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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

My Portero Hates Me

One of the first things I noticed when walking around Buenos Aires is that there are a lot of men lingering in doorways.  Like, every single doorway has someone just hanging out, watching people go by.  It was a bit unnerving.

Then we moved into our apartment and I realized that these folks don't just hang out in doorways for their health, they are paid positions that virtually every apartment building has.  It's called a portero, a doorman.  Perhaps you have lived in another big city where this is customary, but it's my first time, so outside of what I've watched on Seinfeld, I really didn't know what constitutes the responsibility of a doorman.  I'll just put it out there - I'm still not sure.

As far as I can ascertain, there are two types of doormen; the kind that go out of their way to help, open doors, help with groceries, give parking advice in difficult areas of the city, take care of minor fix-its within an apartment or care for animals while you're out of town, OR the kind that stand in a doorway checking their cell phone and chatting with the guy next door who is also standing in a doorway.  We were blessed with the latter.

His name is Rito.  This is not an actual photo of him, but you get the idea - the man spends his "working" hours: 8:00 - 12:00 and 5:00 - 10:00pm standing in our doorway watching time pass him by.  Sometimes he polishes the postcard-sized piece of brass that frames the door buzzers.  Sometimes he shoves our mail under the door.  But most of the time, he just stands.  He inexplicably changes into a suit and tie for the latter half of his shift.

I'm pretty sure he has disliked me from day one.  This was the day I tried to "buzz" someone in from our apartment and couldn't figure out how the button worked (I have since found out that it is disabled due to security concerns, but again, this was day one).  He knew I was foreign, he knew I was new, and as I stood on the street with my Spanish/English dictionary trying to figure out how to say "open door with phone", I'm pretty sure he was enjoying watching me struggle.  3.5 years later, he is the only person in this city that consistently cannot understand my Spanish.

He does have moments of enlightenment.  He understood me perfectly when he requested we bring him running shoes from the US, or when his daughter needed to borrow a large suitcase for a trip to Disney.  He turned ignorant again when I said that I wouldn't buy his son an iPhone.  You can see how this works.

This general dislike has turned to full blown hate within the last few months.  I can pinpoint the day.  After a series of issues: our coffin-like service elevator had broken down twice, with our beloved empleada Candy inside, the same service elevator would open without the elevator being at our floor (presenting just an empty shaft, and we're on the 4th floor) and I has asked Rito on multiple occasions to let me know if there was an issue with the elevator, write a note, knock on the door, send a smoke signal, whatever.  Just let me know.  So when he didn't, and the elevator broke again I expressed my frustration.  It was something along the lines of "It is disrespectful of you to not advise me of this problem.  I am very bothered." In Spanish.  And by some miracle, he understood.  And now he hates me.

Aside from the annoyance that a man paid specifically to open the door for residents watches while a very obviously pregnant woman, generally traveling with a 2 year old and a multitude of miscellaneous bags struggles with the keys to enter our building, this is not an issue for me.  Jon takes the far more practical view that a man with a motive, that is intimately involved with our apartment building, is a perfect storm for getting robbed.  I understand, but refuse to make nice.  Call it being stubborn - I cannot bring myself to grovel to this waste of a decent salaried position.

So, while most of our experiences with the people of Buenos Aires have been overwhelmingly positive, this bloke is a daily reminder of one of the few people that I will gladly leave behind when we eventually move. And until then, let's hope he doesn't hate me enough to rob us...


  1. Stank and BlakelyMay 9, 2013 at 6:55 AM

    I know you're frustrated, but this made me laugh because I remember when we got there and were discussing the door you said (sarcastically) "oh, the doorman didn't let you in?!" HAHA

    Guess things haven't changed much...

  2. Um, this cracks me up. I love that you refuse to give into him.