Sunday, February 21, 2010

Can I wash your car?

As I've posted before, so far, so good, down here. However, there are some things that do drive me a bit around the bend.

Buying ANYTHING in a Chilean store is quite the undertaking. Let's say you take a bikini off a rack in a big department store (for Carmen, not for me!) and you want to pay for it, of course. So, you go to the nearest cash register. Eight times out of 10, you can't pay there. Instead, they'll take your bikini and send YOU, sans bikini, to something like a central cash register, where you have to pay and obtain a bill. You then must go back to the desk where they have your bikini, and show them you have PAID for it, at which point they'll put your bikini in a plastic bag, and SEAL it, with some tape, so that you cannot put anything else in the bag, on your way out.

It works pretty much this way everywhere you go -- whether you're buying a box kleenex in a corner store or a TV at "Fallabella," a popular and large department store like The Bay. Pay first, at a designated cash register, often encased in glass, obtain your bill, go back and present it, then get your item(s). Apparently, it's to avoid "grab and runs," but, it's incredibly inefficient and time consuming.

Another annoying thing is when you try to park somewhere. Parking meters are non-existent (from what I can see). Instead, civic employees circle parking areas on foot and as soon as you arrive, they'll place a ticket on your window to mark the time you get there. When you come back, you have to find one of them, to pay them for parking. Fine; no problem. (Again, inefficient, BUT I guess it keeps people employed.)

What IS a problem however is that many of these guys have a little business on the side. Before you walk away, they'll invariably ask: "Can I wash your car?" And this would be fine too, because their fee is usually two or three bucks for this service.

The problem is that they ask you this every. single. time. So, you could be asked to have your car washed two or three times a day, depending on how many stops you make. The other problem is, they never start washing your car when you're there. As a result, Gladys swears that nine times out of 10, your car actually never gets washed! She says it's an imaginary wash and in fact, people pay this "car wash" fee so that nothing happens to their car -- a bit of insurance, if you will.

Oh yeah, and the other annoying thing about this is that if one of these civic employees happens to be right there when you're trying to park, they'll immediately begin to "help" you.

"Back up! Back up! NOOOO!!! Not like that! Go straight! STRAIGHT!!! Now, move forward...! I said, FORWARD!" and on and on it goes. As if you didn't know how to drive, or park, yourself. As if you hadn't been parallel-parking for almost 30 years! That's what I told one of those guys one day: "Hey, I've been driving for nearly 30 years, buddy. I KNOW how to park!" He got offended, of course, and walked off in a huff. (Likely doubly-offended at being talked to like that, by a woman driver, nonetheless).

The nice thing about that was that, because he was so mad, he forgot to ask me: "Can I wash your car?"


  1. Suzanne,

    I finally got caught up on your blog posts (thought blogger would notify me of new posts...I'm still trying to figure out how blogging works too).

    Well in short....your experience sounds pretty amazing. Your pics are making me wish it was about 25 degrees warmer up here! Oh to be on a beach right now!.... and the food sounds really good - is it lunch time yet? :)

    Glad to hear you're having a great time....enjoy it for all of us sitting in the cold north! cheers, Gabe

  2. Hi Gabe!!
    so nice to hear from you... and yeah, I thought that "Followers" would be notified of posts as well, but Peter tells me it doesn't work that way. Anyway, yeah, it's going great... This week we're still at the beach; Monday we move to Santiago so the kids can go to school. I'll email you more separately. All the best to you and Andre!

  3. I love reading these! You are soooo funny! What an amazing adventure you're having! You should take some pix of these attendants and put them on your blog...priceless!
    Thinking of you,

  4. And all true! The guy showing you where and how to park may also have been a little miffed because everyone expects a tip! Most times, driving out of a parking lot, someone will show you the way and hope for 100-200 pesos...except don't tip the taxi drivers I hear. Do tip the mail carrier or you may not get mail.