Close cab encounters of the Santiago kind

I was once convinced that the weirdest or most awkward of cab encounters were contained strictly to the island of Manhattan. The normal cab experience in New York involves the word “no” yelled sternly from the driver himself in response to one’s query if he happens to be going Uptown. In general, they never seem to be going in the direction you need to go. And there’s always a split second of analysis on their part, as they determine whether it’s worth their while to carry you from Point A to Point B (it rarely seems to be and in the rare instance that they determine it IS, they act as if they’re doing you the biggest favor in the world.)

A few years ago I was once in a cab with a Japanese coworker of mine, during her first trip to the Big Apple. It was winter and it was snowing and because of this, it was naturally 90 degrees inside the cab. Meanwhile, she and I looked like the kid in “A Christmas Story” with the amount of clothing and layers we had on as defense against the storm outside – in short, we were shvitz-ing. She got hot, she rolled down the window. She realized it was down too much, she put it back up. She accidentally kept the button pressed too much so she adjusted it again so it was just right. What did the cab driver do? YELL AT HER to “stop playing with the window.” Of course I sat up in her defense but it was too late. She was appalled that anyone would speak to someone else like that (after all, she’s from Japan, the country of polite). My poor coworker never recovered from that NYC cabbie experience.

On a different trip, I was in the car with a Muslim driver from Iraq at a time when the sun was beginning to set. We were driving into the city from the airport and he realized he would soon need to participate in “Salah” the formal prayer of Islam, done by Muslims at various times of the day. The sunset one was fast approaching, so he whipped out his dinner (packed by his wife, he told me) and proceeded to eat prior to dropping me off and heading to prayer. Except, being the polite man that he seemed to be, he couldn’t bear eating in front of me and not SHARING. And that he did. I don’t know what I ate precisely but it was both weird and intriguing and definitely the first time I had tried Iraqi food. In NYC. In a cab. From foil wrapping.

Given all of the above (and trust me there are other similar stories), you can imagine that it seemed really, really unlikely to me that I’d ever find a city where cab drivers were just as rude, weird or awkward. Be that as it may, Santiago is quickly securing its spot at the top of the “Cities With the Weirdest Cab Drivers” list.

One time, post a fluke night out dancing (we weren’t feeling it), me, G, a gringa friend and her boyfriend, attempted to hail a cab at Providencia with Pedro de Valdivia to take us about 4 blocks in the cold, dark night. Though the cab driver was going in that direction, after we all piled in, he told us to get out because he felt we were “abusing” the right to take the cab because of the “short” distance. Did I mention he was going DOWN THAT STREET and would pass right by where we needed to get out? Hello??? Do the cab drivers NOT care about making money – not to go out of his way, but down the same street? I was floored – not only because of his logic but because of how truly appalled he seemed by the mere notion of driving us four blocks in the direction he was already going. Needless to say, we walked the four blocks, all the while my gringa friend and I bashed the cab driver, Chile and the world in general – we were so pissed. (For the record, G thoroughly believed we were overreacting and when I stated it was “the principle” he asked me why the gringas always fight “on principle.” Aaaaaahhhh!!)

Then there was the time I took a cab to the U.S. Embassy to pick up my new U.S. Passport. An exciting trip for me because I had just become a citizen and thus, was about to retrieve the proper documentation stating just that. As it turned out, the cab driver was a die hard Communist.

[I get into the cab.]
Me: “The U.S. Embassy please. It’s on Andres Bello, please take XYZ route.”

Cabbie: (as he drives onward) “The U.S. Embassy? Why would you want to go there? That place should be destroyed. The U.S. is the devil.”

Me:[in my head “sweet. now is not a good time to tell him about that citizenship accomplishment.“] “Oh yeah? Well you know, sometimes certain documents are required from them, so that’s why I’m going.”

Cabbie: (groveling) “Those damn Americans think they own the world! I’m not surprised you have to do all this crazy running around to get your business done. They don’t make anything easy and like to flex their muscles to the whole world.”

Me: (smile plastered on my face) “uh huh. Yeah well I need something from them to travel. What are you gonna do? It is what it is.”

Cabbie: “I’d like to travel to Cuba …”

Me: “Oh, do you have family there?” (recalling that I had read somewhere once that many Cubans have come to Chile to seek better opportunities for themselves and their families.)

Cabbie: “No, it’s just one of my lifetime dreams. Now there’s a wonderful country and a man who has the right idea, that Castro, God love him.” (pause) (sigh) “Yeah, one of my lifelong dreams is to go there and I’m going to do it! Before I die, I will go there. And you know, those Americans, you have no idea how many times they’ve tried to destroy the Cubans. I know why too – the resources. The Americans want to get their grimy hands on all the valuable resources anyone might have – they’re so greedy they can’t stand to see others have valuable resources!” (cabbie is now adamant.)

Me: (noticing the Cuban flag on his windshield) “Uh huh… yeah I read that Cuba has really nice beaches.”

And so on and so on. He would rant and pound his fist against the Americans, all the while singing songs of praise for Cuba and Castro. In response, I would talk about their beaches and ask about the food and the rum. Perhaps I should have defended my fellow Americans but I ask you: alone in a cab, on your way to get your U.S. Passport, with a ranting Communist at the wheel, what would you have done? I rest my case.

Then last night, I was in a cab and the driver was a pleasant man in his late 60s or early 70s. He gets to talking to me about the woman who was in the cab before me, a “beautiful, striking” woman about 50, who was married to a former military man (so she told the cab driver.) The cabbie says to me, “Do you know that she was in the cab for 20 minutes and during that time her husband called her 5 times? FIVE TIMES!” Apparently the woman had guests invited to her house at 8pm and her husband was freaking out – to the point of stalking her and calling her names – because at ten minutes to 6pm, she still hadn’t arrived at home. Long story short, the cab driver proceeds to tell me 1) what a jerk her husband was 2) how men should treat women delicately and 3) how he himself still “makes love” to his wife and enjoys her as he always has in the past 30 years that they’ve been together. Um, what? Scratch record, stop the music. Then he proceeded to inform me that on some nights, she will put on an apron – not to initiate “lovemaking” – and “serve” him a pisco sour as if they were in a restaurant. Likewise, on some nights, he’ll play the waiter, placing a dish towel across his arm, and serving HER a pisco sour. Again, not as a signal that “lovemaking” time is about to begin, lest anyone be confused.

By then we had arrived at my apartment so I didn’t have time to ask him to differentiate the “yes to lovemaking” cues from the “no to lovemaking” cues that he and his wife had established. I got that the waiter/waitress role-playing game fell into the “no to lovemaking” realm, but what if, say, one day she forgot to put on her left earring? Is that in the “yes” or “no” realm? ….
I guess we’ll never know.

