Here’s a funny story that happened to us a month ago. Keep in mind that we’d only been in Buenos Aires for two weeks and our language skills were lacking significantly.
One morning the loud buzzer to our apartment rang, announcing a visitor. We ignored it. We weren’t expecting anyone, we didn’t even know anyone! It rang again, and again we ignored it. The buzzing stopped. Five minutes later it started again, persistent and loud. I should note that the buzzer is loud enough to be heard throughout the ten-unit apartment complex so it wasn’t just annoying, it was embarrassing.
I nervously pressed the talk button and immediately a man’s voice flooded the speaker with rapid Spanish. I sort of explained I couldn’t understand him and promptly hung up. The buzzer rang again. I said hello and goodbye in one mumbled breath and hung up. Buzz! Buzz! I ignored it but it kept buzzing, seemingly louder and angrier. I yelled at Harry to get out of the shower because I needed his slightly more advanced language skills to save me.
The Building Manager
Suddenly there was a knock at the door. Through the peephole, I could see a man standing there! Of course I assumed it was the angry buzzer-pusher from downstairs so I cowered in the corner.
Harry jumped out of the shower, quickly got dressed and opened the door, half expecting to get punched in the face. He managed to decipher that Vincente, who lived in the apartment upstairs, was the building manager. He explained that the police were downstairs on the sidewalk waiting to talk to us. We could tell that he was super annoyed by all the buzzing.
We followed Vincente downstairs with our minds racing and hearts pounding, and sure enough there was a policeman standing on the sidewalk waiting for us. That’s when I realized that I had been repeatedly hanging up on the police officer! Oops. When he reached around his back Harry was sure he was going to get handcuffed, but instead he just wanted to shake hands and introduce himself.
So what did we do wrong, you’re wondering with baited breathe? The crime was that our 2nd story air conditioner unit wasn’t in proper working order. The drain hose was hanging down out the window, dripping water in front of the shopkeeper’s doorway. She was furious about the puddle of water so she called the police. I’m not making this up!
The funny thing is that there are air conditioner hoses coming out of windows on every building all over town. We get dripped on everywhere we go. In fact, walking on sidewalks is quite the risky undertaking: you have to look down to avoid stepping in dog poop and tripping over broken concrete while simultaneously looking up to avoid the big drips of water.
The gathering crowd appeared amused and the officer seemed embarrassed. We apologized and did our best to say we’d get it fixed. To our credit at least we knew how to apologize in Spanish.
The air conditioner was fixed the next morning which made the shopkeeper happy. Now she waves to us as we come and go. We see “our” officer occasionally on our block and we always exchange friendly greetings. I’m pretty sure he was secretly tickled pink to have his picture taken with Harry.