Thursday, September 25, 2014

"You won't sleep tonight"

About 8 months after we moved into our current house, two bars opened about a block away, right in front of each other. There is an unusual marketing strategy here that I refuse to believe works, but everyone swears by: the louder the music, the more customers. Taking into account the bar that is directly across the street, confusingly named “Cafeteria Mi Casa” (they don’t sell sandwiches), we are surrounded from about 10 am until midnight on the weekdays and until 2 am on the weekends (including Sunday, which oddly counts as a party all-night kind of day).

The three bars also have another marketing strategy which baffles me: play the same music every single day, all day. YellingSlurringSinging along to music is easier, apparently, when you’ve heard the song 82 times that day. Each of the bars play the same seven sexually-explicit&suggestive bachata songs over and over and over and over again. My favorite (sarcasm-light) is when a song is played at one bar, then the other will start, then the last will play it so you can hear it three times in a row (in addition, of course, to the other songs being played/blasted at the same time). After we’d lived here a year, I tried to spin the constant noise into something positive in my life. Every time I heard the most popular song, I did 25 jumping jacks.

The song goes something like this (yes, the lyrics to every. single. song. come in loud and clear from these open-air establishments) with my rough translation in bold and my commentary in brackets:
Tonight I’m going to look for you [Already I’m terrified]
I can’t take it anymore [Neither can I, dude]
I’m so desperate [Noted]
My bed is waiting for you [Creepy! Tell it to stop.]
My bedroom is calling you [Are you high?]
I can’t take the wanting anymore! [I think they have a pill for that]
I want to get you totally naked [Zora says, “Do you know what he just sang, Mom?!” O goodness.]
And explore your entire body [I had an MRI last year, thanks]
You won’t sleep tonight [Because you’re singing SO. DANG. LOUDLY.]
We’ll make love like crazy! [You’ve really thought this through, I see.]

You get the idea. Anyway, my sanity+fitness endeavor lasted less than two weeks, however, as I was constantly sweaty and tired having done hundreds and hundreds of jumping jacks each day.

Failing to think of another positive spin, I then pretended it wasn’t there. Visitors made this endeavor extremely difficult by constantly mentioning it. We had decided it wasn’t going to bother us and then had to defend our stance to countless people who tried problem solving the situation, perhaps not realizing that we’d already been at it a while.

When my imagination failed, I then fantasized about lasers, BB guns and scramblers to ruin the sound systems. I felt terrible about myself for wishing harm on others’ property. I was extremely conflicted each time the bars closed early or didn’t open at all for a day as the reasons were always grave. When one of these bars doesn’t open its because someone close to the owner has died. When one closes early, its generally because the power has been out for more than 8 hours in our neighborhood and their back-up power can’t run any longer or someone was severely injured or killed at their place of business. Usually by a gun. Don’t be surprised, because the bar owners aren’t. What happens when you mix deafening music with alcohol and no law? Let me tell you, it ain’t a good time. And anyone who tells you it is a good time has never lived like that for any period of time.

When I had Dengue in November last year, I had a complete break-down. I was found sobbing on our roof in the pouring rain. Note: I am not an easily depressed person. If I’m sad, it’s for moments or maybe an hour. It is not a struggle of mine. But the Dengue, plus not having been able to leave the house (or my bed) for ten straight days, meant I couldn’t take it anymore. Something in me had snapped, broken. Since then, almost a year ago, I haven’t been able to find peace with the noise.

Forget about the police. They’re paid off each month to stay away. Forget about the crazy white lady asking that they kindly turn it down so her children can sleep, it gets turned up again as soon as I’m back in my front door. Forget about turning your radio/tv up to drown out the sound, their speakers are far more powerful. Forget about closing all your windows to, at minimum, muffle the noise. You’ll die of heat stroke while still hearing drunken karaoke. If this thing is going to change, it has to be a community effort. And as long as I’m the only one publicly voicing my disgust (despite constant complaints from every neighbor in private conversations), this thing ain’t gonna change. No need to spend my energies on this one.

So, in the footsteps of all our neighbors in the last year who were either renting (and got out!) or their US visas finally came through, we’re moving out of this neighborhood.

Now we just have to find a house.

You Can't Break Up with Me. Ever.

The kids started at a new school about a month ago. Its changed my life. All of a sudden, there are waking hours in my day for uninterrupted work and chores. Because the universe works this way, at right about the same time several absolute time-suckers appeared in my life, but those are not quite ready to be written about.

As it is, one morning a few weeks ago, I decided to finally break up with Claro (If you're a bit late to the game, this is the phone company we've been using the last three years and they are--in a word--criminals). I had heard that another company, Viva, was decent and you could simply pop your SIM card into any smartphone and be ready to go. Sounds great!* We were just given a couple old smartphones. Maybe I would finally have a phone that I could hear ring and wouldn't constantly send me texts (unblocking my keypad!) asking me if I wanted to see Carolina's private photos or get the day's hottest sex jokes.
I marched into a Viva office and declared that I wanted to break up with Claro.

Me: Can I keep my same phone number and come be with you?
VivaRep: Yes. You'll just need to answer a few questions. Why are you leaving Claro?
Me: Because "Claro: Where every frustration is possible."
          (Claro's marketing byline is: "Claro: Where everything is possible")

VivaRep filled out the necessary form according to my answers, checked my identification and had me sign electronically. It was so easy. Too easy. I was told to return in three days to get my new SIM. Ah, customer service.
I'd never broken up with anyone in such an indirect way before. I didn't have to go and talk to Claro face to face or even leave a cowardly voice message. Someone else was going to do it for me.
I'd been broken up with like that before in the 6th grade:
ScabbyKnees6thGrader: "Jason doesn't want to go out with you anymore."
Me, slightly confused: "Jason who asked me out two days ago?"
ScabbyKnees: "Yup."
Me: "Jason who only wears blue sweat shorts every day?"
ScabbyKnees: "Yeah, bye!"
Me: "Ok."
And then Jason moved away. He is now a successful business man who started a service company specializing in outsourcing breakups. Admittedly, he is still single.

What happened after three days? Nothing. My Claro phone still works. I don't have a Viva SIM. Claro didn't deny my request. They just completely ignored it and pretended we were still together. So far, its working out for them. And Viva has given up. Perhaps I should give Jason a call.

*Note the truth about Viva: You can use any UNLOCKED smartphone, just like anywhere else. Even after discovering this, though, I still preferred the unknown, new relationship over the old, abusive one.