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There are language barriers even for those of us who try hard and speak fairly well. I once spent months in South America with a fellow road warrior named Dave Radder. Radder is something of a legend in the industry, and while working in Buenos Aires we shared taxi rides together. And Dave had a particular way of handling any driver who began firing a barrage of Spanish too quickly to even begin to understand. Dave would slump in his seat, turn his gaze out the window, wave his hand away and mutter, "Whatever."
I was amused to find that the natives handled us in a similar fashion. In the Sensu Restuarant's open air cafe in the fashionable Recoleta section of Buenos Aires, Radder and I were entertained for several nights by a Brazilian singer. One night he donned a red bandanna, and I called to him that he looked just like Jimi Hendrix. The man looked at me quizically, obviously having no idea what I had said, but smiled and replied, "Yeah, shomshing like dat."
"Why do they want to kill him?" I ask.
"Because he does not share. The policia don't mind if you rob bank, but you must share."
"Is the bank robber a friend of yours?"
"No, he is acquaintance."
"Does he have a family?"
"Si, he has wife and children."
"What would happen, say, if you warned this guy about the policia, and then the policia found out? Would you be in trouble?"
"Oh si, si."
"Then the hell with him," I advised, "don't warn him. Your responsibility is to your own family. He's the one that chose to rob banks."
Andre nods. He thanks me very formally for the advice and goes to work. When Richard Campbell arrives, the owner of the garage and Andre's boss, I ask for an explanation.
"Are they really going to kill him?" I ask.
"Oh no no no!" Richard says, shaking his head as though it is all nonsense. "They just want to shoot him in the leg. He robbed a bank but he won't share. This is not the way things are done here. If they killed him, they wouldn't get any of the money at all. That would be stupid."
I explained Andre's problemo.
"Oh, I've already warned the guy. There is no problemo. I told him not to come to the garage for at least two months. By then the policia will give up, because they'll know the money will be all spent by then."
"They'll give up? They won't go after him?"
"Oh no. If the money's all gone, there's no sense in it. He's not a bad guy, he's not a murderer or a drug addict. He just wants the money, you know, to eat out and buy things. He's a good customer, pays his bills. But he should share, you must know how to get along here. Do you understand?"
I nodded my head.
"Yeah, shomshing like dat."