Monday, September 16, 2013

My Hovercraft is Full of Eels: Adventures in Argentine Banking

I have no cash, it's snowing (actually objectively beautiful) in town, the ski area just closed for the season, the bus service to the mountains shut down, the bike shops don't accept credit cards...essentially, I'm stuck. Stuck until my ATM card shows up. So at this point I'm just blogging to keep myself amused.

But I had a VERY DRAMATIC, SUPER-RAD, EXCITING trip to a bank today! Read on for the full, uncensored, shocking account!

Completely out of cash, and with my Emergency Express debit card replacement not scheduled to arrive for another week (two weeks after ordering it),  it was time to try other options.

I had half jokingly asked a few places around town for temporary employment, but after a few very confused looks and one prostitution related response, abandoned that line of inquiry.

This was at lunchtime, when the place started to
clear out, but this is one of eight sets of seating
areas in the bank, and that was the only row of
seats that wasn't full in that particular moment.
It's Monday! Party in the bank!
Having money wired via Western Union or other agents (I keep hearing Xoom is great in Argentina, but only has 40 offices in the country and none even in the same state as where I am) wasn't an option:there were no offices in, or anywhere near town. I didn't have a PIN to use with either Visa card I brought, and Visa claimed there were no bank locations within 75 miles that worked with Visa where I could maybe get a cash advance.

But I was desperate, and determined to at least ask. So, after spending an hour looking up phrases I might need and copying them into my notebook, I headed to the town bank. And it was packed. At one point I counted 76 people (not counting 5 babies) waiting to be helped.

A22: The Winning Ticket?
I arrived at 11:30 and took Number A22, at which point the screen read E65. I took a seat and desperately hoped the ticker didn't run all the way through Z. An hour and a half later of playing with learn Spanish apps on my phone, I heard the familiar 'ding' announcing the next number being called, and was immensely relieved to see it go from E99 to A01.

Since it had taken an hour and a half to get from E65 to A01, I calculated that I now only had approximately 56.6 minutes of waiting left. But lo! only half an hour later, at A11, the Lunchtime Effect set in and as there was no A12, A13, A14, A15...you get the point...I started to clutch my ticket, get all of my important documents tother, and brace in a sprinter's crouch to be totally ready lest the the quick flipping of numbers stymie my chance to speak to the man behind the glass wall. A22 was called at 1:34pm, and I scurried up to the window just as the man behind the glass wall had his finger ready to call for A23.


Screenshot from my very helpful
Learn Spanish phone app.
I was ready. Sort of . Clearly whatever my opening line was wasn't making any sense (maybe because of things like the photo at right), so I passed my notebook with a carefully-written translated explanation of my situation through the hole in the plexiglass shield to the teller, and he read, and chuckled, and read, and chuckled, and read, looked up, and said....

"No."

I protested, "But I have two forms of I.D.! My visa card! I have no cash! Pleeeaaase?"

"No."

"Is there anyone, anywhere else in town who might be able to help?"

"No."

"No?"

"No." And with that, he waved me away, and A23 approached the counter.

At least I tried?

This is unrelated to the post, but if
anyone reading this is a bird nerd,
what is this cool dude?
Spotted him while walking at the
edge of town. He looked sort of
like a falcon, was about 6" big,
plump, beautiful gray-tan, white,
and black markings.
I returned, defeated, to the hostel, where Creepy Dude from the previous post was waiting, so I snuck out the back door and scurried off to wander aimlessly through town, letting the falling snow calm me down.

In an effort to cheer myself up by giving myself something to look forward to, I stopped by the bus station to see if there was any possible way I could pay for a ticket to Las Leñas with credit card since I had literally no cash (something they had scoffed at before). They replied that it was a moot point, Las Leñas  had just closed for the season and there was therefore no more bus. 

Even more dejected, I moped in circles around town until I was famished, my being famished falling conveniently at exactly the time when everything in town closes for the afternoon, but chanced upon a restaurant tucked quite a few blocks from the main part of town, that, like some celestial gift of mercy, had a Visa sticker on its window. And I drowned my frustration in a mini bottle of very excellent local Malbec while eating some very excellent local trout (a regional specialty), and decided that if I could just learn a few key phrases (like whatever "If you touch me again I'll feed you your nuts, creepface" is in Spanish), I could deal with this situation.

At least lunch was good. Excellent, actually.
And not only was that bottle of wine adorable,
it was also muy delicioso.
And, belly happy, I returned to the hostel, where creepface was gone, and here I sit, blogging, to decompress from what's been an upsetting and frustrating few days.

Except I have excellent news for tomorrow: I explained the latest news in the ongoing saga of my debit card and consequent inability to pay for my room at the hostel to Ramón, who once again was very forgiving. I asked him for advice on what to do to pass the wait time until the card arrives, and he again said "no problem" and offered to loan me his bike (for transportation to cool places) and his cell phone (in case I get stranded somewhere) and sending me off on an adventure to go see something awesome tomorrow. Once again proving that there is at least one shockingly, unnecessarily nice person for every creepface out there. Ramón, you saved my day. Thank you.