Sep 13th, 2008
While Colombia has a ton of really nice, friendly, and helpful people, they prove to be incredibly flaky when it comes to keeping dates. I wrote this after a date that had been in the works since Sunday fell through without explanation. This is the fourth or fifth time or so that I’ve set aside an evening to meet people and things inexplicably never materialize. Needless to say, I was grumpy. Also, please excuse the four-letter words, family.
Juan Diego and the Air-Suck Girl
It started simply enough. It had promise.
Juan Diego, one of the four doormen that works my building, asked if I’d like to meet a girl he’s friends with. We could go out that night. He would introduce us. “Sure!” I said.
I asked what she was like. He said nothing and immediately scrunched up his face and made this sucking-in noise through his clenched teeth with his lips pulled back, his head nodding, and his hands rubbing up and down an imaginary hourglass in front of him. “Shiiiiiii,” went Juan Diego The Doorman. A ringing endorsement. It was a date. He would call his girlfriend, one of her friends that would by my date, and the four of us would go out.
“What time?” I asked.
“When I’m off work. 9. 9:15. Come down here around 9:15.”
“No problem. I’ll be here.”
“One more thing,” he continued, “I don’t want to take them anywhere expensive. I don’t have much cash. Cool?”
“Good. And we’ll go half and half on everything. Half and half. Cool?”
“Yeah, you bet,” I enthusiastically replied, “Cool.”
“Half and half,” he re-emphasized.
It got to be about 8:45 and the phone rang. I hadn’t put on my jeans yet, but Juan Diego was wondering where I was. Could I come downstairs? “Sure, just gimme a second to put my pants on.”
I went downstairs. That’s when the trouble started.
“Do you have any change?” he asked me.
“Yeah, what for?”
“So I can make a phone call. Call the girls.” He needed a coin to use the coin-op phone at the desk.
“Oh, yeah, here you go. Look, I’ll be right back. Just want to throw a shirt on.”
“Okay,” he said, “Do you have money for their taxi?”
“Uhh… yeah? How much is it?”
“About $10,000 pesos.”
“Oh, yeah, I’ve only got a $20,000 note. I’ll bring it with me.”
He then stated, “Oh, just give it to me now and I can give it to the taxi when they get here.”
Fair enough. I gave him the money and went back upstairs to make final preparations before meeting hourglass air-suck girl. As promised, at 9:15 I returned to the lobby to await the girls’ arrival.
Like any Latin girls worth their salt, they were about a half an hour late. I considered this to be an early success, actually. I’ve quickly grown accustomed to people either being at least an hour late or just not showing up at all to dates here. Give me 30 minutes late any day. It’s a goddamn coup.
This lead to 30 minutes of droll conversation with Juan Diego the Doorman. Upon the taxi’s eventual arrival, I asked Juan Diego, who was still watching the desk, to hand me the $20,000 note I’d given him earlier so I could go pay the cab. He shuffled through his pockets and looked through his wallet for the seemingly lost money as the taxi driver grew increasingly impatient while the girls called out repeatedly, “It’s 10,000! It’s 10,000!”
“Screw it,” I thought, not wanting to lose face or let Juan Diego take credit for paying for their cab by letting them see me take money from him (that was actually mine) to hand to the cabbie. I went out and paid the cabbie from my wallet. We went inside and small talk ensued.
The girls wanted to eat. We went to the fast burger joint by the apartment. $17,000 for dinner. At payment time, Juan Diego was nowhere to be found. I paid, thinking to myself, “Okay. Well, he’s got the rest of the night covered at this point considering I bought everyone’s dinner, the cab, and he has my 20.”
Oh, how naive, gringo.
The girls finished their burgers and slurped down their cokes. Conversation wasn’t that interesting thus far and Juan Diego the Doorman mostly just stood away from the group and said snarky things to his girlfriend. I wasn’t sure on the protocol here. Was I supposed to be stand-offish like Juan Diego and go talk “guy talk” with him? Or should I sit with the girls? What were they expecting? A fence-rider from way back, I did a little of both.
We got in a cab and went somewhere to a bar. I’m not sure where it was. Juan Diego paid for this cab. …Using the $20,000 note I had given him.
We sat down at the table in a little patio area of the bar and order the usual half-bottle of rum and a coke to make drinks with. Juan Diego fought with his girlfriend. He soon pulled out a folded up piece of paper, dramatically unfolded it to reveal the cocaine inside, and asked if I wanted any. “No thanks.” I got a, “Fine, if you wanna be a stick in the mud, go ahead,” look as he headed off to the bathroom.
