Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The kiss of an urchin

Someone is always kissing someone.

And someone is always hawking something on the subway.

First, the kiss. The greeting here is a single kiss on the cheek, whether it's two women, a woman and a man, or two men. To a frosty North American, two men casually exchanging pecks on the cheek is a kick.

Now, the subway. The subte merchandise can be divided into two categories: things I would consider buying in this lifetime and things I would not buy in a million years. The former category includes maps of the city and flashlights. The latter category includes toothbrushes and bandages.

Not surprisingly, a lot of these vendors are pretty down on their luck. The saddest part is that many times they're kids. I've seen children who couldn't have been older than 8 hawking junk on the subte.

If you're lucky enough to grab a seat, you're likely to have things tossed into your lap. Someone will come around, drop a sheet of stickers or a sewing kit or whatever in your lap and let you look at it for a while until they come back around to either accept your money or take the item back.

The last kid I saw selling things on the subte was handing out playing-card-size images of saints. As he dropped the cards in people's laps, he was kissing them on the cheek and receiving a kiss in return.

Now, I can't even bring myself to touch the stuff tossed into my lap, so clearly my OCD was not going to allow me to kiss some scruffy, random street kid. When it came time for him to drop the card in my lap and lean in for a beso, I politely declined.

But I was the only one. And I felt pretty rotten.


Doug said...

I'm starting to wonder if there is a safe method of travel in Argentina?! You tell tales of evil cab drivers and the perils of subway hawkers.

I personally found the most dangerous method of travel in Argentina to be walking. I wasn't there 24 hours before I stepped in some fresh shiznit. Those damn dog walkers!

Do you develop an innate sense for navigating the shiznit when you've been there for a while?

Dan said...

I think I have only stepped in it literally once since I've lived here. I step in it quite a bit, but it's usually more figurative.

The other day I saw someone picking up after his dog and when I recovered from the shock, I wanted to run over and kiss him -- which, all things considered, would not have been so unusual for here. A helluva lot less unusual than someone picking up after their pooch, at any rate.