Last week I had two separate being-yelled-at incidents. Definitely not the way we get our frustration out in Norway; we are more of a passive-aggressive bunch.
Incident 1: I am working quietly at home one morning when there is a knock on the door. I ask who it is, and it is Maria Rosa, an older lady in the building. I open, not sure what to expect. I had heard from others that she could be a little aggressive, but had so far only exchanged hallway greetings with her. This turned out to be something different… She marches in and starts yelling at me about the bedroom air conditioner and how it drips on the balcony of the lady on the ground floor. First I am perplexed by why she would come to complain about someone else’s problem, but I have come to realize that she just gets involved in everything. She is yelling and almost foaming at the mouth. “You sure use the AC a lot!!” I tell her calmly that the neighbour in question has come to talk to me before, she specifically asked me not to use the AC on weekend days, because it drips on her balcony (I am on the sixth floor, she is on the ground floor.) She wants me to fix it, but I have passed the issue on to my landlady. I pay I steep premium for this being a temporary rental, and I very much feel that it is not my responsibility. The landlady in turn tells me to use the AC all I want, and she says she is trying to get someone but that it is difficult. Hm… How hard can it be to get an AC repair guy? Anyway, I do use the AC every night, because my apartment is sweltering. I feel kind of bad about it, but interestingly, all my Argentine friends think I am in the right.
Mrs. Self-appointed building manager then went on to yell to me about giving the key to someone else. As with all non-doorman buildings in Buenos Aires, there is no way to buzz people in – you need to go downstairs to let them in AND to let them out. So if I have friends visiting, either just for a meal or to stay for a few days, I do give them the key if they need to go get something. It gets really old to let people in and out from the sixth floor! Anyway, apparently that was a huge faux pas and she thought that she would be robbed by my friends. Dear Lord! As a good Norwegian I really just got tongue tied and apologized profusely. If I had been a good porteña I would have yelled back but I don’t have it in me yet!
Incident 2: This happened only a few days after. I was in a taxi with two participants from a conference I had been contracted to organize. We all sat in the back seat and were chatting away, so I didn’t really pay that much attention. However, after a while I realize the taxi driver is taking us for a ride, in the other sense of the word. People are generally quite sceptical to taxi drivers here, but luckily I have not had those kind of experiences before. Anyway, there had to be a first time! I then comment, gently, that it seems we are going in the wrong direction. The driver goes from 0 to 100 in two seconds and starts yelling and swearing like I have never heard before. I will not repeat it here but he called me all sorts of ugly things and I was just flabbergasted. He then proceeded to abruptly stop the car in the middle of the street, gets out, takes all their luggage from the trunk and throws it on the sidewalk, computers and all, while he continues yelling profanities. I am speechless and while an Argentine would not have let this happen without fighting back, I really just wanted to cry! I, stupidly, even tried to give him money – he took that and threw it in my face and called mea $%·$%$% yet again. Then we were left there on a dark street with the luggage strewn around, looking at each other in disbelief. After a while another taxi comes by and helps us load everything. Then, the car doesn’t start. We assure him we don’t even care, we are happy as long as there is no shouting and cursing! After a while he has to go out and push the car but is able to make it go. I feel horrible that our Mexican friends left Buenos Aires like that… And no, I did not get the license or anything like that, I just didn’t have the presence of mind to write it down or take a photo. Oh well!