You Know You’re A Porteno If…
…getting a seat on the “Subte” (subway) is a life or death situation.
Let’s face it. When you are taking public transportation, more often than not you are on your way to work early in the morning or coming home after a long day. At these times, we usually aren’t at our most alert (or in the best mood), and we're looking to try and rest our weary bones for a few precious moments before the next activity. Thus, being lucky enough to find a seat in the public modes of transport is often a lucky, if not fortuitous turn of events. Here in Buenos Aires though, the desire, nay, the need to obtain this coveted prize is a true spectacle of sport.
Ever heard of women and children first? Certainly, this a noble and chivalrous act a man does to saves lives when faced with certain peril, but more and more, simple acts are lost as well: open doors for people; take the next available taxi; allow them to order their coffee first when you walk up to the barista at the same time. But here, when the situation is that of getting on the Subte (subway), nobility seems to have been left on the street level.
You can see it happening as the train slowly creeps to a stop at the station (especially at 9 de Julio). The jostling for a position as close as possible to a train car, aligning oneself directly in front of an opening door, is underway. When the train stops, it’s every man and woman for themselves. This is where the men especially, show their true colors. Without technically “pushing” anyone, they carefully slither through the crowd in a frantic effort to spot an open seat. With eyes darting to and fro, the ability to not only locate, but deftly, yet quickly maneuver oneself into a vacant chair takes careful precision. Routinely, there is an older woman who is too slow to navigate herself into a seat while her able bodied, 30-something male counterpart eases into the plastic bench, turns up his headphones, closes his eyes, and acts as if he’s oblivious to the robbery he committed.
Maybe we’re naïve about the situation, Latin culture and chivalry. Maybe this is true for every big city. Maybe everyone on the Subte understands that when you get on the Subte, it’s a dog eat dog world and they’re fine with this. Every once in a while you do witness a man get up for a woman or child, but it doesn’t happen with the regularity we expect. Note: In general, when it isn't more of a hassle to do so, most able bodied people will give up their seat to an elderly man or woman.
So when you get to the Subte and want to sit down, think of these words by William Wallace, “Are you ready for a war!?”
Other Subte personalities:
The Runner: these are people who run through the Subte halls. Usually as a train pulls up, you see them run along the train to try and get to the stairs or connection before the approaching train unloads a fresh batch of people. Sometimes people run to the platform even when the train isn't there yet. Good thing you ran so you can stand and wait like everyone else you rushed past on your way there!
The Advancer: similar to “The Runner”, the Advancer will begin to advance train cars as the Subte nears the station (usually one of the last two stops) in order to have quicker and easier access to a connecting train tunnel or stairs to ground level. They want to get a jump on everyone else, so in order to gain the upper hand upon an exit, the Advancer advances, even if that means passive-aggressively and uncomfortably squeezing in front of you just so they can stand in front of the door. This is even more asinine when the train is at the last stop because it's the last stop - we're all getting off the train.
The Entertainer: trolling amp and guitar; juggling; drumming and singing off key (this guy is horrendous) are some of the forms of entertainment that might make your Subte ride more enjoyable. Of course, they are asking for money after a stellar performance, but at least they’re trying to earn it.
The Product Pushers: there you are, minding your own business when PLOP on your lap are some Hello Kitty stickers. "Wow, just what I always never wanted" you think to yourself. The Product Pusher comes around and will put items (tissues, pens, bus guides, socks, lighters) on your lap whether you want it or not, keep walking and do it to everyone else. I’d say they get a 5% rate of success, but hey, there‘s probably one of you thinking some Hello Kitty stickers would actually be pretty nice right about now…
Romeo and Juliet: this is a couple who is an example of the Argentina Make-Out, Subte style. They unabashedly suck face on the Subte, not giving a care in the world who sees, or how crowded it is, or how disgusting it is.
The Over-Anxious Borderer: after jostling for prime position in front of the opening Subte doors, the Anxious Borderer will actually impede your ability to exit the Subte in order for them to board the Subte. Usually this happens at the height of rush hour, making this personality very frustrating. Normally I just go Bo Jackson vs. Brian Bosworth on these guys and don’t stop until I’m in Tacoma. Or San Telmo… Whatever comes first.
The Starer: When this man sees a woman he likes, there is nothing that will prevent him from staring at her creepily. Even when she feels his eyes burning a hole in the side of her head or she happens to make eye contact when peeking out the window to check which station they are stopped at - he'll just keep looking, without blinking.
The Self-Important Eye Roller: This person acts like riding the subte is really inconvenient and awkward for them and only them. They check their watch, sigh heavily, furrow their eyebrows and roll their eyes when it's busy and everyone has to squeeze together. Look - none of us want to be here, no one enjoys riding the subte, and everyone is uncomfortable when it's crowded. We all have to get somewhere quickly, and most people expect it's going to be busy and personal space in going to be invaded. Either don't ride the subte or stop acting like you're the only one who dislikes it.