barometer. Don´t bother looking up "Argentineness" in the dictionary. It´s my blog and I can make shit up if I want to.

Now I am off on vacation. See you all in February! Besitos to all of you.
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