Today, I realized that LB + I play a game with ourselves in Buenos Aires: we hope, despite all incontrovertible evidence to the contrary, that all of the rampant, spontaneous inflation taking place in Argentina will somehow magically skip our favorite places, and just increase the prices at other restaurants + cafes we don't like very much. And delusions run out of sidewalk eventually. Today, for example we went to Mark's Deli in Palermo Soho--that little hipster paradise mentioned in every Lonely Planet printed after 1980--to eat one of their fantastic brownies. A real brownie, not a Porteño brownie, I mean (i.e., glorified cake). And like we have so many other times, we had the same conversation, only with different things + prices:
--That little bottle of water is seven pesos, she says, shaking her head.
--We could have a bought a 6 liter bottle of water at Coto for that price.
--And the brownie is more too.
--It's ten pesos now.
--How much was it before?
--And the tea used to be seven pesos, but now it's ten pesos.
It's hard not to feel cheated when this happens, and this conversation has happened repeatedly to us in the past six months, at almost every place we adopted in our routine. Out of the blue, prices just go up 25%. One day, a smoothie at our former favorite café was eleven pesos, and suddenly it costs seventeen; not to mention, they've concocted a fee to heat up a fucking tostada. NB: if you don't heat up bread + cheese, then it's just a sandwich, albeit, a really sad one. That's like charging customers to heat up water so it becomes "tea." Is this what it's come down to, charging people for the properties of food?
In a related note, last weeked, after LB + I came home, we realized that Aide, our cleaning lady, drank half of our bottled water. I'm not talking a glassful, which would have been fine, I'm talking two-three glasses. We both like Aide, but we're on a tight budget right since our translation projects have slowed down to a few drops, we're trying to save our money for our trip to Europe in two weeks, and we just can't afford to subsidize her water right now. Shit, we can barely afford a fucking brownie. So what did we have to today? God, this is embarassing: we hid our water. I'm serious. We hid both bottles in the closet with my button-down shirts. I won't get into other things that deserve their own entry, like how I also now move my electric razor into our bedroom when she comes to clean because she dropped it more than once on the floor, almost completely breaking it (never mentioning it either). And I won't get into how I now move my DS Lite into the bedroom shelves too, since Aide dropped that too on the floor once. I've got nothing against her at all. Actually, I'm very fond of her and I think she does a rad job. And to be honest, she's more than welcome to a glass of bottled water too. But I can't afford to buy another electric razor, a new DSL, more bottled water for her, or as I learned today, even a brownie from Mark's deli. At least not more than one a week.
If there's one thing I've learned here, it's that (near) poverty makes you do strange things, creative things, things that only make sense when you're always on the verge of running out of money. With the flash inflation in Buenos Aires, that could be sooner than you think.