There’s a woman who works in my building’s “Conserjería” (front desk) who doesn’t like me.
From what I can tell, she works here five days a week, primarily cleaning each floor and the surrounding area of the building. Sometimes however, I think she relieves the door man during lunch and she’s sitting at the front desk when I come in from wherever it is I’ve been.
The way the mail works in most apartment buildings in Santiago (or Chile for that matter) is that each apartment has their own “cubby” down at the front desk and the “conserje” (front door/desk person) hands you the mail you may have. So you see, we don’t get our mail directly to our door or in our own personal mailbox where we personally retrieve it. Always, it’s handed to us. This also means that when you’re walking in and out of the building you have to take note of anything that may be in there. If there is, you approach the front desk and ask for your mail.
Every time I see her I say hello but I can tell she’s trying really hard to avoid saying hi to me. I remember when I first moved in that I was shy and felt awkward in general about being here so perhaps I myself gave off weird or mean vibe. I don’t know. But then as time passed, I’ve become more comfortable and definitely say hello to all the building employees and ask about them, their day or talk general current events. I try to do so with her as well, but to no avail. She just isn’t having it.
Then one day, I realized why she doesn’t like me: Coming in from having been at the gym, I went up to the front desk and asked for the mail in our cubby. She looked at me and said: “It must be nice to be able to ask for your bills.” I didn’t say anything besides “Oh, I just don’t want us to get behind,” but it was at that moment that I realized that she dislikes me simply because I have a different reality than she does and we’re the youngest couple/family in the building. She dislikes me simply because she thinks I’m a “cuica” (person with money, type of yuppy, with bad connotations) and people from “her” world naturally treat people from “my” world in this manner. [This “manner” is, simply put, that she’s not nice, she doesn’t smile, when she sees me coming, she avoids all contact with me, she looks at me with a smirk and she says ridiculous things such as the above to me.]
One of these days I want to force her to look at me and tell her that I grew up poor. That my mom and I shared a one bedroom for as long as I can remember during my childhood. That many times I didn’t really have Christmas presents. That my mom would eat canned food so as to give me better food. That I went to a scary public school during my first 4 years of school in the U.S. and only after IMMENSE sacrifice from my mom and lobbying for a scholarship, was I able to go to a private school. That my mom cleaned houses when I was little. That I never had a summer vacation because I had to get up with her and sit in these huge mansions everyday, in the kitchen, while my mom cleaned all day long. I want to tell her that I know what it’s like to have very little and to STILL be nice to everyone… and I want to tell her that I am where I am now because of my mom’s sacrifices and because of my personal efforts and desire to succeed. And I want to ask her, who does she think she is, making me feel bad for being successful?
I know that it’s easy to look at people who have more material wealth than you and snicker. It’s easy to be envious that their lives are so much easier and that they don’t literally sweat while they work. But when I’m feeling those pangs of envy about someone who never has to save and never has to plan for the future as I do, I stop short of assuming they’re bad people I can’t like. I stop short of assuming they were always that fortunate.
I have such a profound respect for people who have worked for what they have, whatever that may be. It’s all relative. Perhaps my friends are working hard for cars, or houses or careers, while right now I’m working hard for a nice wedding. Maybe someone who is a millionaire worked hard to become CEO of the company that made him or her a millionaire. Who am I to criticize where they are and where they want to be, if they have worked for it?
Of course there’s always the quintessential “cuica” who comes from generations and generations of “cuicos” and well, yes, they’re annoying and yes they’re even MORE annoying here in Santiago where there’s a huge chasm between have’s and have not’s and these cuicos tend to have no sense of reality. But the whole attitude going on with this lady who works in my building needs to be readjusted…it’s just SO cliche and SOOOO “Pretty In Pink.” Aside from the fact that it makes me feel BAD and then I get pissed that I feel bad in the first place because unlike the typical cuica that she thinks I am, I come from a long line of hard workers and I’ve succeeded due to work and effort!
Por ultimo (that’s to say, “in conclusion”), can we just consider Andy’s words to Ducky in “Pretty in Pink” when she tells him “Listen to me – if we hate them because they have money, it’s the same as them hating us because we don’t.”