Things not to say about a flight stewardess; 3 large Argentinians and a supermarket; and meeting Blinky Bill in Buenos Aires…


So who remembers this little gem from Austen Powers –

Don’t you just love it when film happens in real life? 14 hours on the ground in Buenos Aires and I’m already falling off my chair laughing from an experience related to the above…but I’ll save that for the end, so read on!

When to drink and when to touch

Taking off out of Sydney at 7:30pm on Tuesday, I was lucky enough to be sat next to a lovely 50ish Argentinian lady (let’s call her Maria…I have a memory like a fish) who through a combination of my Spanglish, her Ingrish and copious amounts of complicated hand gestures provided some much-needed education in the Spanish language for the 14.5hr flight.

Once names were exchanged and we had leveled out the next order of business was a glass of vino. Gesturing in the general direction of the flight stewardess with the drinks trolley I said to my new friend “Vos queres tocar…?”, aiming for something along the lines of “Do you want to drink something?”. Being my first foray into casually throwing around the Spanish language with a local, needless to say I was quite excited and looking forward to getting back a reply to decipher. The rest of the conversation went a little something like this:

Me: “Vos queres tocar…?” (gesturing at the stewardess with the drinks trolley)
Maria: “Ehh? Tocar..??” (mouth goes into an ‘oh’ shape, hand comes up to cover mouth)
Me: “Si! Queres tocar?” (jabbing my finger at the stewardess)
Maria: “No, no quiero tocar! Encerio??” (screws up face, leans back from me)

Having not quite received the reaction that I was anticipating, it’s at this point that despite my rock-solid confidence in my own abilities as a Spanish orator – the type of confidence that only 3 weeks’ worth of tutoring can bring – I decided to swallow my pride and check my language notebook.

Long story short it turns out ‘tocar’ means ‘to touch’, as opposed to ‘tomar’ (which was the verb I was going for – ‘to drink’). So instead of asking Maria if she would like to have a drink from the stewardess (which, on reflection, may or may not have been a worse direction to take), I had in fact suggested that she might like to try touching her instead. Off to a good start.

How to be really, really annoying to a long queue of people in the supermarket

Jumping forward 24 hours and fresh from my faux pas 30,000 feet above the sea, I rolled out of bed in the one-bedroom apartment I had rented for my stay in Buenos Aires, threw on some clothes and headed down to the supermarket, keen to tie down some things for breakfast and lunch.

I grabbed the usual – bread, milk, cheese, fruit etc – and headed to the till, just managing to squeeze in ahead of 3 big Argentinian blokes (let’s call them The 3 Musketeers) who had clearly run in to grab some things for lunch on the way to work. Mentally self-hi fiving my deft-footedness (hey, a win’s a win), my celebrations were cut short when the checkout chica (more abuela (grandmother) than chica…this senorita was pushing 70) dangled my plastic bag of 2 apples in front of my face like a couple of severed testicles and shouted something completely incomprehensible. Embarrassed, I defaulted to one of my safety nets (‘Repitir mas despacio por favour?’, ‘Repeat more slowly please?’), after which I was able to salvage one word from the ensuing barrage – precio – or price. Through all of this The 3 Musketeers had stood patiently, but as I tossed around precio in my head trying to connect the dots between it and the dangly testicle apples, they were clearly beginning to grow agitated.

Eventually I remembered that on a previous trip through Spain I had had to weigh and stick the price on my fruit and vegetables myself, before heading to the checkout. I figure this must be what la abuela is ranting about, grab the apples and meander back to the fruit area to weigh and price check them. I took my time – I figured la abuela would move The 3 Musketeers through and then finish ringing up my shopping for me when I got back.

Wrong. Apparently cancelling a transaction was muy dificil for la abuela, and when I casually wandered back to the till about…oh…5 minutes later, I was greeted by 3 very agitated Musketeers. Apologetic, I quickly give the apples to la abuela and whip out my wallet to pay and get out of the way, “Cuanto questa?” I ask. “Cien y sesenta y quatro pesos” – $164 pesos. Check the wallet – $144 pesos left. Oh dear. Me: “Acepta tarjeta de credito?”, abuela: “Si, identificacion por favour?”. Erm, ok…I can pay by credit card, but only if I have my identification on me? You can see where this is going – I didn’t have my identification on me. I mean, sure, if I’m putting down a deposit on a car, but for 2 apples and a loaf of bread? Come on!

This was breaking point for one of The 3 Musketeers who stepped in, spoke gruffly to la abuela, and my credit card was quickly swiped and I was out of there. Albeit not before a friendly (and by ‘friendly’ I mean ‘not so friendly’, and by ‘not so friendly’ I mean ‘if I had my Rottweiler with me I’d take it off the chain and let it chase you down Avenida Santa Fe‘) reminder from Primero Musketeer to “…always identification take…”. Thanks Yoda.

And last but not least – Austen Powers and Blinky Bill

Remember the video at the start? Here’s the link-back.

So winding the clock back, after my 14.5hr flight and 1.5 hours of negotiating customs/taxis, I arrive at my apartment in Buenos Aires last night to be greeted by the apartment complex Customer Service Representative. Let’s call him Bill. Not because I can’t remember his name, but more because I really like this apartment and would like to complete my stay here.

So here’s the thing about Bill – Bill only blinks one of his eyes. His right eye to be exact. Which raises all sorts of questions…why does Bill only blink one eye? Can I ask him? Should I look at the left or the right eye? Can he tell which eye I’m looking at right now? Is it ok to say “I see” after he explains something to me, or is the ocular vernacular likely to be a sensitive subject?

Now to be fair to Bill, he’s a lovely bloke. He spent a solid 1.5hrs relating to me all sorts of self-evident things about my apartment, like how to turn on the TV, how to open the balcony door, not to walk around the apartment ‘wet’ (huh??), and so on. None of which I really took on board because I was too busy trying not to randomly bleat out “eye!” or “blink!” or “why??”.

Amusing (for me, not Blinky Bill of course) as it was, the piece de resistance was when I stopped Bill on his way out to ask if the tap water was drinkable.

“Sure!” he said. “I’ve been drinking it my whole life and I turned out fine!”


Until tomorrow mi amigos…


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About Nick Berry

Born, raised and incubated across Melbourne, Sydney, Hong Kong and London, after 8 years in stock broking I'm now exploring new horizons. Come join me and I'll do my best to keep you entertained!

5 responses to “Things not to say about a flight stewardess; 3 large Argentinians and a supermarket; and meeting Blinky Bill in Buenos Aires…”

  1. Nat says :

    You are hilarious MJF! Try and behave yourself today and keep out of trouble!
    PS. Btw, it’s Flight Attendant…..has been for more than 30 years. Xx

  2. tom says :

    Haha, believe it or not, I know exactly who you’re talking about. He’s a super nice guy, told us all about how to avoid taxi cab peso-switching ripoffs, pickpockets, etc. His name begins with “m” and ends with “o”, right???

  3. Peter Granger says :

    Nick, just started to read your blog and the first story was very good but a little unbelievable: I think you would prefer a touch over a drink any time and perhaps the mind was playing tricks! have a great stay over there and I will get up todate with the blog a little later. PG

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