From our archives:
Dont Tread On Me, Argentina
'I didnt know exactly what people were yelling to the woman, but
I assumed it was pretty nasty'.
Part of the reason
for the political and social unrest in Argentina in the February of 2002
sprouted from the fact that the government limited the amount of money
one could withdraw from the bank. The country was full with angry citizens
who couldnt even take out their own money they worked so hard to
earn. If that happened in your country, I reckon youd be fuming
as well. Under that pretense, an Argentine bank wasnt exactly the
place I wanted to be, but of course, I found myself in Buenos Aires on
a beautiful sunny day without any cash to spare. I had my American Citibank
ATM card on me and decided to give it a shot at a Citibank near the Plaza
de la Republic and its towering obelisk.
I went on the long line of about a dozen Argentines, each eager to withdraw
cash if it was even possible. Most of them probably assumed I was a fellow
South American with my Hispanic-looking façade and accepted me
as a regular, even though I was a total gringo. There were only two ATMs
available in the vestibule and both of them were occupied. The one on
the right was taken up by some old anal-retentive woman who had a two-inch
stack of bank statements with her and seemed to be confirming each transaction
she did in the past year against the computer. She wasnt going anywhere
soon, so really there was only a single ATM for a line of about sixteen
people now. Eventually I was at the head of the line, waiting for one
guy at the ATM to get his money. It was taking him a while because nothing
would ever come out and hed start all over again.
An attractive Argentine woman in a sundress with blonde hair and great
legs approached me. She asked me something in a barrage of Spanish that
went fifty miles per hour and before I could tell her that I didnt
know what she was saying ("Uh, no
"), she left and went
back to the end of the now twenty-person-long line before I could finish
the sentence off with "
entiendo." I waited and waited
some more and the guy in front of me still couldnt get any cash.
The attractive blonde in the sundress came back to me. This time I got
my sentence out completely.
"Oh, you speak English," she told me in her sexy Argentine accent.
"Sí," I told her. (I love answering in Spanish when someone
asks me if I only speak English. Thank you, Sesame Street.)
"Can I go in front of you?" she asked me. "Im in
a rush and Im not even going to take any money out." Before
I could answer, the guy at the ATM was gone and she sprung to the opportunity
to cease it. She was in fact, trying to take out money, $300 US to be
exact, which never came out. She, like the man before her, stayed there
trying multiple times, thus holding up the line and making an already
angry mob even angrier. Soon people were shouting at her in fifty-mile-per-hour
Spanish and then starting shouting at me in fifty-mile-per-hour Spanish
for letting her cut in, and suddenly there was a big ruckus in the vestibule.
I didnt know exactly what people were yelling to the woman, but
I assumed it was pretty nasty. She eventually succumbed to the pressure
to leave and stormed out, leaving the ATM for me.
I approached the machine with all eyes on me from behind. I could feel
their looks piercing through my head. I put in my American Citicard, pushed
my buttons and, with no problems at all, withdrew 200 pesos in a single
try, which made the angrier mob become the angriest. There was yelling
and hissing and so I left that scene at fifty miles per hour. Dont
tread on me, Argentina!
I spent the rest of my day wandering the beautiful city of Buenos Aires,
and it was a great day as long as I never set foot in another bank again.
© Erik R Trinidad 2002
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