I saw Jimi grimace as I got out of the cab and onto the sidewalk downtown.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, concerned.
“You just need to be a little more careful with the doors. Some cab driver is going to get upset at you if you slam his door like that,” he replied.
I was confused. I grew up slinging doors on our ’94 Dodge Caravan like a boss.
“What do you mean?” I asked with consternation.
“They’re just… a little more fragile here.”
Yes, I guess I could understand that. The little white Fiat cabs that zipped around town ran the full spectrum of dilapidation. Some were quite new and comfortable, others had peeling leather seats and cardboard on the floors. We were in and out of them so often that I had stopped paying attention.
Cabs have been our main mode of transit around town, since Jimi’s family does not own a car. It costs about $2 to get from his house to anywhere in downtown Tucuman. We call the local cab company and they send us a car within 5 minutes. It’s an amazingly efficient system. Uber, what?
So, I started to be overly conscientious about cab doors. It turns out I should have been more attentive to all doors.
The next day it was the refrigerator. I was trying to find the container of leftover green beans, buried in the back somewhere. I clearly needed two hands for the process, so I let go of the refrigerator door.
“Oh no!” Marlene said from across the kitchen, rushing over. Instead of stopping at a normal angle, the door had continued to swing outward toward the kitchen counter. Marlene grabbed it before explaining, “If you’re not careful with the door, it will break.”
The most recent incident occurred at dinner the other night. Jimi and I had just seen The Intern at the movie theater and we were looking for a dinner spot. Across the street was a beautiful steakhouse with large windows facing the street. We crossed the road Frogger-style and I reached for the glass door. I pulled. I pushed. I even whacked the top of it, hoping to dislodge it. Of course, every couple inside the dining room was watching me through the clear glass. Finally, a waitress came scurrying over… and opened the sliding glass door.
It’s just one of those things. You get to a foreign country and even simple things, like opening and closing doors, become a challenge. I came here expecting to face language barriers and cultural stigmas. I was ready to face differing political ideals and gender stereotypes, not be harassed by inanimate objects. It’s very silly and doesn’t seem entirely meaningful in the grand scheme of the blogosphere. Yet, it is something that I have to deal with every single day. How many other little details of our lives do we take for granted?
Jimi once commented how crazy he thought it was that Americans had instant access to hot water. In Argentina, you turn the shower on and wait a full five minutes for the water heater to kick into high gear. On the other hand, in Tucuman you can expect buses to be as regular as clockwork (there is literally no bus schedule, as they are so frequent). I think I took the bus in Los Angeles once and swore never to do it again.
We simply make expectations based on our experience. I never realized that doors in the United States were built like tanks until I moved to Argentina. But, it is something that I will never take for granted again.