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Why Do I Bother?

December 29, 2011

I live in Once. And no, it's not pronounced like the title of a sappy Irish indie film. Not in your tourist map? Not my problem. Photo by me.

Before I came to Buenos Aires, I used Couchsurfing.org to ask strangers questions about the city. I knew the people who I’d approached were under no obligation to answer me. I guess I just got lucky. And that’s why, when they had taken the time to respond to me, I thanked them.

So when people ask me about Buenos Aires, I try to be helpful. I like to encourage people to come here, to feel secure, and to know they have at least one person in this enormous city that they can ask for advice.

Three times in the last week, total strangers have written to me asking for advice about Buenos Aires. Some of the questions were stunning in their obviousness.

Hey! I know your ex-boyfriend from 15 years ago. Is July a good time to visit Buenos Aires?

Hey, fucko, guess what? If you use this thing called the internet — this very same thing you’re using to contact me now, and you go to a page called “Google” and look that up, I bet you’ll find out that it’s winter here in July.

Of course, that’s not what I wrote.

And despite this being the internet age and all, there are pieces of information that are hard to come by. If you look for the best way to get from the airport to the city, you will likely be inundated with ads for overpriced services that depend on you not knowing Spanish.

Hell, in this city, it’s hard to find what you’re looking for if you do speak Spanish. The closest laundromat or hardware store isn’t going to show up on Google Maps, and the people you ask on the street aren’t likely to know either. Even if they do, good fucking luck understanding directions that fail to contain the words either right or left. Even when you try to clarify, “So I go right?” All you’re likely to get it “Over Puerredón,” whatever the hell that means. Last night a woman gave my friend and me directions that would have caused us to walk three blocks out of our way if we hadn’t had the good sense to ignore her.

I don’t need people to send me money via PayPal or even a card. I’m not asking you to take me out for dinner once you get here. But when I spend the better part of half an hour answering your questions as a courtesy, knowing that being a stranger in a strange land is awkward and disorienting, I do it in good faith that you will at least give me a 10-4 or a thank you or some kind of a fucking response.

New policy: You ask me about Buenos Aires, I tell you to join Couchsurfing.org and ask in the forums. Problem solved.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. December 30, 2011 8:08 am

    Kate…you’re so awesome.

  2. March 1, 2012 2:59 am

    It’s the lack of “thank you” that baffles me too. I’ve had similar experiences – people asking me, “how do I promote myself using social media”. Sometimes I’m nice enough (or spaced out enough) to write them some useful tips. But, yes, I kind of expect “hey, thanks!” which has so often not happened, that I no longer give such advice. Because I’m just not that nice.

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