The moral of my blog post is this: if you find yourself in a situation where you have to take a cab in Santiago, don’t bother bringing your iPod. The cab drivers are just as likely to talk to you as if you aren’t trying to ignore them and you’ll find yourself hearing about the intimate details of their sex life OR about how Karl Marx was definitely on to something. My suggestion? Try to steer the conversation towards a topic so shocking, they’ll be the ones asking their friends why all the weirdo passengers choose their cab for their transportation needs.

I’ve decided that my outrageous story from now on will be that my lover, the goat, broke up with me and ran off with the neighbor girl.

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I choose my choice!

I’ve been thinking a lot about the subject of kids lately, trying to come to terms with the fact that more than half of the people I went to either grammar school, high school or college with are now parents and I’m nowhere near the task. Arguably I’m more “ahead of that game” than an unmarried, otherwise single, counterpart I suppose, but mentally I’m no further ahead than I was when I graduate college. Obviously many personal factors contribute to this: 1) adjusting to a new country 2) analysis of the disadvantages thrown at mothers in the workforce, specifically in this country and 3) trying to have a couple’s life prior to the kiddo scenario, considering I married at a much later age. All of the above are important factors to consider prior to embarking on the role of a lifetime (i.e. parenthood), the most pressing of all, to me, is the stunted career I’ll have if I don’t play my cards right.

Then today I came across yet another variable to this ever-present “Maybe Kids … yes…no….when….what” library of questions. This article published earlier this month in New York Magazine entitled “All Joy and No Fun. Why parents hate parenting.” And before half the readers of this blog jump to defend the institution of kids and parenting, let me clarify that I am neither bashing, nor supporting this article. What I am doing is adding it to my database of “food for thought on” and “things to consider before.” Besides, there’s some great writing to be found in this article and it seems very well supported, siting numerous studies and books that speak into the subject of happiness, kids, relationships and parenting. I’m never one to pass up a good read and just because the subject is laced with controversy only makes me love it more (hence, I’m promoting your reading of it.)

It’s surprising to read that one study after another shows that having kids DOES NOT make women, men and couples happier. In fact, as far as couple’s are concerned, marital satisfaction takes a tumble once kids are born (though parents of babies and toddlers will be happy to know that this satisfaction increases between your kid’s ages of 6-12 … then plummets again when they’re teenagers – go figure.) Yeah, as a species it makes sense that we want to procreate, pass our genes on, contribute to a legacy, etc, etc but as individuals, this article really challenges the notion of whether as PEOPLE, cultural and social people, it ever makes sense to have kids.

And what’s the main reason behind the unpleasant view on parenting itself? We’ve become robots of perfection, buckling under the pressure of “not good enough” and transferring it on to the kids! In January I posted this, describing the competitive landscape of where I lived in California and this is exactly the kind of stuff that makes being a parent intolerable. This article states that before urbanization, kids were considered an asset to economic growth since they worked the farmland next to you or worked in the shop/small family business owned by the parents. Their existence had a purpose that propelled the entire family forward. Nowadays, children are not regarded in the same capacity, seen more so as “subjects to be sculpted, stimulated, instructed, groomed” in order to promote the creation of supreme beings by the skillful hands of the parents. It’s not enough to have the big house, fancy car and European family trips – your kids need to be the personification of success just as the yacht might be.

Sounds like a lot of pressure to me. No wonder parents are stressed out and no wonder kids are stressed out. I’ve seen it first hand (and this article mentions it as well), but kids these days are over-scheduled. Can you believe such a notion? And to think that I had hours and hours of free time to play and pretend and cut coupons out of the newspaper so that I could play bank … with myself.

Geez, what a disadvantage I’ve created waiting this long to have kids. I’ve chosen to work on me, my career, my education, my life and now when I have kids, I’ll know exactly what I’m missing when I can’t focus on all of the aforementioned points. It’s different when young adults leave their parents house and shortly thereafter become parents. Chances are they haven’t had much time to notice what they’ll be missing once they do have kids.

Incidentally, when I finished reading this article it immediately occurred to me to Google the exact same phrase/notion in Spanish, specifically searching Chilean websites. I came across a lot of articles on the INABILITY to have kids, an article on couples choosing pets over kids (from a site called “Conciencia Animal” or “Animal Consciousness,” an article on a woman who dated a guy forever who didn’t want to have kids and who then ended up having kids with the woman he had a relationship with after her … and finally, at the very bottom of the first Google page, an article from Cosmo (hardly a Chilean publication) speaking to the notion of “So what if I don’t want kids?” In this very quick search (and I cannot stress enough how very quickly this search occurred), I did come across an article from a newspaper from the South of Chile called “Diario El Sur” where the writer speaks about the “dilemma” associated with the decision of having kids or not and how three entities affect this decision one way or another: 1) dedication to one’s career, 2) the “voice” of the Church, 3) contraception. But the best article I came across on Chilean sites (again, in my ever-so-quick search) talks about how the decision to have fewer kids is an active decision by educated adults who wish to focus on responsible parenting. Blogs, of course, provide a wealth of varying opinions on the matter and this one speaks quite candidly on the stance of “not wanting to be a mother someday.” Still, I have to say that the majority of the articles that come up when I Google “Tener hijos hace feliz?” or “Having kids makes one happy?” are about infertility, lower birth rates and selfish individuals. Check it out and see for yourself!

Just for the record folks, I’m not anti having kids. In fact, I’ve made reference to my relatively pro stance on the matter in the past. I do, however, find it quite interesting that the reality is SO different than what the marketers want you to believe. Parenting, in short, seems to kind of suck.

The Nestle’s, Proctor & Gamble’s and milk companies of this world (among so many other consumer products companies that exist), want you to believe that being a mom is the best job you’ll ever have … that’s the only way they’ll get you to buy that product that will FOR SURE prove to all the other parents that you’re the world’s best mom (or dad!) These companies market their products by speaking to the “proud parent” in all of you: you want your kids whites to be whiter than all the rest, right? Buy Tide! You want your kids to grow up with the healthiest bones so they can kick the goal at the last minute and win that soccer game, right? Then buy the yogurt! We build strong bones! The marketing to the inner proud parent is endless and so it’s NO WONDER (in my opinion) that one can barely find material on NOT having kids here in Chile. After all, in reference to my blog last week, the proud parent can be ABC1 or D – here is a motivating factor (to purchase a product) that doesn’t discriminate.

Anyway, I’m all over the place today and feel that I’ve covered many topics. I’d like to take this opportunity to focus my thoughts and note that my feelings can best be described by one of Charlotte York’s finer moments in Sex and the City, where she’s arguing with Miranda on her decision to quit her job in order to focus on being a wife. Whether you agree with Miranda on how socially acceptable doing that ultimately is, Charlotte has a point when she yells:

“I choose my choice!! I choose my choice, I choose my choice!”

That’s all we really want.

