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Living in a fishbowl, like we do, where we are people who stand out in any visually discernible way, for being tall, for being gringas, for being the guy with the three greyhounds in their tiny vests that look like saddles (I love this guy), we get used to people looking at us.

And then people talk to us sometimes, purposely letting us know that we’ve walked into a place where we are not the same. Oye, gringa! (like that). And Sara just tweeted (@sarainchile) that she was spoken about as though she was not there, her commenters saying, “Look! a gringa! what the heck is she doing here?” (in Spanish) As Sara points out, she understood the comment. I thought a nice response would have been the very polite third person question “Why the heck don’t you ask her?” Frustrating, to be sure.

So this is the class of commentary we usually talk about. Someone said this to me (knowing it might offend), someone said that near me (not knowing I would understand). This particular horse, already dead and buried, is not coming home to roost today (pardon the crossed barnyard analogies, it’s been almost a week since I was in the country, though I’m likely to pop in on the awesome city/country bazaar at Huerto Hada Verde tomorrow, maybe you should, too). Chickens, yes. Horses, no. Oh, and by the way, stalkmenot. Thanks.

Ayway, today I’ll talk about that class of comments that someone makes, upon which they “meter la pata” literally, stick in their paw, or as we’d say in English, put their foot in their mouth. These are the “when’s the baby due?” questions to a woman who is not pregnant, the “how old is your grandson” when it’s the person’s son, or “Where’s your dad going?” when it turns out the “dad” in question is the person’s romantic partner.

Whoops. Metiste la pata (you put your foot in your mouth). We have another, more colorful term here in Chile, which roughly translates to “you screwed up” but it involves the excretory system. And since I’ve already recently (as mamaj likes to point out) used the word crap on the blog (which! I had never! done before!), I will say that the word is a very harsh approximation of you having done that. “Cagaste!”

I think that’s enough background for me to tell the story at hand.

The other day, I was on my way back from a meeting/lunch at a production company that does really beautiful work (and where they had a place to lock up my bike), and pedalling home. I was warm, happy, full, cycling freely down Eliodoro Yañez, a street that flows to the west (downtown), and then turns towards the city’s main artery (the Alameda/Providencia/Las Condes, streets change names here, pesky but true). I noticed a guy on a moto (motorcycle) in the lane to the right of me (I ride the left lane here to make the turn without crossing lanes), and we came to the back of the stopped traffic at the same time.

He got off the moto for a second, to fix his shoelaces or pants or something, and when he was bending down, his cellphone fell out of his pocket. I said to him “Yo te lo recojo” (fig: got it). And he said to me, still bent over “Gracias compadre.”

Compadre. You’re reading that right. Spanish is not a very overinclusive language, if I want to say someone was my male teacher, he’s a profesor, the female, my profesora. The motoboy (though not actually a motoboy, as this is a messenger company of some sort, and even less was he a taxiboy, which I could explain but it’s too early in the day to talk about prostitution, but this has something to do with the Gus Von Sant movie “My Own Private Idaho”) called me compadre. There is no mistaking that this is a word of and for men.

screeeeech. What? I handed him the phone and said, “Weón, si soy mujer.” (fig: dude, I’m female.) He looked up at me and said, “ah, de veras” (hey, that’s true). And he smiled, and shrugged his shoulders and held the cell phone in his hand for another second. He looked like he was about to say something else to me, and le di filo (I cut him off, another great Chilean expression).

The next word was the complete and utter end to the conversation. I said to him…


And I pedalled off, looking down at my right calf, which was exposed, as I’d rolled up my pant leg to the knee to keep my pants out of the chain. I looked down at my pink-trimmed sock and my pink swooshed Brooks Addiction sneakers (love these for overpronation). And I looked at my somewhat overmuscled calf again, and I said to myself: Compadre. Maybe I’ve been hitting the gym a little too hard lately.

And then I thought the most Chilean of disbelief/I don’t agree expressions, and this I thought outloud.

Sssaaaah. (Naaaaah) And then I pedalled home, with manspeed.