Brazilian Food To Go
Last month I was called by a wealthy client to deliver Brazilian meals to 26 different addresses within Buenos Aires. My first thought was that it was going to be a nice little earner and if given the time, I could easily complete the project with some sensible planning. However, the gentleman had arranged a virtual farewell dinner over Zoom (because he was being transferred to Mexico City) and it was important that everyone receive their gastronomic delight at the same time and all on the same day. I quickly realised that in order to complete the quest, I would need a fleet of motorcycles and a new comms centre, so in the end, we agreed that I would deliver those meals that were closer to my base of operations in the northern suburbs. It’s worth pointing out here that meals-on-wheels is not my specialty and I avoid food deliveries due to past disasters concerning miniature potato croquettes– anything shaped like a football is designed to roll and they will roll everywhere when dropped, believe me.
With a more sensible plan arranged we met at the rendezvous point where I packed the five brown paper bags into a large plastic box that I had strapped to the back of my bike, all the while thinking that this was going to be a walk in the park.
The quest didn’t start well and simply went from bad to worse. The first address was a posh apartment block near my house, but the concierge had never heard of the lady in question who turned out to live in a completely different area of town about fifteen miles away, which gave rise to numerous Anglo-Saxon expletives on my part. On arriving at that destination, hot and flustered, I discovered that brown paper bags are definitely not waterproof and plastic food containers are not designed for heavy traffic and the weaving and filtering of a motorcycle. Well, what the eye doesn’t see, the chef gets away with and so with some deft handiwork I was able to scrape most of the rice back into their plastic containers, but it had become permanently mixed with brown goo from the containers above. I then repacked the entire consignment of the four remaining doggy bags as best I could and continued on my way. The next destination was a very poor shantytown, but again the address was completely wrong, so I had to divert to another location some five miles away with the gastronomic delights suffering a similar fate in spite of my belt and braces stowage modifications. At each address, I bade each lucky recipient to enjoy their meal, content in the knowledge that I had performed the quest satisfactorily with some very handy improvisations. Needless to say, I charged the client an extra fee for sending me to non-existent addresses and have sensibly decided that food deliveries are not my specialty.
A woman called me the other day and asked if I could collect some weights from a fitness shop about five miles away and in spite of the heavy rain, I agreed to do the job after she confirmed that, in her words, they wouldn’t weigh very much at all. I don’t like riding in the rain one bit, even when wearing the full rain gear, but on this occasion, it was a short trip and I was applying the 50% rain surcharge. On arrival at the fitness shop, it was still pouring with rain, with no shelter to be found anywhere and I had to wait outside due to virus controls, while the customer before me took his time deciding what weights to buy, whilst I drilled holes into the back of his head with my eyeballs. After about ten minutes of my patience being tested, I shouted “Can someone help me please?” whereupon a disinterested sales assistant girl appeared — dry as a bone by the way — to whom I gave the required information and a few minutes later received a pole about two yards long and four plastic bags containing weights of about 25kg (55lbs) in total.
Due to the weather conditions, I wasn’t really in the mood for taking snapshots and my mind was occupied with how I was going to stow six, four-kilo chunks of metal on the bike without losing any of them over the side and causing a major traffic incident. In the end I stowed them all in my backpack, strapped it firmly on the pillion area, and hoped for the best. I then secured the pole along the length of the bike so it acted as a battering ram from the front (a necessity in this neighbourhood) and wobbled my way through the rain and back to the customer’s apartment. I had never before met the lady customer in question and when she appeared, very waif-like, she didn’t seem capable of lifting a small teacup. But looks are deceiving because when I lugged the bags over to her, which almost gave me a hernia, she lifted them onto her back as if they were feathers which got me thinking about my own fitness and strength, such as it is.
Remember the old days when a bobby (policeman) would say ‘Move along now, son.’ and you shuffled away because they weren’t full of their own self-importance, or armed to the teeth for that matter? But no, not today, especially when you live in a police state, which Argentina is, as mentioned in my previous article. Oh, and don’t go thinking that if you live north of the Mexican border that you don’t live under a similar regime, because you do. Anyway, I digress.
A couple of weeks ago, in between delivery jobs, I stopped by the River Plate to stretch my legs, found a pleasantly deserted spot, and began to snap a few pictures. I did notice one or two people walking nearby, but generally speaking it was a scene typical of lockdown. Within a minute or so, two policemen on motorcycles appeared from nowhere and told me that I wasn’t allowed to be there because of presidential decree number so and so, paragraph such and such, blah, blah, blah. This encroachment actually got my back up so I asked them what possible harm I was doing and in particular, when I was wearing a mask. As I expected, they remained completely intransigent and insisted that I move five meters away from the shoreline and closer to the road. Frankly, I knew I was on a hiding to nothing, as arguing with a policeman anywhere in the entire universe is a losing battle. But I stood my ground and refused to budge. That produced an official response which was that if I didn’t move away and into the car park, I would need to accompany them to the local police station. I’ve been to a few Argentine police stations for reasons I’d rather not divulge, so I decided to amble back to my bike. Whilst doing so, I noticed that they were following my every move as if I were about to make a frenzied dash back to the shoreline and so I stopped and asked them why they were following me. They said it was to make sure that I was obeying their instructions, which produced some muttering from me that they both strained to hear, but unsuccessfully.
A minute or so later, as I was mounting my bike, a lady appeared on her bicycle, so I advised her not to proceed any further unless she wanted the riot act read to her and I’m afraid her reply, even in Spanish, cannot be repeated here, for it was far too colourful involving illegitimate sons, mothers, and seashells.
As far as I’m concerned, this singular aspect of lockdown in Argentina has been the ugliest and most sinister. But then, the words curfew and dictatorship are familiar to any native of South America, but for entirely different reasons.