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It’s USA Week at Jumbo

Hey, did you guys know that for the next ten days it’s USA week at your local Jumbo? I, for one, did not get the memo from the U.S. Embassy here in Santiago and it’s a good thing that we subscribe to “El Mercurio” (Chile’s leading newspaper) on the weekends, otherwise, how would I have known?? Thankfully, upon opening today’s paper, the following circular slipped out, alerting me to the fact that between July 8 – 18, it’s USA Week at Jumbo.

Obviously my curiosity was piqued and so I took a gander.

Now, maybe I’m alone when I say this, but I’m always happy when I go to my local Jumbo and see products I recognize from back home. Simple things like Snickers bars or Top Ramen soup make me really happy. It’s nice to see brands and logos I know and love in a sea of those that I can’t tell you much about. I know that Campbell’s is “Mmmm, mmm, good” but not sure what Maggi soups are … as a result, I don’t get the same cozy, warm fuzzy feeling about Maggi as I do about Campbell’s soups. This goes for all brands in Chile – since I didn’t grow up here, they mean nothing to me on a personal level. Therefore I’m a marketers nightmare -OR- I’m a consumer a marketer disregards completely because I’m a lost cause. How can a consumer associate feelings with particular brands if they did not grow up seeing these brands and the publicity around them?

Which is why, from a marketing point of view, I have to commend Jumbo for reaching out to the American population that is constantly expanding here in Santiago. Even the cover of this circular speaks to us because an African American woman (or perhaps AA decent) is depicted on the cover – something we Americans completely regard as natural even though the majority of the people who live in the U.S. are not of African American decent. In all areas of marketing in the U.S. it’s important for companies and brands to make sure to be “equal opportunity” and to do the best they can to depict the melting pot that is the population at large in the 50 States. [Of course one can argue that if a company or brand fails to do this in their promotions, they can be targeted as “racist” and well, that would be a PR nightmare for any business.] In general, Chilean advertising never depicts people of darker color. First because Chileans don’t associate with that and further, don’t aspire to that (perhaps the main reason why most models in advertisements are blonde) and second, Chileans are pretty homogeneous in their looks and simply put, there aren’t many dark skinned people walking around the country. Therefore, I’m concluding that this woman was used on the cover to specifically speak to Americans in Santiago.

On a similar note, perhaps it’s that Jumbo is advertising to those who aspire to all things American. After all, this country definitely looks north for trends and success stories, so why not harness that attention and promote food from the U.S.? Whatever the motivation for this focus on our food, the bottom line is that somehow, with someone, this promotion must mean mad money to Jumbo.

So what’s being advertised in the circular?

“Productos Exclusivos” (exclusive products) for the most part and many of them brands I don’t even recognize! I realized that perhaps the reason for this is because Jumbo (or Cencosud, owners of the Jumbo supermarket chains) have an exclusive agreement with Food Export Association of the Midwest USA, a non-profit organization that promotes the export of food and agricultural products from the midwestern region of the United States. That probably explains why the peanut butter being advertised is “Algood” and the maple syrup is “Shur Fine.” I’m from California, so my main thought is “where’s the Jiffy and the Aunt Jemima?” I’ve never been to the Midwest so can’t attest anything about these brands, but one thing’s for sure: beggars can’t be choosers and I’d much rather have the choice between chunky and creamy peanut butter versus no peanut butter at all. Even if that means consuming Kmart’s Blue Light Special private label or whatever unknown brands are being imported. Call me crazy.

But that’s the key thing to keep in mind, right? Beggars (as in me) can’t be choosers. I’m in a strange land with strange food and labels (most yummy though, I will admit) and if I can find pancake mix, cranberry juice (trust me, it’s no picnic trying to find cranberry anything here) or root beer, I’ll disregard the relatively unknown label in lieu of having a small slice of home in my Chilean refrigerator.

In any case, hats off to Jumbo for embracing their American population and those who favor all things American. Yeah USA Week is a little late since 4th of July was LAST weekend but hey, I’ll take it. Plus it helps promote the food that’s manufactured and grown there. That’s a nice thought considering how much food we import ourselves from Chile and Mexico. So, thank you Jumbo. I may not be changing my shopping habits all that much, but I’m happy to see some peanut butter and Ocean’s Spray cranberry juice all up in here:

Some good ol’ American style stuffing:

But find it really, really funny that on the page advertising American sodas, A&W Root Beer (#4) is promoted as “Cerveza sin alcohol Root Beer.” Or non-alcoholic beer Root Beer.

I guess it’s better to be safe than sorry. We wouldn’t want people purchasing the root beer and thinking they can get a buzz off drinking several cans of it. That would be false advertising for those who don’t get that the “beer” doesn’t really mean beer. Oh Chile… don’t ever be so funny and fabulous in your advertising!

Note: you can check out the online version of this entire catalog here. This link will most likely still be active about a week after July 18th. Enjoy!
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Sorry my blog layout has gone schizo

I feel the need to send a quick apology shout out regarding my two layout changes today. No I’ve not gone schizo and no, I won’t be treating my blog like some people treat their Facebook profiles (constantly changing profile pics)… I don’t want to get into it but suffice it to say that I had an issue with the one I previously chose today and out of pure frustration have settled for the most blah layout you will possibly come across.

Better known as the one you’re staring at this very second.

Try not to fall asleep looking at this page. Just know it will only compel me to write more heart racing, tear jerking, edge-of-your-seat stories about living in Chile.

Also, I reserve the right to find a more suitable, long term layout option within the week.

Ok, that’s all.
Carry on.

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Santiago the Segmented

I’m noticing this odd phenomenon about social classes here in Chile. There is a weird obsession over them that reaches every corner of this country. Further, there seems to be a constant need to identify which class people fall into.

…or maybe it’s because I’m studying Marketing and for all types of reasons, marketers need to segment the population at large…Ok, I won’t discard that this might be the reason why figuring out where people are “located” in the social class hierarchy seems to be a national past time for those who immediately surround me.

There are several factors that determine what socioeconomic class people fall under here in Chile and one of those factors in Santiago is the “comuna” or neighborhood you live in. Note the map below for a quick glimpse of the comunas that make up Santiago:

I first became aware of this chasm between classes when I visited some cousins in Chile for a three-month period back in 1998. My cousins, aunt and uncle live in a three bedroom house in Puente Alto. I didn’t personally see anything “different” about them or how they lived since they had all the things I had at home … in fact, I’d argue that they lived far better than we did back then because they certainly always had a good amount of food readily available for a quick asado (bbq). They had cars, tvs, phones, mircowaves, fridges, etc, etc. It wasn’t until THEY said to me “Vamos a ir al barrio alto” that I even had a notion that a “higher neighborhood” (as in upper class neighborhood) even existed in such a manner that it had it’s own nickname. See, to them, going past the Ñuñoa neighborhood is like venturing into a completely different country. Anything from the Providencia neighborhood and on, is mostly foreign to them. In fact, a couple of weeks after the earthquake, another cousin of mine who happens to live beyond Providencia, mentioned that she had gone to the mall, Parque Arauco, for a one-time job and she was FLOORED that people were shopping and eating out. She literally said “It’s like another world up there.” Up there being the Las Condes neighborhood.

