When you are a tourist you expect a number of transactions that rotate around money. Others rotate around people and, in the case of our time in BA, dancing.
Some transactions that we anticipated turned out to be disappointing and non-transactional. For example we were deeply excited about visiting Darcos shoes, but the event was disappointing. The service tatty, the furniture even more so and the shoe selection poor. Across the road was Scarpe Mahara where a much more enjoyable transaction took place.
Then there are the taxi drivers with whom we create a transaction based on trust. The taxi driver who told us that if we did not trust him to get out was right. We didn’t and we did. In tango terms there are people like the wonderful Celia (or Sylvia, I was never sure) who provides make up, jollity, advice and gossip in return for a peso or five.
The cabeceo is only used partially in New Zealand. It’s a way of two people (99% of the time a man and a woman) to agree to dance. In short, if you are a woman you stare at a likely man who nods in response and you both nod and stand up to dance. It’s effective, non-sexual, straight forward and carries no other intent than that of dancing. Of course losing your glasses makes it tricky but it can still work, even if the man you are staring at is not the one who eventually asks you to dance. I liked the direct nature of this approach.
For some there are transactions which revolve around algbergues transitorio – discreet little hotels where for the price of 60 pesos or so a room can be hired for 2 hours or more. They are provided for couples who live separately at home, occasional liaisons and probably other sorts of things. Very straightforward.
For tourists there are transactions like the one where you tip the intense young man who takes you around the Evita Peron Museum and shows you his identity card because he was born during the junta and his mother worries about him being out without it. And the restaurants where the service may be good or bad but you still tip, and when it is good you feel as if you have made a friend.
There are other transactions that become muddled where business and friendship struggle to exist (you want to explain that your first lecturer at training college said “Be friendly but not friends with”).
Then there are the ones which start out as transactions until you discover a gem of person who is happy to share music, stories and views with you. Who is sympatico. Friendships that begin as mere transactions but turn into something fun, valuable and caring.