For anyone who knows either of us, patience is not a virtue we have.
We had previously read that tourists could be spotted by their uptight attitudes at having to wait in lines. This in mind, we went to buy groceries at around 6 PM having no idea what was actually in store for us. We had only four items and got to stand in the express line. There were five customers in front of us. After half an hour of waiting (our line was not moving particularly slower than any of the others) we were next – so close, yet so far away. The lady in front of us had a total bill of 15 ARS (less than 2$). She requested to pay for 7 ARS with some sort of a cash -back credit system – this required a card to be presented, government issued ID to be checked and multiple signatures. The remaining 8 ARS was paid with a 20 ARS bill. The cashier had no small bills in her register. She went to a man at the back to get change (which she had done as well for the previous 5 customers). Our bill came to 143.29 ARS; we gave 205 ARS. The cashier ran off to get change and proceeded to give us 2 pesos. I explained this was not the correct change and she got out a calculator – and realized she was wrong. She then asked the cashier next to her to split a 100 ARS bill into two 50’s. We FINALLY had our change. The cashier made one final note that she had given us an addition 0.29 ARS before attending to the next customer.
While it is clear from multiple situations that Buenos Aires has a serious problem with change and money; the compounded inefficiencies of the grocery store are mind-boggling. Oddly enough, no else in line seemed in the slightest bothered that they had to wait 30 – 50 mins to buy a couple groceries. Nor do they mind when the service at restaurants is unbearably slow. Ironically, they drive as though patience is unimaginable. “Pare” written across their stop signs seems to translate to “possibly slow down”. It is incomprehensible how there aren’t more accidents at intersections. We had coffee at a little cafe on a corner and sat outside where we almost witnessed multiple accidents within 30 minutes. 4-way stops work differently here; it seems like the bravest driver gets the right of way and everyone else behind follows without even slowing down or looking. The traffic in the other direction doesn’t get to go until someone inches out into the intersection and risks getting t-boned. Pedestrians DO NOT get the right of way.