Aside from neighborhoods, another factor in determining what class you fall into are what the Census calls “Good” (or “Bienes.”) Does the family or household have a tv, a land line, a refrigerator, a car, a microwave, a shower (yes, you read that correctly. They want to know if you have a shower)? There are about 10-15 items that are considered to be basic and depending on whether a family has them or not, helps determine where in the social class spectrum they will ultimately fall. The higher class will obviously have 100% of all items, in multiple quantities, whereas a lower class household may have certain things, but definitely not 100% of them.

Finally, another important factor that helps determine where a household falls is the level of education reached by the head (or heads) of household. Those in the upper sections of the spectrum will have totaled an average of AT LEAST 16.2 years of schooling and most have certainly graduated college and further, hold a Graduate degree from a known institution.

So then, how are classes “classified?” Not in the typical fashion we hear about in the U.S. – Upper Class, Upper Middle Class, Middle Class, Lower Middle Class, Upper Lower Class, etc, etc until you get to the standard Lower Class title. In Chile, each class has a letter or series of letters assigned to them as follows:

ABC1: These are college graduates who hold executive level jobs or otherwise “prestigious” jobs. Likewise, these individuals hold powerful positions within their companies and they live in the best and most exclusive neighborhoods of Santiago. Their monthly income is calculated at about $3.5 million pesos (about USD$7000) a month or more. These individuals make up about 10% of Santiago’s population. They own two or more cars, all or most luxury makes and models, and the cars are less than 5 years old. Usually the “AB” segement is grouped together with the C1 segment because the AB alone would only make up about 2.5% of the population (incidentally, this segment alone would be quite difficult to analyze since they are the ones who will have most of their “goods” completely guarded and all info on them would be heavily shrouded.)

C2: This is considered to be the “most typical” middle class of the city and make up less than 20% of the population of Santiago. They tend to live in more traditional neighborhoods of the city, sometimes further away from the downtown areas and with clean, well maintained homes,streets and sidewalks. The heads of households are generally also college graduates with executive-type jobs or are heads of departments in their companies. Their income is an average $1 million pesos a month (about US#2,000) and they own at least one car (sometimes two). Unfortunately in this group, savings is not a reality for the most part.

C3: Middle class noted mainly for its simplicity. This group tends to live amongst the C1 group and the D group, typically found in the more traditional, sometimes older neighborhoods of Santiago. Socially speaking an interesting point about this group is that in their neighborhoods, one can note an elevated level of domestic activity on the streets (i.e. housewives sweeping, children playing, etc). This group is said to make up 25% of the population of Santiago. The average household income is $600 thousand pesos (about US$1,200) and they tend to not have cars but might instead own very old, handed down trucks. Only 10% of this group has a land line in their homes.

D: This is the lower class group that makes up approximately a reported 35% of the population of Santiago. They have an average monthly income of $300 thousand pesos (about US$600) and they tend to live in smaller, older, mainly deteriorated homes. It’s reported that these households rely on only one revenue earning member. That being said, because there are so many individuals who fall in this category, they are notable for business purposes as they are a force as consumers due to amount of people in this group. Those in this group tend to not have steady jobs but rather will work seasonal or non-contractual jobs (i.e. parking lot attendants). They live in very populated ares of the city, generally on streets that don’t necessarily contain pavement.

E: This group is considered to be at almost poverty, if not poverty, level and they make up 10% of the population in Santiago. Their average household income is $90 thousand pesos (about US$180) and this income is either very sporadic income or money granted to them by the government. This group cannot afford to cover the most basic of necessities and generally rely on third party assistance (i.e. the government in many cases). Due to their lack of purchasing power, unfortunately they are rarely regarded in consumer studies.

Why did I feel the need to write about this? First of all, on a selfish note, I really needed to understand how consumers are segmented in Chile. For obvious reasons, businesses and companies in general, focus on the ABC1 and C2 groups mostly because of their purchasing power. After all, these are the people who have the money to spend on goods and services. Logical of course.

I also wanted to understand, in depth, how one group differs from another because Chile really is a segmented culture. In fact, this study I explored done by AIM (Chilean Association of Market Studies) in 2008 contains 38 pages of information. Information that is so detailed, it even tells you how each group DECORATES THEIR HOMES!! Crazy.

I think that Chileans segment themselves and they do this because this is how it’s been all their lives. This is certainly not known as the “land of opportunity” and I wonder how many D class individuals ever make it to the sphere of ABC1 or even C2! Is that even possible here? I take a look at my own family members (ones I wouldn’t even dare classify!) and wonder why they never go out in other areas of the city, why they don’t have friends who live in other areas and why they only move around in their neighborhoods. The same goes for those who live in Las Condes and beyond – do they ever go to Puente Alto to have a beer or a quick bite to eat? My guess is no.

It’s interesting how my graduate studies have made me look at people and wonder how their socioeconomic class, as dictated by Chile and themselves personally, makes them tick and motivates them one way or another.

Is it possible to make leaps and bounds in such a segmented culture (and city)? Discuss.

Sources: AIM Chile, Novomerc Study, CERC.

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Identifying with "Lost in Translation"

I’m more analytical than I give myself credit for and in the recent weeks I’ve been analyzing my current state of affairs as my one-year anniversary of arriving in Chile is quickly approaching.

I think my feelings on the matter can best be described by the original trailer to the movie “Lost In Translation.” I’ll give you a minute or so to check it out below.

Incidentally, I’ve been to Tokyo and aside from being FABULOUS it really IS how it’s depicted in the movie. The thing being that the movie is focused on two different (or similar) reactions to that environment.

Anyway, the case in point isn’t about Tokyo but about my identity crisis in this new chapter of my life. For as long as I can remember, this was the trailer to me:

“Andrea who is originally from Chile, works in anime and is on a mission from God to find THE ONE. Andrea fills her time and space with reading historical fiction and US Weeklys, hanging out with friends, traveling for work and engaging in spontaneous bouts of physical activity otherwise known as cardio excercise. She likes to dabble in drinking wine and playing computer games and is a big fan of greek yogurt. She owns more jeans than she has time to wear and looks forward to baseball season so she can watch games in the sun with her friends (using the term ‘watch’ loosely). She routinely hosts movie nights and girls’ night at her cute, albeit small, apartment. Her cooking skills cover a variety of salads, mostly consisting of lettuce and avocado, with a generous gob of minced Dungeness crab. Andrea has questionable opinions towards all things Mormon and all things ordinary.”

This little paragraph pretty much summed up who I was for a big part of my life and in comparison, my life now looks NOTHING like said points mentioned above.

