My Multiple Sclerosis has given me hell as of late and that combined with a cold has me on my cane and in a very bad mood. I had to go to Exito ( Colombia’s version of WalMart) to get a few things after being stuck in the apartment a couple of days. Walking the streets of Bogotá, people are not polite and will not vary their course except for their own desire. There are no exceptions – not even when I am on a cane…. they do not care! Two girls between 18 and 21 years old were walking to the handicap access for wheelchairs on the sidewalk and did they care I was on a cane and needed to use the access? Hell no! They stood blocking my way and I just raised my cane and said “Really”? I refused to move for them and eventually they step aside to let me pass. Okay, maybe this was just kids being the little bitches they can sometimes be. But then, inside Exito a woman with a buggy hit my cane as she passed, no excuse me (con permiso) or anything! Maybe it is just women in general? Then a man hits me mid chest with his shoulder as HE passes knocking me into the sugar display and my cane even tripped him just a little as he pushed on by and he gave ME the “f*ck you” look?? I have not had to use my cane while in a city this large before, so I do not WANT to say it is Colombians or even Bogotans, but what else would explain it? I am a Gringo, which is old code for Green Go Home referring to the green uniforms the U.S. military wears and the desire for the U.S. military to go, so is that it? Is my being an unwanted American the reason that even on a cane people are so rude here or is it everyone? Colombians in general are a great, friendly and even welcoming people…. but on the sidewalks… there is no evidence of this! I have talked about this with others even before the incidents on my cane and they have all said it is part of the Bogotá cultural experience and has nothing to do with my being American. But how can people who are so friendly otherwise accept this behavior?
Before any of this, an incident two days earlier may have heightened my aware of this behavior. I ventured out (on my cane) to my neighborhood coffee shop, just to get out of the apartment. Zaltan,the owner of the coffee shop, and I were visiting on the sidewalk in front of his coffee shop. From behind, I was knocked off-balance by someone passing by and when we looked to see who it was, it was an OLD man. I would say he was over 90 and walking very slowly on his cane. I guess he was so determined not to change his path to walk around me that he could not even say con permiso (excuse me) for me to move, but it was just acceptable to push me out-of-the-way. If the sidewalk was crowded, I would have been more understanding but it was not. His being on a cane I thought he should understand my difficulty walking or standing with a cane. I guess it is only an American cultural thing to say excuse me when something like this happens. I respect the elderly and would have gladly stepped to one side to allow him to pass, but my eyes looking forward are bad enough that the eyes in the back of my head do not work like they once did and did not allow me to see him coming from behind me. I do not know a lot of Spanish, but the first things I did learn were: con permiso (excuse me), por favor (please) and gracias (thank you)! Spanish for move is simply mover, so even if he did not want to be polite and ask, I would have understood if he had barked for me to move for him and I would have.
I do not know why this is bothering me so much. I love everything about being in Bogotá but this. It is the burr under my saddle now. It has always bothered me, but this past week, it has escalated to ANGERING me! Maybe because this is the only flaw I have found with life in Bogota that in my mind I have to exaggerate to the point of making it a problem so I can say Bogotá is NOT as perfect as I once thought! It is the one thing that is making me unhappy here and I see no way it is anything I can change or effect change. If the effects continue to make me so emotional and angry, I will consider moving to another city to give it a try there. Nothing like this happened in Medellin!