He was a talker. Busy. Anxious to please. He saw me lift my sleeve up and pull it back down, he didn’t know I was checking on my eczema. He thought I was cold. He turned his head around quickly and saw I was wearing a turtle neck. He didn’t know it was a turtleneck tank top. “Are you cold?” he implored.
“I can turn the air off.” he asked.
“No no, I like it.”
“Oh ok. Yes. Good. Because it’s really hot down there.” (By down there be meant in the city.)
“I am Alfonso. Anything you need I’m at your service.”
“Thank you, Alfonso.”
It was quiet again and that made him unstill.
“Do you have a sore throat?” he asked, looking at me through the rear view mirror and touching his throat.
“Oh. I thought. You were—“
“No no I’m fine.”
Again, quiet. But he wanted to talk.
“Are you here on vacation? Work?” He asked.
“Are you Central American? You have an accent like you could be…Guatemalan, Colombian…”
“No I’m North American,”
“North American! And you learned Spanish?”
“And I’m Alfonso, did I already tell you that? What is your name?”
“It is a pleasure to meet you, Sally. Anything you need you just tell me. Any questions, anything.”
“Thank you, Alfonso.”
He picked up his cell phone and spoke to it, giving it the address of my hotel. The female machinated voice started to give him directions in Spanish. He updated me: “24 km. Or 22 minutes. We will arrive at your hotel at 11:24.”
Alfonso proceeded to give me a demographic and geographic report of his country. I nodded along. After several minutes of talking he asked if I had ever been to Chile. I told him I had. And he laughed out loud, “so you already know all of this?”
“I don’t remember all the details, please continue.”
He told me about all the provinces in the country and the neighborhoods in Santiago. He told me the area I was staying in was very safe and I had nothing to worry about.
“There are places that really respect health. To include that you can’t smoke outside. Wait. Do you smoke?” He quickly turned around thinking he may have offended me.
“Good.” He sounded relieved, “Then you won’t have any problem. Because there are neighborhoods that you can’t smoke and if you do you’ll be fined.”
He went on, “You’ll be safe. For example. If someone says to you, “what a beauty!” We call that a cat call and you can’t do that. You can file a complaint. You are safe here. But it won’t happen so don’t worry.”
He asked me what I thought of Chilean people and after I had given my opinion he shared his opinion of his country and I loved that. He was proud.
We pulled up at a stop light and he pointed his finger out of the passenger side window, “you’re American! That’s your embassy.”
There was a sky-rise with a window cleaner halfway up.
Alfonso told me how different he thought Donald Trump and Bill Clinton were. How he thought that the quality of life in Chile was excellent. How their economy is doing really well right now and they have a lot of immigrants.
When we pulled up at the hotel he said, “It’s been a pleasure. May I give you my card? If you want a ride back to the airport when you’re leaving I’m happy to take you.”
He handed me the card and explained what each phone number meant. I tucked it in my purse and got out of the car. He jumped out after me. He was disappointed that the bell boy at the hotel had already gotten my one piece of luggage.
As I walked away he called after me, “Enjoy Chile!”