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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.