No sabe para donde va la micro, eavesdropping on the maestros


No sabe para donde va la micro, said the short guy to the taller one. I know this because I was sitting in my living room, listening to their conversation, and they were standing on my balcony. I don’t know these guys, yet I know more about them than I ever expected to.

As I sit in my apartment on the seventh floor, with the curtains closed, because there is scaffolding all up and down my building, and I’m not an exhibitionist, and don’t particularly care to be watched, I am not alone. There are workmen, several of them, perhaps five or six, who are painting the outside of my building, the space just a few feet from where I sleep, work, cook, eat and do all those other apartmenty things. Every morning I hear the screech of eye-bolts being drilled into the wall, as they secure another part of the scaffolding to my home, and the swish of brushes, and the dropping of items from waist-height to the platform they stand on.

And every day I hear them talk.

Hueón, la espatula, no la tení? Tirala pa’ ca po hueón! (Dude, where’s the putty knife, toss it over here, dude!)

And their other painter talk. Putty knives, brushes, pulleys, screwdrivers, scaffolding. All part of my vocabulary.

Yesterday as I was sitting down to lunch in the living room (rice with stirfried veggies and tamari sunflower seeds which I tamari-ed myself, and which were amazing), one guy said to the other about a third one:

No sae pa donde va la micro! (unChilean Spanish: No sabe para donde va el bus, English (lit): He doesn’t know where the bus is going.

To not know where the bus is going is bad news. Imagine yourself on a bus, hurtling into the distance, and having someone say to you, “do you know where this bus is going?” and you saying “No.” You have to know where the bus is going. You can’t just get on a bus and not know where it’s headed, right?

So to say that someone doesn’t know where the micro is going means they don’t know what’s going on. They’re lost, clueless. I don’t know what this third party is clueless about, but I trust that these shouty, whistly dudes outside my window believe themselves to be better-informed than he is. I’m curious by nature, and I am sorely tempted to open my window and participate in their conversation and find out what’s going on. But just like I feel like I have an expectation of privacy here in my apartment, even though they’re inches away, I’m sure these guys think their (very loud) conversation is also between them. To talk to them would be a breach of everyone’s privacy.

And even I’m not that metiche (meddlesome).

And yes, my window really is that dirty (on the outside), as a) Santiago is filthy b) I was away for a long time and c) tidiness is not one of these guys strengths. I will clean the windows after they leave. If they ever leave.

Author: Eileen

Living in the "wrong" country for nine years now, I bike, photograph, write, eat and talk about language, but not in that order. Chile is home now, and probably will be for a while. I was raised in Brooklyn, and in response to a question I've been asked a couple of times since I've been here, no, I am not carrying a knife (most of the time).

17 thoughts on “No sabe para donde va la micro, eavesdropping on the maestros”

  1. Yay, thanks for the new phrase!
    How hilarious it would be to just join in on their conversation one day- just throw in your opinion through the window one day all of a sudden… 😛

    1. I’m seriously thinking about it. In Spanish we were calling it tonight “la ficción de la pared.” Like the wall is just figurative, there is nothing separating us! And you’re welcome for the new phrase. Thanks for dropping by!

    1. oh dear. It really is nasty, isn’t it? I wash them periodically, but I knew the painting was coming, so I have been lax. Horrible! Not yours though, I’m sure they’re fine. Have you never even washed your balcony doors? Maybe it’s not so dirty in providencia!

      1. I do wash the balcony doors maybe two times a year. But more than that is silly because they just get dirty all over again the next day. It’s pretty grimy here. I’ve never washed the bedroom windows though. That’s what curtains are for. Ha.

        1. Well, I tried to wash the outside of my window and ened up with paint on my green hoodie (hadn’t dried yet), so maybe you’re onto something. And yes, Santiagio is just gritty. One day we will live someplace else and say, wow! this place is so clean!

  2. “Hueón, la espatula, no la tení? Tirala pa’ ca po hueón! (Dude, where’s the putty knife, toss it over here, dude!)”

    That should be in the Chilean phrase book. Or at least the “pa ca po weon”

    1. I’ll start working on the newest version, amid my other projects. I should put that on my fb profile, English, Spanish, Chilean, Spanglish, Workman. I just wish I could speak Taxi well. Still get confounded sometimes! Nice to see you here!

    1. I actually have double windows, not double paned, just windows that swing out and another set that slide, but in the living room it’s just the doors (and their ancient hooks and hinges). They were quieter today, except for when they were disassembling one of the scaffolds. I can now open my bedroom windows without feeling like someone might just walk in. Yay, progress!

  3. I can sure sympathize! They painted our building over the summer–so not only was I closed up in the dark, but it was HOT! Fortunately, they seem to have worked faster than your guys… And do your guys listen to cumbia all day? At one point they had the radio set up on the scaffolding at window height, just outside my office and I was really, really tempted (like you) to stick my head out and ask if we could change the station!

    1. No cumbia during the day, thank goodness. I just peeked outside, and it looks like they’re taking down the scaffolding to the office window tomorrow. Let there be LIGHT! but at least it wasn’t hot. Kind of the opposite of hot. You know how it is in Santiago in the winter, you don’t need me to tell you!

  4. Tell us more. It’s always fascinating listening to other people’s conversations, particularly men, nunca tienen idea sobre la micro 😉

    1. Well, I actually recorded them for a little while with my handheld digi recorder, but the quality was pretty off. More gossipy then I expected, but nothing out of the ordinary, I’m afraid. They didn’t say anything about me, but then, they had no reason to think I wouldn’t understand them, either.

    1. it is very distant from most other forms of Spanish, vocabulary-wise. In fact a woman from Valladolid visited, and I had to translate for her much of the time! And yes, a micro is a bus in Chile. And it’s LA micro. Crazy!

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