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Don’t Tread On Me, Argentina
Erik R. Trinidad
'I didn’t 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 couldn’t even take out their own money they worked so hard to earn. If that happened in your country, I reckon you’d be fuming as well. Under that pretense, an Argentine bank wasn’t 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 wasn’t 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 he’d 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 didn’t 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 couldn’t 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. "I’m in a rush and I’m 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 didn’t 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. Don’t 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

On the Inca Trail: Breathing hard
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altitude sickness feels a lot like the morning after a wild college drinking party

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