Another Taxi Ride Memoir

“Wait... Where are we? Isn’t this where Starbucks should be?” I squeaked, tilting my head in different directions to scan the extremely-sketchy-but-fascinatingly-so ghetto around us. No one was in sight, but I kept my IPhone hidden in the pouch of my hoodie just in case; however, my confusion overruled my cautiousness at this point. I seriously have no idea where we are... Is this Recoleta? I’m feeling dizzy. Am I spinning around in circles and tripping on my own feet in doing so? Yes, the sky is going around and around. Indeed I am. 

“I literally just told Isaac that we asked the taxi to take us to a closed Starbucks. Probably the only closed Starbucks. Ever. In the world.” Becca sighed. “I tapped on the pin, and it said that it was closed.” She exclaimed, waving her phone around with a hint of exasperation. Please don’t get mugged, Please don’t get mugged... I repeated this in my head multiple times. I suppose it was her lack of sleep, combined with caffeine deprivation that was making her so antsy. She really wants her Starbucks... I thought to myself.

As Becca and Isaac figured out where we were going to go next. This was because I never really involve myself in directions/schedules/etc. since I would probably get us lost or late or murdered or something. Plus, I had no real desire to go to Starbucks since all my money was back in the residence.

 

I noticed how gray and deserted this neighborhood looked. Torn flyers and soda cans scattered around the sidewalk made it seem like we were the only survivors of some sort of zombie apocalypse - which, lets face it, would have been pretty awesome - that wiped out the mass of Argentina. All the shops were closed and locked with thin metal bars. The sky was gray too, which probably added to the bleakness of that morning. I was waiting for a tumbleweed to start bouncing across the sidewalk. The only color I detected was the vivid graffiti - like twisting arms extending across a blank facade - on the dull and empty walls. 

 

“Oh there’s a taxi over there!” Becca stated, as she motioned towards the taxi. We followed her, crossing the empty - except for the approaching taxi - street, and getting into the free cab. Opening the taxi door, I tried not to hit my head on the car’s bulky frame like I usually did, and scooted my bottom across the leather seats. He had the radio on some sort of Spanish station, which then played some instrumental music. Maybe it was tango music.

 

I noticed just how old our driver looked. His full and wavy hair was the color of a cloudy winter sky in China and he had a full mustache that concealed most of his upper lip. He had a pale, wrinkled face with a warm and pleasant expression. He reminded me of one of those grandfathers in the movies; the kind who tells their grandkids stories about their past experiences; most of which are entirely made up. 

“Hello,” we chorused in unison, as Becca waved around her bright blue IPhone, showing him the address on Google Maps (not to sound too obnoxiously touristy or anything).

“Starbucks on Callao Avenue...?” Was this a question or a statement? He said in a clear voice. 

It was silent for a few seconds. Or was it minutes? My sense of time lacks a tad as well. Cue the awkward silence. I could feel the tension building up since everyone was waiting for me to say something.

“Have you heard of the Cambalache?” I blurted out in near-adequate Spanish, as he turned down the radio.

“The Cambalache? It’s a tango.” He replied matter-of-factly. I couldn’t see the expression on his face, as he was facing the windshield, but I detected something in his voice - surprise, maybe? Interest? After the “obnoxious tourist” persona, he was least expecting a question like that, which required insight on Argentine culture. Then again, I can’t exactly tell that he was thinking all of that from the little pitch rise in his voice. And I thought English class interpretations were supposed to stay in the classroom...

More awkward silence. What else am I supposed to say? 

Becca and I stifled a giggle. I believe we have reached an impasse... We definitely weren’t expecting to have to talk for a while.

 

“What are your view on politics?” I tentatively asked, barely recovering from the previous event. 

“I don’t like them.” He stated immediately. 

“Why?”

“Because politicians are liars.” He criticized with a knowing, yet sly, smile.

We chuckled again, but feeling more comfortable doing so. As he went on about how he found fault in politics; especially Argentine politics, we laughed so hard that we didn’t even hear most of his comments. Alright, in truth, I sort of blanked out during this part of the ride, but that was my take on it.

 

“What did he say?” I muttered to Becca through my teeth-bearing smile.

“Just keep asking him questions.” She whispered to me between giggles.

“Okay,” I confusedly responded, mimicking the way she engaged with the driver. “What is your favorite thing about Argentina?” I asked once more.

“My favorite thing about Argentina...?” He repeated (he seemed to do this often. Again, I’m not sure if it was a question or a statement.) “Asado.” he replied promptly. At this time, we had no idea that asado was barbecued meat, like Chorizo. He tried explaining but, speaking for myself, obliviousness and confusion took the reins on this conversation. It had to be food though, since he named other Argentine delicacies like matte, dulce de leche and alfajores. I had to keep my salivary glands form acting up at this moment. Yum. I could go for a few dozen alfajores right now. Yes, a few dozen sound good. Yum. I like this dude. In my head, we bonded over our love of food. It felt strange that food was, in his eyes, the best thing about his country.

 

“Where are you from?” He asked us, probably interested in why foreigners know and want to know so much about his country. We listed off the usual Canada and China, Texas, Canada, as he noted our nationalities with genuine curiosity. That is, until he realized what Becca was wearing.

 

“You’re interested in football!” He exclaimed with much enthusiasm. She shrugged a “yes” as I glanced her newly purchased River Plate shirt.

“La Boca?” He asked her expectantly, eyebrows raised. La Boca was a popular Argentine soccer team. I felt quite proud of myself that I knew this fact. I wasn’t much use in this conversation though. Sports - actually, pretty much any physical activity - are not my forte in the slightest.

“No!” She objected. I smiled at her animated reaction, and our driver chuckled.

“River Plate?” He confirmed.

“Yes!” She stated proudly. He responded, saying that River Plate was something none of us heard.

“Pardon?” I asked cautiously, asking him to repeat what he said. He started clucking frantically, as everyone in the cab burst into laughter. 

 

This was the moment I realized how full of personality Argentines (from what we have seen so far) were. This man, who we later found out was named Luis, was charismatic enough to entertain us throughout the entire taxi ride. I truly wish him well through his endeavors, and am glad to have met such a character. Opinionated and humorous, some Argentines will meet you halfway if you try to get to know them; maybe even recommend some good local food. Me gusta mucho.