The trailer for “Lost in Translation” stated in the beginning “Bob is lost.” In this case:
“Andrea is lost as she begins to come to terms with what it means to live her life in another country. Andrea is new to being a wife and suddenly finds herself in charge of a home where two, sometimes four people dwell. She owns a dog who recently chewed up one of her two pairs of high heeled black boots – she is the master disciplinarian. She’s also balancing her career working remotely for a company based abroad, all the while managing her humbling grades in Graduate School. All this grouped with trying to cement bonds and friendships with other women living the Expat life as well. Andrea spends the majority of her days completely alone, reaching out to the world via social online mediums, something she never did before back home. Old Andrea – meet new Andrea.”

I’m learning about being a wife, a “dueña de casa” (verbatim, “owner of a home” which has more do with running and creating a home vs fiscally owning a home), being a pet owner, doing my job well but knowing that eventually I’ll need to have a secure job locally if I’m ever going to establish my career whole-heartedly here, branching out, learning how to maneuver myself in this city, so on and so on. All of this is grossly misaligned with what I knew of me before so to me, it’s no wonder that I’m in this perpetual state of crisis with regards to my identity.

In “Lost in Translation,” the character Bob (Bill Murray) asks the character Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) “What do you do?” to which she replies “I’m not sure yet actually” and later, in a different scene, she tells Bob “I just don’t know what I’m supposed to be.”

Chile is full of nuances, bureaucracy, crime, traditions and social norms – things that can make anyone’s head spin even before they have to come to terms with all of a sudden being a wife and “mom” to a six month old dog in a foreign country where no one seems to understand where you’re coming from. As such, it’s pretty hard to determine what one is “supposed to be” at any given point. Shying away from the ordinary and in a land where a) being different isn’t rewarded and b) being different isn’t something easily accessible, you find yourself wondering where your path is and how you walk down it at your own rhythm once you’ve determined said path.

But “the good news is, the whiskey works” to quote the trailer/movie again. And in my case here and now, the whiskey is all things that make being here better than being there… the whiskey is all that stuff that nudges me and says “Hellooooo, remember this?” After all, as much as I loved my single life and LOVED my old apartment, the fact of the matter was that it was lonely on many occasions and even then I had days when I’d be home alone and talked to no one … the bad news being that I didn’t have the reality of G walking in through the door and sharing the evening with me. And if there’s ever one common denominator in the field where all that’s good belongs, it’s G.

In summary, am I having an identity crisis? Yeah, I think I am. I’m in this strange land with its strange customs, where I don’t know tit from tat and on top of that I’m all of a sudden a “housewife” in more ways than I care to recognize. Simply put, the housewife bit is not the gig I was thinking I’d have this time in life and I’m fighting it with blood, sweat and tears. The wife part I like – something one can definitely get used to, but this is also a learning curve. I’m attempting to introduce old Andrea to new Andrea …one’s lost and one’s found. Both are versions of me that I know and love, though the former one is that which I’ve known for a lifetime minus the last year.

In the end it’s the environment, where I am, what I do and who I surround myself with that’s changed. I don’t recognize the usual suspects because the usual suspects are played by completely different people now. It’s on me to get with it and adapt already. I have yet to learn to identify with my new roles in my new world. This is the main reason for said identity crisis I’m proclaiming. In the end, I imagine it happens to others who find themselves in warp speed towards another chapter in life … or is that just the new Andrea wishful thinking?

I have faith in the final thought in the “Lost in Translation” trailer above … “Sometimes you have to go halfway around the world, to come full circle.”

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Red Asphalt is missing in Chile

When I was 15 and in high school, I was required to take one semester of driver’s education as part of the basic curriculum of all students. This practice is all but gone in many schools across the U.S. but during the 70s and well into the early 90s when I was in high school, the course was alive and well. We all looked forward to this semester our sophomore year because it was the first step we embarked on towards the freedom that a California state Driver’s License offered us.

Part of the excitement of Driver’s Ed was the mystery that surrounded the infamous “Red Asphalt.” Red Asphalt is a series of instructional driver’s education videos produced by the California Highway Patrol. And to put it bluntly, all it did was feature gruesome scenes of bloody accidents, most of which were caused by drunk or speeding drivers (or both). Before Driver’s Ed, we’d only heard about the film, which supposedly featured bodies cut in half, strewn on lawns, cars a wrangled mess of metal with blood splattered on the windshields and seats … and all we had to frame our own reactions of the film, were those reactions of students older than us. Some were overly dramatic and claimed to have had to walk out of class; others were sadistic and took it all in gladly. In either case, it was the talk of the school whenever the sophomore class had seen the film that particular week.

Below is an 8 minute clip of the original Red Asphalt, though I can’t recall if this was the one we saw in 1992/1993. I doubt it, but even if we had a more updated version, what they would have updated would be the statistics… the general idea of the video is nicely conveyed in this short clip, should you wish to take a gander.

So not only did we have a semester’s worth of learning California driving laws, but this was mixed in with curriculum focused on scaring the living sh*t out of us by outlining every possible factor that could result in a deadly accident the minute we stepped foot behind the driver’s wheel. I’m not condoning nor am I criticizing this tactic, I’m simply stating how it was presented to the general student population at our school, and from what I hear, how it was presented in general in the State of California.

Further to this semester of education and scare tactics, our school also hosted “Drunk Driving Awareness Week” once a year. This involved assemblies where we’d hear first hand about how real people were affected one way or another by drunk driving, movies featuring images of drunk driving accidents and also included what was left of a car on our school’s front lawn. This was an actual car that had been involved in an alcohol related collision, mangled doors, shattered windshields, dried blood – the whole nine yards – on our front lawn so that every day for a week, we saw it on our way into the building. I have memory of the cars looking something like this every year:

Perhaps not this exactly, but similar enough that I recall thinking “How did anyone survive that?”

And so, if it isn’t already obvious to you, my conclusion about all this is that, in the early 90s at least, California CLEARLY favored educating teenagers about the rules of the road while at the same time, scaring us into never wanting to step into a car either as a driver or a passenger for the remainder of our lives. And at least with this teenager, fear tactics work their “magic” in such a way, that I’m like one of those dogs who wears those collars that send electrical charges through them whenever they bark.

As we got older, the messages surrounding driving under the influence continued. They evolved into more sophisticated messages of the “Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk” nature and stopped featuring gross, bloody scenes that bordered on resembling bad Hollywood movie types. The bottom line being that in California, we were constantly fed, via the formal education system or the media, messages that it was simply NOT OK to drink and drive. Even if one had done it, that person carried with them the GUILT learned through all of the above, because it’s embedded in our brains that no matter how you slice it, it’s.just.plain. wrong. And trust me, I’ve seen that guilt scare the few people I know who have driven drunk into NEVER doing it again. Those are the happy cabby people (i.e. they take taxis left and right a la Paris Hilton post jail stint).

