They had warned us that in Argentina, time passes slowly, things don’t quite get done in the same way. That is, people enjoy their lives more, some municipal jobs only require five hours of work a day, dinner is late and all-night talks aren’t the product of bathroom nose candy, not even close, it’s clusters of friends rallying around a solitary soda on a wooden table til dawn. Important notes are on little scraps of Post-its, the urgent need to get right on it doesn’t seem to be a priority. Arranged rides are sometimes late, receipts are sometimes lost, you get the idea.
It is, for lack of a better word, utterly charming. That feeling of wistfulness. The need to check a cell phone each minute begins to lift (the fact that it doesn’t get service here is quickly pushed out of mind, it’s far better to assume that I’ve evolved enough not to need it after a day of withdrawal). We start to breathe slower, our walks meander, if we get lost, we’ll find our way back.
Of course it also means your order won’t arrive in time for you to meet a deadline, clarifications are slipped, lost in translation. More than once we were met with a hurdle of our American nature pushing up against Argentinean sensibilities.
She asked our concierge to book tickets to see a Tango show (stop laughing, I know it’s cheesy! But we had to). We asked his opinion. What was the best show for a couple of silly tourists? He immediately named one that he deemed superior above all others.
He said he’d book it. We thanked him, but pressed a little. Didn’t he need our names? Our room number? Our credit cards? He waved his hand away. We left unsure of what to do. It’s not that we thought he was incompetent. It’s just, we’re high strung from a few years in New York. We’re OCD. When I leave my apartment I stop to make sure I have my keys more than once. I just don’t trust myself to take care of things. Let alone anyone else.
We spend the day with our feet in the water when no one is looking, calling out to lemurs on the reserve, and causing a feeding frenzy among giant coy. We return, and politely ask the concierge if he was able to book.
He looks like he hasn’t seen us before. Then, with some poor attempts at saying the right tense in Spanish and my oh-so-helpful injection of “Es necessita?” about three times while waving my credit card in the air, he remembers and says to us that the one we wanted to go on was fully booked. But another one was so easily booked that we could change it at will, apparently it was in desperate need of more patrons and was half-empty. We look at each other and silently say that we’d rather change the date than to go to an inferior show. She attempts to say this.
He shakes his head. It’s not what we think. We look confused. He switches to English.
“No. This other show. Is more better.”
She attempts with a variation of, “So you’re saying the show you didn’t recommend and is empty is actually better than the one you did recommend and is full?”
“Si. Is. More. Bet-ter!” He says jollily, his inflection curling up at the end.
“Eeess more beeeeeet-teeeeer, chicas!” He smiles and bats his eyelashes. We swoon a little and don’t argue further.
We tell him thanks and then change it when the night concierge starts his shift….and today, I’m in an office and I’ve just handed in a draft.
And I find myself hoping. For my editor to come back, with my page bleeding red from her marks, her firm hand and head shaking no, her regret for ever hiring me plain on her face, her fierce belief that this draft is crap, so much worse from the last, that I didn’t do what she wanted, that I didn’t listen at all.
And I’ll smile wide, the last of my sunburn just now turning to tan, wave my hands in the air as a diversion and sing, “Chica! No! No! No! Is more better!”
Think it will work?