Sunday, September 25, 2011

Blackouts, or Adventures in Taxis

Last night the entire city of Santiago lost power at 8:45 PM.  I was just heading when literally every light inside our apartment complex and city block went dark.  As it was past sunset at this point, the only lights on the streets came from cars driving around, many of which were using their high-beams.  I caught a taxi down to my buddy's apartment, which was a little bit of an adventure in itself.  Everybody who was out started heading home at that point, so there were a ton of kids on bicycles and skateboards in the middle of the street, most of who were only wearing shades of black.  And the taxis down here are much more similar to New York City taxis than they are suburban ones.  It's a miracle nobody got hit, and I'm only talking about my cab.

All the traffic lights were out as well, so it led to some creative intersection work as well.  My taxi couldn't make a left across a lot of traffic, so he turned right down a street, then immediately did a U-turn.  After making this U turn, he just slowly drove through the intersection, playing more or less of a chicken with the traffic coming both from our left, and then right.  After getting through the left-side traffic, we got stuck in the middle of the intersection for a while, waiting for some cars to let us go.  There were 3 lanes of traffic coming from the right, and we got into the first one pretty easily, but the second 2 lanes would not let us pass.  We sat there for a good 30 seconds, and then a bus comes barrelling down the first lane - the lane we were sitting in, waiting.  I was on the passenger side of the taxi, and I saw this bus's lights coming into my window from a ways away.  I sat there like a deer in headlights, hoping that we would be able to get through this intersection before the bus got to us.  But no luck.  The bus sees us, and starts slowly stopping, but not really fast enough - I think he was hoping we'd get through too.  The bus ends up getting about 5 feet away from my taxi door when it screeched to a complete stop.  The headlight was shining directly in my window.  Then the bus honked, and laid on the horn continuously until we got through the intersection 20 seconds later.

After I (thankfully) made it to my buddy's apartment, the 4 of us there sat out on his 9th floor balcony, overlooking a city of 6.7 million people without light.  It was actually really peaceful.  It sounds weird, but I sort of wish there was one day every year in major cities where they just turned off the electricity for the entire day and night.  The view, the atmosphere, and the total silence has this indescribable majesty to it.  Living in a city, you don't think about how many visual and audial distractions you put up with on a day-to-day basis until they're taken away. 

The lights started to come back on after an hour or so in chunks.  We first saw Los Dominicos get them, to our right.  Then we saw Central get lights, to our right.  Then Bellavista, to the north, got theirs.  In Nunoa, we were the final group of people to get our power back.

Marco and I had plans to meet some people at a club in Bellavista later that night, so we ended up leaving the apartment around 1 to head north.  Unfortunately, that's the time when everybody goes out around here, so all the taxis were completely full.  After trying to hail one for a good 10 minutes, we were starting to lose hope.  One of the annoying things about down here is that all taxis have a sign in the upper left side of the winshield that says "Libre", but they never turn it off when occupied.  So a couple times a minute, we'd see a taxi driving by with "Libre" illuminated, try to hail it, and then see the 4 other heads silouetted in the backseat.  Supremely annoying.

I thought I had one at one point, when the taxi stopped close to us.  Then I realized that the taxi had only stopped next to us because the traffic light behind us was red.  I looked in the backseat, and saw a pretty attractive Chilean girl sitting there, looking out at us.  I smiled, and she smiled back.  I started to look for another taxi when Marco asked the taxi driver where they were heading.  The driver said a street that was apparently close to where we were going, so he asked the girl if we could ride along.  She smiled and nodded.  "Come on dude!!"  Marco says to me, opening the back door of the taxi and sliding into the seat.  I jump in, thinking to myself, "Not bad, we get to ride up to Bellavista with a pretty hot girl."

Only once we were in the cab did we realize our mistake.  In our defense, "she" was pretty convincing from far away.

Once we saw "her" up close, it was semi-obvious.  The makeup had been liberally spackled onto "her" face, and the choker necklace "she" was wearing was most likely obstructing the view of "her" adam's apple.  "She" started talking to us a bit, with an incredibly raspy voice.  I mumbled "no entiendo, soy gringo."  So "she" repeated what she said just a bit louder.  I pretended to take a phone call.

"She" shifted "her" attention to Marco, while gently stroking his face with a gloved hand.  Marco started talking to the taxi driver in his lightning-fast dialect, and the cab started driving a little faster.  I was looking out the window at other now-empty taxis we were driving by when I felt a gloved hand on my chin.  Then it started to wander south.  I intercepted it with my hand somewhere just below my chest, and forcibly returned the gloved hand to the area of its owner.  Some more raspy Chilean from that side of the car.  I debated taking another fake phone call, but decided to just pretend I didn't understand again.

Finally we arrived at "her" destination, which was a stretch of clubs on the other side of Bellavista.  "We're not going here, right dude?"  I asked Marco.  "F*ck no, man." was his reply.  I breathed a sigh of relief.  "She" blew us a couple kisses from "her" radioactively-red lips, and then walked away.  A couple minutes later, we got to our destination on the other side of town, and headed into the discotech. 

The rest of the night was pretty uneventful.

1 comment:

  1. Erik, you need a better wingman down there. Just saying.