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Friday, 23 December 2011

Buenos Aires: Witness to a hit and dash

In Buenos Aires, not speaking Spanish or knowing the customs makes the most trivial chore quite complex and time consuming, often requiring multiple attempts for success. I've been here two weeks and each day I set myself one new task: Today's job? A trip to the Lavadero (laundromat). I held out as long as possible but the few clothes I own were threatening to walk out in search of a good soak and spin.


First I had to find a Lavadero. (It didn't help that I was calling it a Lavanderia, what they call it in Spain, not Argentina.) Then I had to get in the door. (They don't open it until they've decided you're not going to rob them.) Next we had to agree on a price, 15 peso seemed fair. Now to the final hurdle, writing my address. I wrote '1707 Callao' and the girl just looked at me confused. I wrote it again and she shook her head that it wasn't possible. I was in a hurry to get to class and figured the address wasn't that important. I'd be back in 3 hours to collect it but she insisted no address, no wash.

Then there was an almighty screech and bang outside. The Laundromat attendants all rushed to the door, not brave enough to step out onto the pavement, watching from the safety of their glass cocoon. It seemed a man had stepped out onto the road and been hit by a taxi. I saw him pick himself up and limp/run to his car and get in the passenger door. From his actions I could see him instruct the female driver to 'go!' She appeared to be suffering shock and didn't react quick enough.


In the meantime, the taxi had stopped and run back, I'm guessing to check he hadn't mortally wounded the guy but then the look on his face turned to anger as he realised the victim was about to do a runner. It was the pedestrian's fault and the thump had left quite a ding in the front of the taxi. By now witnesses were gathering, the poor wife looked white as a ghost as her (assumed) husband yelled at her to drive. The taxi driver was yelling, the husband was yelling, the witnesses were yelling and now the Laundromat attendants are on the pavement giving their 10 pesos worth. I got the feeling my laundry wasn't going to be done anytime soon. The wife eventually responded and put her foot down, speeding off down the street. The taxi man was wild, everyone started examining the damage and shaking their heads.

Finally the Lavadero folk returned inside, animatedly discussing the sequence of events. I was now really late for class so as politely as possible cleared my throat and indicated towards the docket. One woman who had a small amount of English came and questioned me on the address, I said it in Spanish and then in English and she laughed, uno, siete, cero, siete! She took the pen from my hand and put a dash through the middle of the 7's. They laughed at me like an adult does when a child has dome something silly but stopped short of patting me on the head, probably because I was twice the height of them. (A seven without a dash is read as a one here.)

I went outside feeling I'd won a small victory having dealt with my dirty washing and as I listened to the taxi driver still yelling expletives it occurred to me that the moral of our story is: When in doubt, just dash.

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Latest Poll Results
New York: What will Indiana June do in the big apple?
21% Track down and visit Oliver Jeffers:
Renowned Children's storybook writer & illustrator
11% Walk the High Line:
A linear park built on a 1.45-mile section of the elevated NY Central Railroad 
11% Be a NYC detective for a day: 
Part game, theatre and tour to discover some of NYC's most off-the-beaten path spots
13% Explore the City Hall Subway Station: 
Abandoned & hidden from the public for 60 years
12% Flying trapeze class:
Hone her circus skills learning how to fly on a trapeze 
30% NZ Flag + Statue of Liberty:
Bodypaint the NZ flag on her body and go up the Statue of Liberty
2% Go to Queens and find a 'Nanny' sound-alike:
Video someone with the nanny accent saying "noo Zealand, i love that place"
Voting closed | 204 VOTES
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