A Lesson for Me

At the urging of the fantastic people in my writing group, I will change directions with this post and submit something that just came out of a writing exercise. This also allows me to start living up to what I said my original post about looking at the topic of education from different angles. So this one is just a daily lesson for myself.

Right now I’m feeling annoyed. I would have to say that if I had to describe my most common state, it would be annoyed. At the moment, it has to do with ineptitude, or maybe it’s inefficiency or lack of organization, overlooking of details or whatever it is that causes things to not work in Argentina. Present example: Filing a complaint to have the damn tree in front of my house pruned. I have done this before. It’s been 5 years. They’ve never pruned it. The branches cover what little light that’s not already blocked out by the monstrous building going up across the street from our house; they also reach into our small balcony making it easy for a smallish chorro to break in. (I refuse to cage in the balcony and windows.) In past attempts, I’ve ether called the reclamos number or filed the online complaint form. This time I’ve decided to attack on three fronts: by phone, online, and a personal visit to my local CGPC. Since I’ve stayed home to write today, I start with the simplest first, the online complaint. First snafu: A brief description of problem is requested, so I start with ‘Tree branches growing into balcony and co— the text box apparently doesn’t allow for more. So I try ‘Tree needs pruning.’ This elicits a message informing me that there are ‘no matches’ in the system. So I finally just settle on ‘tree.’ Bingo. I can move on to the next screen. From there on, all goes well—through several tedious screens, I might add—until I click on ‘Submit complaint.’ The message: System error. Please file your complaint by phone. Well, there’s fifteen minutes of my time wasted and a third of my strategy sunk.

At best this makes for a summary anecdote of the daily challenges we all face living in Buenos Aires. However, I don’t notice everyone else suffering such a generalized affliction of annoyance. I mean, just the other day I asked my son if he could tell me why he thought his obsession with one particularly violent video game might be bothering me, and he said, ‘Because everything bothers you, Mom.’ One of those parental moments when you just have to shut down and admit they’re right and you’re wrong.

So if this is true—maybe not everything, but many things annoy me—I really need to ask myself why that is, or at least why I seem to lack basic perspective on the daily annoyances. Perhaps I’m distorting simplicity. The simplicity of everyday tasks in the place I come from—how easy it is to park your car, rent an apartment, check out at the supermarket, open a bank account or even get a social security number—is the spotlight I constantly shine on similar errands here. It can and should all be so simple, so why is it so consistently not? It’s almost like I apply some sort of universal law of simplicity that keeps eliciting the same response: System error.

Where I come from… the same place all those people cheering the death of Bin Laden do. Ding dong, the witch is dead and we can all go back to Kansas. Simplicity at its best, right? There was this evil guy who will no longer terrorize, so we’re all safe now. Simplicity and fast, easy solutions are ingrained in the American psyche, making it hard for many of us to deal with complexity, grey areas, etc. Or some of us anyway; just the other day I met a New Yorker who said he had given up his high salaried job/hectic life to move here because the easiness of everyday tasks in the US made life dull; the challenges of life’s minutiae here had restored something vital for him.

After nearly ten years of living abroad, I know this is true – that jumping life’s daily hurdles, no matter how preposterous and illogical, makes it all somehow more meaningful than going through on auto-pilot. It’s part of the reason I left too; but sometimes I just want to go to Target and load my cart full of cheap and easy stuff. When will I ever grow out of this?