Or, shall we say, epic fail 2015: Chile.
In some ways, it was great. In so many ways it was a failure. Anyways, this is the short version of how the trip went.
It took a full year for me to grind my teeth and forcefully extrude all the vein-popping constipated rage that built up over this trip. I just didn’t want to talk about it. And for a vocal misanthropic grump like myself, well, that’s epic.
February 2015: I arrive in Chile, a month ahead of time, for a planned road trip from Santiago to Torres del Paine in the southern end of Patagonia. MomBob was joining me in March, and we had planned, loosely, a 2-week trip down and back, with a week in there for assorted noise and general South American Plan Derailment™.
First thing on the task list was getting the BobMobile’s inspection done and having all its paperwork up to date in order to foil any Surly Argentine Border Guards™. In Chile, this is usually a painless experience involving getting a cheap SOAP (obligatory insurance policy, which you can buy online), getting the official inspection done at a government facility (which is the wildcard), and pushing your papers through your municipality of choice (also a painless online 5-minute process).
Since the BobMobile is old, it burns some oil on startup. This is a very common thing in older engines, caused by worn valve guides which seep a bit of oil into the top of the cylinder head. It’s nothing harmful, not even a full drop of oil among all the valves, but there is a not-quite-enough-to-be-dramatic puff of blue smoke out the exhaust when it first fires up, which goes away after a few seconds as the parts warm up, the oil burns off, and the seal tightens.
This causes Chilean heads to explode at the inspection station, despite the fact (because I take good care of the car) that the emissions, when measured, are so clean you could literally breathe deeply from the exhaust pipe with no ill effects. Anyways, they fail me every time, I go put in an anti-smoke additive, and the next inspection they are flabbergasted that there is no smoke on startup. Dios Mio! Milagros! How did you rebuild your entire engine so quickly?! Please tell me who your mechanic is, because he must be using some form of Gringo Magic!
These are people who see cars every day and should know better. I chalk it up to the fact that car ownership among the Chilumpen is a new thing and the culture of common knowledge of this stuff has yet to sink in. That, or I didn’t leave bribe money on the front seat. I’ll take the risk of leaving a ten or twenty next time and see what happens.
Anyways the rejection would not have normally been an issue, but the wait was. It was an especially busy season and lines were formed around the block to get cars into the inspection station. Even if you arrived early, before they opened, there was a line around the block. I burned one entire day waiting for nothing; they had to close and divert the remaining cars away. So basically I wasted 3 entire days of my time sitting there waiting for assholes. All those idling cars, emitting for the sake of reducing emissions… Bienvenidos a Chile.
Actually, BobMobile’s inspection woes were not really the first things I had to deal with. I rent my place out when I am gone, and there were so many things wrecked and missing… My collection of fine whiskey glasses: 4 out of 6 missing, presumably broken. My entire collection of fine whiskey which had been locked away: consumed and not a drop left. The curtains in the guest bedroom ripped out of their concrete anchors in the ceiling and never put back. Just… hanging there by one hook. Diagonally (maybe he won’t notice???). The window locking mechanism in that same room broken off (this is a piece of stamped aluminum, not a fragile thing, just cleanly shredded from its mount, as if the Hulk got angry he couldn’t get the window open and just forced it with a few tons of effort). A whole frame of photos from my travels just missing, and the hole in the wall where the hook held it spackled and painted over as if it were never there. Two gouges in the granite countertop in the kitchen, as if someone had been sawing something and gone WAY too far into the stone. Like, half an inch. You have to work hard to cut half an inch into granite with ANYTHING. Stereo rewired completely wrong to the point of unusability. Not just that, I had secured all the wires for the TV and internet and sound system stuff to the back of the TV shelf with cable clips so as to make it nice and clean and organized, and they ripped all those out in order to wire it all wrong in a rat’s nest of cables. You don’t get any more intensely South American than that!
The power cable to the security camera was gone but the security camera was still there (who steals a device-specific power cable?) My printer so badly dropkicked in some fashion that the print head was permanently lodged into one side of it and I could not pry it free. Footprints on the wall. Like, someone walked sideways. High up. In shoes. And a myriad other WTF moments to go along with those. I am probably remembering only half of it.
