Last Friday I had to run an errand for my internship which involved taking three subte (subway) lines to a somewhat distant part of the city. At one point while in the subte system, I briefly took out the map that I had been given to figure out which way to go. I don’t think I looked terribly lost, but a man asked me where I was headed and proceeded to show me where to go; in fact, he said he was on his way to the same place. He walked with me to the platform for the train, waited with me, and sat next to me as well, all the while chatting and asking the typical questions of where I was from, what I was doing in Buenos Aires, etc.
He was perfectly nice and never seemed creepy or mal-intentioned, but I realized that the entire time I was talking to him – which was maybe 15 minutes in all – I never stopped thinking that maybe this was all a ploy to steal my purse – or worse. Even when he mentioned that he was on his way to pick up his seven year old son from school, I found myself wondering if that, too, was a well-planned lie.
Nothing happened, of course; once we left the subte system he pointed me in the right direction and headed the other way, leaving me to feel just a little bit guilty for not trusting him.
I’m sure some people would say that I was right to not implicitly trust a strange man when I’m by myself in a foreign country, but I don’t think I would have had the same suspicions before coming here. People in Buenos Aires just aren’t as friendly as in other cities – they don’t move out of the way on the sidewalk, and the only ones who return your smile are men who then mumble some flirtatious comment.
Perhaps I’ve gained a prudent sense of caution, but in turn I’ve lost a humane sense of trust. Hopefully the latter will return when I do; I miss living in a place where I don’t always think that everyone around me is up to no good.