THEREFORE, dear blog reader, you can simply IMAGINE my disgust at the seemingly culturally accepted tendency in Chile to drive regardless of the number of drinks one has consumed. I’m not talking about evidence on the news (which, believe it or not, shows bloodier scenes than in the U.S.!) but occasions I’ve witnessed FIRST HAND of this acceptance. The “no he’s fine, he hasn’t had a drink in an hour and I just gave him a cup of coffee.” Or “no she’s fine, she lives just about five blocks from here, and I asked her to call us when she gets home.” And I’ve experienced FIRST HAND being in the car with someone DRIVING who has whipped out a can of beer to drink it while driving (that time, I made him stop the car, I got out and told my two cousins who were in the back seat, after refusing to get out with me, peace out. Baby don’t play that game.) The shadiest part about that story is that the guy driving is a DETECTIVE for the Investigations arm of the Law Enforcement here in Chile. Nice, right?

No one wants to be the “mala onda weon” who tells an inebriated – or even buzzed – friend that maybe he shouldn’t be driving. AND no one wants to be the “mala onda galla” who tells her friends she’s only having two drinks because she has to drive home. That would be met with immediate looks resembling “WTF is wrong with you? Did you have a lobotomy, is that it?” If someone WERE to stick to their guns and not drink or continue to drink (and be responsible, at that!) I’m certain the general public would immediately disregard him/her as someone cool and fun. And God forbid promoting the idea of designated drivers here in Chile. Not once in my personal experience have I ever been to any social gathering here where someone merely stated “Nah, I’m good. I’m the DD tonight.” Unless that person was a pregnant or nursing woman, everyone drinks and there is simply no limit.

Anyhoo, what’s the moral of my story today? Nothing really. I can only do so much to change perceptions, which is limited to those directly around me, and even then, I can only influence so much. I’m not condoning scaring teenagers in Chile from getting behind the wheel because as it is, a good lot of them never learn to drive and when they do, it’s later on in life. Nor am I saying that California had it right because God knows I’ve witnessed those same Californians doing some stupid, stupid things related to drinking and driving. I’m not sure that in general, those scare tactics used in my high school even worked. Yeah, they worked on me for the most part but that’s because my mother’s M.O. as I was growing up was the use of scare tactics. Thus it’s the sure way to discipline me. The whole notion of “If you do/don’t do ABC, then XYZ will happen (to you).” Gets me every time!

Plus, can I also attribute all this “awareness” to the fact that California as a state is all about making us aware? Aware of the effects, aware of the surroundings, aware of the aftermath, aware of the consequences. We’re an aware bunch in CA, or at least, our government aims for that. Does that mean Chileans are, in comparison, unaware? No. I think they’re a very aware bunch as well … it’s just that they’re quick to forgive or turn a blind eye to something they are aware is bad.

THIS is the biggest issue I have with the culture right now.

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Some perceptions & women’s roles in Chile

I’m a stranger in a strange land and because of this, I spend a lot of time learning and observing my new home (well, relatively new since pretty soon it will be a year since I arrived in this narrow land.)

Of particular interest to me is the role of women and perceptions of women’s roles here. Heavy, I know but I’m guessing it’s due in part to my own generalizations of women, men and traditions apparent here that can’t be sawed apart, no matter the force applied. Of course I consulted my friend Google and found a very interesting article from ReVista, The Harvard Review of Latin America on the contradictions apparent in women’s lives here in Chile. The very first sentence of this article made me want to pack up my bags and leave the country immediately … it reads:

“Seven out of every ten Chileans (69%) believe that “Having a job is fine, but what most women really want is a house and children,” according to a July 2003 study by the Santiago-based Centro de Estudios Públicos.” In my usual P.I. way, I decided to go straight to the source and actually review this study conducted by the CEP, Centro de Estudios Públicos or in English, Center of Public Studies. The CEP is basically a type of think tank and they perform various kinds of studies on behavior, society and culture in Chile. It has several publications and the one I consulted was Estudios Públicos, (Public Studies) which is a quarterly journal containing essays, studies and commentaries by academics and specialists in various fields of study.

And yes, I found that this study, conducted in December 2002, truly does demonstrate the ideological chasms that exist regarding the subject of women and the workplace, not only between groups of people but within the same person!

The majority 40.7% of those questioned in a survey about Women and the Work Place are relatively CLOSED to the subject of a woman working outside the home and only 12.3% are completely open to the fact. And the thing is, these numbers are pretty evenly divided between men’s opinions and women’s. Interestingly enough, those that are open to the topic of women working outside the home are between the ages of 18-24 BUT what’s MORE interesting is that the second most supportive group are 55 and older! I attribute this to the moms and dads that age who themselves put kids through college and are eager to see them succeed in the workplace.

Here’s the picture on the following question: “Taking into account all the good and the bad, family life is negatively affected when the woman works full time.”

Do you see that big red line? That’s Chile! That’s the majority of people agreeing with this statement! The bottom five, those who agree the least, are the U.S., England, Sweden, (East) Germany and Canada.

Here’s a picture with the opposite lay out …

Except the question associated with the graph above is the following: “A woman who works can establish as much of a solid and profound relationship with her kids as a woman who doesn’t work.” And as you can see, Chile agrees with this statement the least. THE LEAST! Am I in the Twilight Zone, people??!!

Sigh. I might be.

This study goes on for 42 pages and if you’re interested in seeing it in all its gory detail, you can download it here. It’s presented as a Power Point so it’s fabulously easy to read. Not all of it is horrible, but it’s insightful and quite a demonstration on the conflicting views that Chileans have on various topics regarding women and her role in the Chilean society.

Another topic, independent of this study (though I’m sure it’s covered within a study done by the CEP), is that of maternity leave in Chile and how women are perceived as a result of it. President Piñera has created the Women, Work and Maternity Commission which is made up of men and women tasked with providing recommendations on the following: should Chile allow for longer maternity leaves or should Chile allow for all women the right to maternity leave?

The answer, to me, is obvious. All women should have the right to maternity leave, NOT JUST the 50% who have long-term contracts with their employers. As it stands, women who have temporary contracts or who work seasonal jobs, don’t share the same benefits and they can easily be fired once their government backed 18 week maternity leave is up. On the other hand, women who have long-term contracts are protected for ONE YEAR after their maternity leave, in which these women cannot be fired from their on-going, full contract jobs. This discrepancy is ridiculous with obvious favoritism towards those fortunate to have a long-term contract.

