Argentina Buenos Aires

¡Qué Quilombo!

I like the word. Even though it’s Lunfardo, you’re supposed to further distort it in polite company—bolomqui—or something like that—because although it pretends to translate to “warehouse,” the actual translation is “whorehouse,” but it’s used to indicate a “shitstorm”—or plainly—What a mess! Yes, most Lunfardo is that complicated . . . and you thought you were having trouble learning Spanish. I like the way it looks and sounds—a perfect word for today’s sequence of events. And, come on, there are so few words that begin with “q” that we should use them more often.

For the third time in a week I have woken up in the morning to no hot water. After two different gasistas have been here (accompanied by my dueña) I now know how to contort myself and search around in the dark with a special candle to light the pilot and hopefully not have ash drop on my eyelid again. I do this, turn up the temperature dial and wait for the water to heat. After a few minutes the whole thing just stops. I repeat the whole procedure.

I call my dueña. She is preparing for a flight to the USA this evening. She instructs me to go across the street to the ferreteria and ask for the gasista and the telephone number. I return, call her with the number so she can make arrangements. He is out of town. He will send his sons and they agree to work around my tight schedule.

I return home after my class and wait. They are late. It begins to rain—hard. They have a good excuse for being late. After several text messages and emails and phone calls, I have a good excuse to cancel my evening plans so that I can wait for them until whatever time they decide to show up and complete the job that should have been fixed already—twice.

Apparently they have rung my bell and I have not answered. More phone calls exchanged and one chico appears—soaking wet just from walking across the street. He goes about his business in the other room—conferring with his father over the phone.

In addition to whatever is not working with the heater, he soon tells me that it is not the tank that is leaking water but the roof above (I live on the top floor)—especially during this current nasty tormenta. I call my dueña and her remis driver is on the other line—there to pick her up early to take her to the airport even though her flight has just been delayed due to the weather.

I tell her that the hot water tank is being taken care of but the roof is leaking and she tells me that is out of her control and is the responsibility of the building owner. I know that. I just don’t know what to do about it. She leaves for the airport—not to return until well after the time that I leave for Canada. I’m on my own with this mess in my kitchen.

The gasista informs me that he is calling in a plumber—okay whatever—what do I know? They spend about an hour together working out the problem that only seems to be getting worse and, thankfully, in the meantime, the worst of the rain stops and I think maybe I will be able to leave Buenos Aires before we have another major rainstorm (what are they—every week now?) and the roof falls in on me. . . . At least I’ll be able to have a hot shower before I go . . . maybe. The plumber leaves and the gasista keeps going back and forth across the street for parts or advice or a smoke—who knows . . .

After three hours, the gasista tells me that he will have to return in the morning with another part. Meanwhile I have no hot water.


Next day:

A friend comes over to view the apartment and immediately “plugs” the toilet. Too bad the plumber was a day early. Meanwhile, the senior gasista, father of yesterday’s chico, arrives, departs, and arrives again with necessary hardware in hand. After an hour he is finished and everything is back to normal. I even take care of the plumbing problem myself. Yuck.

The nice thing about quilombos is that they are usually short-lived and keep life interesting.

It’s starting to rain again.


Ever see the movie Groundhog Day? This morning I had to light the pilot again and out it went again after a few minutes. Repeat. So, after more than 4 hours attention, the hot water heater is exactly where it was before—not working.