Welcome to Buenos Aires friends! Within just a few days of living in this wonderful, walk-friendly city, you will all learn that in Buenos Aires there is sweet and there is sour. Although taxi prices are rising, public transportation is both readily available and affordable. As a result, everyone ends up doing at least a little walking around. Sooner or later you’ll run into these dreaded obstacles while meandering the sidewalks of Buenos Aires:
See-Saw Tiles of Doom:
Found: Anywhere there are tiled sidewalks
What’s so haunting: These street tiles appear to be just your average joe tiles, but once stepped upon they will react quite differently. The physics are quite simple: the stabilizing concrete around the edges has withered away and below lies some sort of pivot point. The Argentineans are quite efficient when fixing and replacing street tiles; by reusing the rubble from the previous tiles and concrete as filler underneath the fresh layer of new tiles. The unfortunate side effect over time is the precarious and eroded support base that can often create these unstable levers of horror.
Worst case scenarios: A sudden shift in stable sidewalk will throw anyone off. Intoxication can make this especially bad. The most dreaded effect will be a spray of stagnant water upon your own pant leg or an innocent by-stander.
Middle-Aged to Golden Years Shopper:
Found: Shopping districts, Santa Fe
What’s so haunting?: Oblivious to the effects of their movements, these shoppers will often exit stores and create walking paths only a senile St. Bernard could make. Moving directly into your path, as well as the paths of others, they create havoc on the sidewalks of Buenos Aires. Identified by their hefty collection of shopping bags and their zombie-like walking patterns, these pedestrians are known for their sudden stops or sharp veers to store windows. They will also cut lines and then innocently pretend that they didn’t see the 15 people waiting. Clearly only a senior citizen is allowed to do this.
Worst case scenario: You join the “I secretly want to punch people in the back of the head” group on Facebook. You’ll also get a dirty look for not getting up for them on the bus and maybe even a lecture as to why the foreigners in this country are ruining everything, especially the public transportation system.
“I’m not moving” guy/girl:
Found: Heavily trafficked sidewalks, Florida street, shopping areas
What’s so haunting?: These guys (and sometimes girls) can be identified as total power hungry a-holes. Clearly they either think that they are better than you or have decided to completely not pay attention to the dimensions of what we call “personal space.” They have chosen a path and absolutely refuse to budge even an inch for you, despite the surrounding scenario. This technique resembles the “Right of Way” rule of boating, except its being applied by a sidewalk dictator. Evasive sideways maneuvers and even stopping to allow the royalty to pass will be required.
Worst case scenarios: Loss of self-esteem or an awkward shoulder check.
Found: Corners and sidewalk stretches that are unmanned (no portero) and frequented by cartoneros .
What’s so haunting?: In theory, the cartoneros are doing something good for the city: sorting recyclables and earning some cash-money along the way. On the negative side of things, they can leave massive piles of trash (minus the cardboard and plastics) including some foul smelling piles of food remnants intermingled with other rubbish. I feel for the garbage men who often have to construct makeshift shovels to spoon up all the debris. San Telmo can get particularly bad.
Worst case scenarios: While trying to impress a significant other by gracefully tip toeing through, you slip on the cartoon banana peel and take an ungraceful spill.
Found: In between parked cars, in the middle of sidewalks and even in entrance ways or on steps.
What’s so haunting?: There are tons of dogs that live in Buenos Aires and a high percentage of owners that feign to notice when their pet K-9’s have taken a dump. What is truly surprising is that I have seen dog shit literally lying right in front of some of the nicer restaurants in Las Canitas and Recoleta! These dogs and their owners are very capable of executing super stealth missions that are comparable to British S.A.S. maneuvers. The most dangerous season for these sidewalk obstacles is certainly autumn when excrement camouflages itself amongst the fallen leaves and other natural litter. Any area that does not have an assigned portero (doorman) will be especially bad because there is no one responsible to clean up any dogs’ misdeeds. Stepping in a dog mine is like a casino, if you walk around in Buenos Aires for long enough it will happen to you.
Worst case scenario: You step into the “slider.” The unhealthy dog has left a mound of what looks like melting frozen yogurt. I’ll spare anymore details. 2. Unknowingly, you plant your foot in some poopie right before you enter a restaurant, bar or someone’s apartment. The trailing odor will surely add to the pleasure of all!
Blockade of Seniors:
Found: Daytime, when you’re in a rush.
What’s so haunting?: Arms locked, canes out, the old lady armada has been formed. Sometimes rolling in droves of 2-3, these respected elders will stroll down the street arm-in-arm, and claim all sidewalk territory that lies in their path. The walking traffic coming the other way often pours over either side causing you to either wait patiently behind and ride the draft or take an alternative route; dodging around the telephone booths, trees, bus stops and other obstacles on the edge of the street. Note: Watch out for bus mirrors.
Worst case scenario: You keep missing everything (buses, subway, McDonald’s breakfast, etc). for the rest of the day by 30 seconds.
Found: Any place at any time.
What’s so haunting?: These obstacles can vary in size and level of danger. From a knife-wielding nut job to a discarded wardrobe full of cockroaches, you will run into something completely random on the sidewalk.
Worst case scenario: You tell us. Good luck!