Here’s what works against women in Chile: Employers are complaining of the numerous costs associated with hiring women of childbearing age (i.e. me, you, many women I know). Examples of such costs include not being able to fire women during maternity leave (that whole year), the need to hire replacements when women abuse medical leaves to care for ill infants, and the loss of productivity for the one hour daily the women are given to feed their children under two years. Can I just toss that last one in the garbage since I can’t imagine that a company loses all that much in one hour. But those first two are certainly actively putting up walls around any advancement women may have in the workplace. Why would an employer hire a woman when it’s far less risky to hire a man – he’s only allowed 5 days maternity leave and will be back at work in no time. Because the government pays for the woman’s salary during her maternity leave, the option of working from home isn’t really an option. I guess the government wants you suckling your baby or something. Or vice versa. And I’m sorry, I’ve heard firsthand of how women DO abuse the maternity leave bit and literally FLAUNT their immunity in their boss’s faces. Despicable on all fronts but especially for women’s strides in the workplace. I wish such women would just quit their jobs like they truly want to and allow the rest of us to work our way up the corporate ladder.

THERE MUST BE room for women like me to move their way up in Chile and allow for perception of women in leadership roles to shift. In a perfect world, the women who want to be at home, full time with their kids, would have the ability to do so. Because in that perfect world, the roles and corporate positions that those women merely take up for the sake of taking up, would be freed for women who are career oriented and ready to dedicate their time to the company.

And perhaps THEN there wouldn’t be any room for men and women alike to judge women as incapable of excelling in one role or another. We’d be give a break and allowed to excel in whatever we put our efforts in…

Call me crazy.

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No balls

During a time when the country – no, the world – is obsessed with balls and where they can go (i.e. World Cup fever), I’ve had a ball-centered weekend myself. Except my weekend has more to do with the REMOVAL of balls. That is, my dog’s balls (to my more conservative readers, sorry for such a crude way of putting it!)

Last Friday, G and I had Obi fixed (neutered). While we’re completely and totally ok with this decision, it’s been a mini ordeal in Chile, a country where neutering a male pet is simply unheard of. Even G wasn’t too keen on the idea when we first got Obi so my mission was clear: at least in our home, in our own way, we’d do what we could to be responsible pet owners and do our share to help control the pet population in Chile. It’s easy to shrug off the responsibility of helping the pet population (in both dogs and cats) but the reality is that said responsibility starts with each and every pet owner.

So when I set out to “convince” my dear husband that neutering our male pet was the best option, I did my research. According to various reliable, online sources (such as The Humane Society, ASPCA and the likes), these are the most convincing reasons (in my opinion) to fix your pet:

1) Neutering your pet can help it lead a healthier life and in males, eliminates testicular cancer.

2) The female dog won’t go into “heat” and the male dog won’t feel inclined to wander away from home (in search of said female dog in heat.) The overwhelming sexual urges just don’t kick in and your dog is free to be your dear, sweet, family pet. Isn’t this the reason you got the dog in the first place?

3) A neutered male dog will be much better behaved because they focus their attention on their human families. On the other hand, unneutered dogs may mark their territory all over the house.

4) Many aggression problems can be avoided by early neutering (Obi was neutered at six months, the earliest recommended age to neuter pets.)

5) Finally, the most important reason: everyday, animals die because there is no one to care for them or are killed by euthanasia because no one wants them. There is simply no excuse for allowing pets to breed unless one is a responsible breeder who knows what he/she is doing!

With all this, G was of course convinced. He let go of the learned reaction he had for so long as a Chilean who grew up in Chile: it has nothing to do with being more manly or less manly. It’s a dog, for Pete’s sake! We are not removing the MAN’S testicles, we’re asking a professional to remove our pet’s testicles for the reasons stated above. Further it’s not “cruel” of us to “deny” him the experience of a sexual encounter or the experience of being a father. Again, he’s a DOG!! He still has his penis and as far as we can tell, it works despite the neutering! Furthermore, having done our research, we know that this particular breed (bulldogs) don’t innately pursue procreation. Most female bulldogs needs to be artificially inseminated because it’s not part of their DNA to go around shacking up with every dog they see!

My dear husband is a smart guy and with proper research and argument, if someone’s right, someone’s right. In this case, I was right and once we had this important discussion, not only was he convinced it was the right thing to do with Obi, but he defended (and continues to defend) this decision to every person who has something negative to say about it.

But frankly, I’m SO SICK of the weird looks, shocked questions and concerned expressions some Chileans continue to give me. Today in the elevator my neighbor made a comment about how “particular” Obi was being because he was barking at her. I told her he had just had surgery. When she and her son asked why, I debated on what to say … finally I just said “I had him castrated.” Their looks were priceless. I’m sure that they had a field day forming a very vivid picture of what my family life with G was like … I was very proud of myself for causing such shock to my fellow (narrow-minded) neighbors but quickly found myself EXPLAINING why I had done it (basically “blamed” it on cultural differences and that where I was from, fixing a dog was considered normal.) In any case, they continue to think I’m a weirdo and I’m sure I didn’t help in easing their opinion that my dog is “weird” too.

Just for the record, my fellow Chileans who think this is such a horrible thing to do to a dog, Obi’s a-ok. In fact, the only thing that has him feeling less than stellar is the pain medication. We quickly discontinued it, of course and now he’s on his favorite rice and chicken diet.

Of course, immediately AFTER the surgery he looked like this:

In his e-cone and doped on his recent dose of anesthesia, he looks like a pot head, druggie dog! He was super uncomfortable and couldn’t find any way to sit … but he’s since then conquered the situation and he’s looking more like this:

He’s laying low, not really going outside and chilling with me and G in-house. AND he’s not even noticing the operated area … some websites indicated that he might lick or scratch the site, but he hasn’t and he doesn’t seem to be feeling any kind of pain. He’s running and jumping and eating (now that he’s off the pain meds).

G and I are happy with our decision and we know that in the long run, our little guy will lead a healthier, happier life as our dear family pet. Yeah, I’m still super annoyed with the majority reaction here but it doesn’t make what we did less appropriate. We’re being responsible and we’re assuring our dog’s happy life from now on.

The question is: are you doing the same for your pet?

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"Clueless" and its effect on my communication skills

I’m about to go off on a tangent with this blog entry and whenever I’m inclined to feel bad about not discussing topics pertaining to Chile, I’m quick to forgive myself as I’d like to draw the reader’s attention to the “Welcome” section of my page. I pretty much included a clause that allows me to write about irrelevant topics. Therefore, I feel satisfied in having warned the reader and ready to dive into my tangent. [Will that disclaimer look good on court transcripts?]

Watching the movie “Clueless” really makes me miss a moment in time when my friends and I basically adopted the language of the movie and injected it into our everyday dialogue, whenever we could and with whomever we could. The movie came out in 1995, when my friends and I were either juniors or seniors in high school (I myself was a senior and incidentally, I went to high school with the lead actress in the movie, Alicia Silverstone) but I don’t recall quoting it to a pulp until about 3-5 years after its release. The screenplay was written by Amy Heckerling (of “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” fame), a woman who has a pretty outstanding talent for writing about young adults. I say this because, in my opinion, a marker of said talent is when your writing jumps off the screen and into everyday life as was the case with me and my group of friends AND with subsequent women I met in walks of life thereafter.