I thought renting out a furnished place to higher end international travelers would have gotten a little more respect for the environs, but I was incorrect. So I spent the next few weeks fixing/replacing all the broken stuff and making solemn vows never leave anything nice around for strangers to use ever again.
Next up: the internet turned to shit. When I first moved to Santiago, my place had 6MB download speed, which was adequate. It was what I had a contract for. Well, now I was barely getting dialup speed. So I called Movistar and they sent a tech down and he did some fiddling, and then told me that I only had enough connection for 2MB. No, I told him, it has been 6 up to this point and now it is not even 2. I showed him the contract for 6, which confused the hell out of him, because, well, how could this be? You have a contract for 6 and you can only get 2, this must clearly not be the fault of the line, it must be some fault with the office giving you the wrong contract 3 years ago!
Anyways, he did some more line testing and went outside saying he was going to check the local station, and then he just disappeared. The speed did not improve.
So I called Movistar again, complained about the internet. I made up my mind that I would do it every day until the situation improved. Turns out they could not find any report back from the tech they had sent out, turns out he didn’t do anything to the line at all and filed no report about the inspection. They sent him back again, which made him mad at me for his lack of doing anything (Viveza Criolla Uruguayo PTSD surging back again). He told Movistar that the situation was hopeless and left again without fixing anything.
During this time my cel phone sim card, which I had had for years, decided to stop working. So I went in and got a replacement, keeping the same phone number. That took a whole afternoon. Then within 24 hours the replacement chip died. I went and changed to a different provider (Entel) because it had more reputed coverage in Patagonia for the road trip I was about to go on. (yes, we will get to the road trip eventually but first, a month of misery!)
Entel worked fine.
Advancing forward some days, my phone was stolen by a pickpocket in the subway, quite literally the day before MomBob and I were scheduled to get in the car and go. So I had to go get a new phone, get it set up with ANOTHER Entel chip, reload all the maps and everything for the trip, etc. which took pretty much another entire day, and for which we had to reschedule our departure.
I would later receive weird messages over Whatsapp in Chilean Spanish, from someone who thought I was his cousin and was playing a joke on him. I told him to ask his cousin why he is a flaite piece of shit ladron who steals phones on the subway, and that was the last I heard from him.
So, going back to the internet thing, it all became irrelevant because my laptop died. It would not boot. Well, thank the heavens I had a working cel phone to do things like keep track of family arriving from across the globe, right? Hahahah you know how that went. Really all I could do is laugh to avoid going on a killing spree. This is how supervillains are made.
I went and bought a new laptop and set that up, and fortunately all my data was intact on the old hard drive, so I managed to get all of that working, but that consumed another 2 entire days of being hunched over the keyboard.
Movistar still wasn’t fixed. Now, my place is quite literally in the center of Santiago. If you threw a dart, it is the bullseye. Just a couple of blocks from the Casa Moneda where the President, I am certain, has decent internet, and right between in the banking center of Chile, which, once again, I am certain, has decent internet, and the Universidad Catolica, which, I am certain, has decent internet, and right over the subway tunnel, which, I am certain, carries fiber optic cables through Santiago. But no, there is no decent internet to be had in my building. Movistar is the only link, unless I get even slower service through a 3g Entel connection. No fiber, no cable, nada. Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink.
So, once I had a computer again, I kept calling and kept calling and kept showing up in the office so much that they finally relented and sent a new technician upon my request because I had finally proven to them that the previous weon was, in fact, a weon, and they should send a non-weon to check the line.
Miracles of miracles, it was sort of fixed the next day, but only to 2mb worth of signal, if that. Enough to keep tabs on my life but not really enough to live on, considering I require it for work. Unless it improved, I’d pretty much have to move somewhere else.
Finally about the time I got all the shit fixed, working, and situated, MomBob arrived…
(to be continued…) Oh yes, dear reader, the “vacation” hasn’t even started yet!