I continued attempting to make conversation with Monica, who was certainly every bit of the hourglass air-suck attractive I was promised. In addition to being air-suck hot, she was air-suck stupid and air-suck boring. I asked if she was in school. No. Was she working? No. Using my standard friendly line to people I meet that are retired I said, “Oh, ha ha, congratulations! So what do you do then?”
Nothing. She doesn’t do anything. She does nothing. Doing nothing also includes having the conversation skills of a brick wall. This has now become a default red-flag for me in Colombia. Don’t do anything? Peace out!
I gave and gave. I asked questions and got brief, uninterested answers. Not a single question in return from her. Just bored replies. She wasn’t touching her rum and coke while I was just searching for another. “Are you gonna drink that?”
Juan Diego was coked up by this point, in a much better mood, dancing with his fat girlfriend, and making out with her. It went on like this for a while.
I lost any and all interest in actually-stupid Monica. We eventually asked for the bill. While we were waiting for the bill, Juan Diego pointed at Monica’s ass with a raised eyebrow and made a thumbs-up sign. Right. Yes, it’s nice. “Did you invite her home?” he asked. No. No, Juan Diego, I did not.
The bill came and Juan Diego did not touch it. A touch over $40,000. In front of the group, I asked, “You got this, right?”
“Oh, I paid for the taxi on the way here, remember? It’s your turn.”
He paid for the taxi. It was about $5,000. With my money. I objected. “No, remember, I gave you that $20,000. Remember?”
Monica leaned in to me and in hushed, empathetic tones whispered, “He doesn’t have much money.” I ignored her as echoes of JD’s “Half and half… half and half…” danced through my head. They were all giving me borderline ugly looks as I attempted to delicately explain to Juan Diego that it was his turn to pay and I’m really trying to keep to my trip budget. Everyone just got up from the table and went to the entrance.
The manager looked concerned that we were going to leave without paying. I pulled Juan Diego aside. “Look. You have $20,000 of mine. I paid for their cab. I paid for dinner. You got this, okay? Half and half?”
He just looked at me blankly and said, “I paid for the cab here,” and walked away.
Now angry and with my daily trip budget thoroughly in the shitter, I paid the manager. Monica asked me for money for a cab home. “Oh no. You talk to Juan Diego. He has it.” She balked but I would hear none of it.
It was raining. We all got in one cab, me in the front and the three of them in the back, and Juan Diego asked me where we were going. “Home.”
Still with a shred of false hope that Juan and I might work things out the next day, I said nothing in the cab ride back as the three of them talked in the back seat. I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was Monica.
“Can you give me $10,000?” she asked.
“Just $10,000. Can you give me that as a gift?”
“What for?” I repeated more intensely.
“Just, you know, for whatever. To have.” Silence in the cab. The three of them watched to see what I would do.
I had had it. My face turned red. “No! No. No you can not. You just sat there all night. I just paid for everyone’s whole night. I am not going to give you any more money. I am not an ATM machine. You are not getting $10,000.”
She seemed genuinely taken aback that I wasn’t going to give her the money.
My angry reply prompted the predictable bitchy, sarcastic remarks from the back seat. I faced forward and fumed. “Fuck these guys,” I thought. How many other saps do they play like this?
Juan Diego told the taxi to stop three blocks too soon and I got out and walked in the rain the rest of the way home.
Predictably, Juan Diego claims to never have his half of the money to give me. He even tried to tell me we were even-Steven until I wrote down everything on a piece of paper and showed it to him. About a week has gone by. I’ve just quit asking for it. Once warm and friendly relations in the building entryway have turned frigid. We now say nothing to each other. He pushes the buzzer to open the door, and I walk through it.
Fuck you, Juan Diego. Your do-nothing, air-suck friend is a vapid prepago. You lied to me. I hope you’re happy with your ugly girlfriend and your deceit. You are a bad person.
Cut to now.
While I was quite mad at the time, I’m not mad anymore. I laugh about it. Lessons learned. In the scheme of things, it’s just money and provided another window into a new world for me. I do my best to annoy Juan Diego when I see him in the entry way. I like to think it works.
Furthermore, the whole night wasn’t bad. It actually had a happy ending. As I was outside the apartment after my date, I chanced across the group of three telecom students. They had just gotten back from a shoot for a video they’re making. It turned in to a lot of fun talking to them about production classes and I made some new friends out of it. Nice people.
Naturally, however, we were supposed to meet up twice so they could show me their video and their school. I would show them my animation and compositing reel, too. They’ve broken both of the meetings.
That’s Colombia. Be chevere and try not to get riled, whitey.