All right, so what’s my point here? Basically a simple walk down memory lane: recalling certain lines of the movie and when we applied them to our everyday lives. A simple trip that I’ll enjoy taking you, the reader, on with me.

The most obvious one being the use of the word “Whatever.” We all remember Ambular doing her little whatever sign during her debate with Cher (which I’ll get to in a second, by the way.) If not, here’s a looksie for reference:

Maybe “whatever” was something kids said in the 70s and 80s but if that’s the case, I’m willing to argue that the tone of the word was much more “I’m high” rather than “I’m super annoyed with you.” I picked it up in the 90s with the latter pitch and of course, it took us by storm and every other word out of our mouths was “whatever.” Oh, you don’t have nonfat milk? Whatever. You’re charging me for returning the movie I rented five minutes after it was due? Whatever. My car ran out of gas and I am now in a ditch at the side of the road? Whatever. Though now my “Whatever” has since evolved into a tone that sounds more like “I’m bored” or “you bore me” more than it does annoyance as it did in the original debut. Hmmm, incidentally I wonder if this sounds similar to the “I’m high” Whatever from the 70s…

Moving on.

The debate between Amber and Cher during (duh) Debate Class is a really key piece when analyzing the way this movie altered my communication with peers and the world around me. In this scene, the debate is about allowing Haitians to find refuge in the U.S. and what that would mean to America’s resources. When Amber’s character can’t figure out what the hell Cher said in her debate, the following dialogue develops in response to her teacher, Mr. Hall’s, request for a rebuttal.

Mr. Hall: …. Uh, Amber, reply?
Amber: Mr. Hall, how can I answer that? The topic is Haiti and she’s talking about some little party.
Cher: Hellooooo?! It was his fiftieth birthday!
Amber: [while doing “W” hand motion] Whatever!…. If she doesn’t do the assignment, I can’t do mine.

Working a little out of order, I’d like to share that I use this version of “hello” on a regular, if not daily, basis. It either means “Helllooooo (you’re a total moron)” or it means “Hellooooo (I know you and I love you but you’re having a complete and total brain fart right now and I need to draw your attention to it before this conversation goes any further.)” This movie’s debate scene really does contain some gems (or so we thought when we adopted their language.)
Now, with – Mr. Hall, how can I answer that? The topic is Haiti and she’s talking about some little party – the possibilities are limitless, really. Say someone asks you a question that’s loaded, or asks you a question that has 20 possible answers … this quote totally applies. In fact, I used this just the other day when I was telling a friend of mine that someone had asked me when I thought I’d be ready to have kids. Seriously, Mr. Hall, how CAN I answer that? Who the hell knows?? Is anyone really, truly ready to have kids?
I use – If she doesn’t do the assignment, I can’t do mine. – when someone doesn’t come through on what was promised. For instance,I was promised that we’d get the mock ups of our wedding THANK YOU cards by last week and I certainly did not get them…therefore I’m delayed in sending them out to our guests and those who got us wedding gifts. Do you see how this accurately applies to such a situation? It can also apply when someone doesn’t verbally give you the correct facts for any given situation, such as driving directions, steps through bureaucracy and so on.

There’s also:

“I have insight, Mr. Hall” – Travis Birkenstock says this in reply to Mr. Hall’s question on “futher insight.” I use it whenever I have a piece of information to share or when someone has asked my opinion on something.

“Suddenly a dark cloud settled over first period …”
– Cher says this when she discovers she got a C in Debate … I say this whenever things have taken a turn for the worse or when something unexpected happens. For instance, putting on a shirt only to later realize that it was dirty from the start! (Always an annoying realization and worthy of stating that a dark cloud has settled over first period.)

“Fluke accident during a routine liposuction” – Cher states this when describing how her mother passed away. I say “fluke accident” whenever I’ve f*cked up in a ridiculous manner.

“I so need lessons from you on being cool…tell me that part about Kenny G again.”
– Cher says this while making fun of her former stepbrother/future boyfriend. I say this whenever someone is trying to be better than me but failing miserably. As is the case with women who have mullet haircuts. I digress.

“Here’s the 4-1-1” – Dionne says this to Cher when giving her the scoop on their teacher, Mr. Hall. 4-1-1 is the three-digit phone number you dial in the U.S. for “Information” on phone numbers, addresses and other details about businesses. One calls “Information” when they want to know the number to the Italian Restaurant in ABC City. Therefore the use of “4-1-1” in daily life is pretty self explanatory.

“He earns minor duckets at a thankless job.” – Dionne says this to Cher about Mr. Hall. Since my friends and I started using these phrases right about when we graduated from college, it was pretty applicable to our own situations at the time, earning minor duckets at thankless jobs.

“I was surfing the crimson wave. I had to haul ass to the ladies’.” – Cher says this to Mr. Hall in defense of an alleged tardy to class. I use “I had to haul ass to the ladies'” generally speaking when I have to get somewhere STAT. Anywhere, mind you. Not just the bathroom. And just to clarify, the crimson wave has NOTHING to do with my use of the quote. Just so that’s clear.

“That doesn’t make any sense. I’d have to get off the freeway, I hate that.” – Elton says this to Cher when arguing about who will take who home after the Val party. I say “I hate that” when … I highly dislike or hate something. True, the three words are generic, but in my mind, TRUST ME, I’m giving mad props (or snaps as we’re talking about Clueless here) to the movie.

“I-a not a Mexican!” – Cher’s housekeeper yells this at her when Cher tells her that she doesn’t speak “Mexican” (as opposed to Spanish.) Since the housekeeper is from El Salvador, obviously she flips out. I just used to say this all the time because several times I was met with blank stares when I told people I was from Chile. It was as if being Latin was equal to being Mexican. In fact, my friends used to say this to me all the time, thinking they were being funny.

“That was way harsh, Tai.”
– Cher says this to her new friend, Tai, when Tai says something really mean to her. It’s applicable in real life in similar situations. Not that it necessarily needs to be used when a PERSON is mean, but in general when any given situation is plain whack. It can be shortened to “way harsh Tai.” A crowd favorite.

It’s crazy to think how certain movies affect individuals. I wonder how many movies have affected entire generations! But I don’t think it’s unheard of. I am willing to bet that everyone has a movie or two that really speaks his/her language. Or whose language they understand so well, said language is adopted. This was the case for me with Clueless… though some phrases I’ve dropped, there are many I continue to use. Further, there were terms in the movie I outright refused to adopt as well! “Betty,” or “I’m outtie (perhaps Audi like the car, who knows!) and “As if,” among others.

Had I studied linguistics as opposed to Communications in college, this would have been a really interesting thesis … but I digress. I have to haul ass to the ladies.

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