dollah dollah bills
i live in the most expensive city in the united states. i’m used to paying exorbitant prices for all the crap i do not need. down here, i can live for a year or more on a quarter of what i make up there. i have spent over 20 greenbacks on a takeout meal for myself in san francisco (mattar paneer, rice, and two orders of naan. so good.). i mean, it’s probably two meals, but i’m a binge eater. here, i treated three family members and myself to food, alcohol, and milkshakes at the barranquilla bougie country club for the same price. they wanted to go miti-miti, halfsies, but i insisted. my grandma thinks i’m loaded now.
i spent my first week in colombia trying to sort out my phone addiction situation, which, given my family curse, was an overly complicated process, un gran lio enredado. in the end, the kid that works for my granmda took my used iphone to some dude to jailbreak it. it had both hardware and software problems, and i couldn’t deal. the dude spent a total of about 7 hours on it. for service and parts, he charged me 80,000 COP, a little over $40. my grandma’s house kid sat with my phone this whole time, well passed his work hours. when i asked what i should give him in return, my family said, “unos 20mil.” 10 bucks. no. en el norte, this whole venture would have likely cost me a few hundred dollars. unless i kicked it craigslist style which comes with its own set of headaches.
it makes me extremely uncomfortable to know what the worth of a person is, and the service they are providing, but pay them less because i’m a privileged jackass living in a poor place. on the other hand, when i try to offer more, folks look at me stunned. i don’t want to come off as a jerk, either, like it’s a pittance to me. so how much do i pay?
i’ve watched foreigners haggle with taxistas for the price of a cab, usually 10,000 vs 8,000 pesitos. most of these foreigners live with the euro so their coin stretches more. “they try to give you the tourist price.” yeah, because you’re a fucking tourist. you make boatloads more money than them, and you come to their country and you leave your crap everywhere. and don’t even get me started on colonial and genocidal payback. why am i always in this position? pay the gringo price, asshole. i saw how many cuba libres you threw back last night, so don’t even play. ego, power, and greed. i know these kids want to extend their motorcycle diary moment. i get it. i do. but until a totally different market system emerges, when you receive any service you pay the tax. and the rich should pay more. y ya.
the beautiful yuppies of san francisco tend to tip about 20%, regardless of quality of service. unlike my parents whose favorite post-meal game is “how much are they worth?” most people i know see tipping as an expected part of their bill. these folks have to touch you, deal with your overly particular needs, your shmarmy attitude, your gross smell, and maybe your ugly face. they don’t make much, we know, so we pay more. nobody tips here, and if they do it’s 10%. again, when i give my 20%, it’s like i’m being funded by escobar or i’m keen on his treats. i don’t want folks to think they’re taking advantage of me or that i’m una tonta either, i have a sensitive ego too. and, don’t get me wrong, i also want to stay here as long as possible. but i know what these folks would be worth if happenstance had birthed them in another country or if our countries hadn’t raped theirs, and i know their fellow citizens can’t afford to pay them their due, and i know i can. so i’m making a t-shirt: “i pay the gringo price.”