“The A factor.” This is the label some acquaintances of ours apply to anything here that challenges American logic. For example, when I saw a mom drive up to day care this morning with her kid in her lap, I labeled that The A factor (more commonly, the baby or kid is in the passenger’s lap in the front seat or rolling around loose in the back seat).
Up to this point, the A-factor has been an opportunity for private judgment or a shoulder shrug. Today it got under my skin.
In almost any store, even a big grocery store, one can be expected to provide close to exact change. The first time I got a pedicure—and it was a strange experience for a few reasons—the woman could not make the equivalent of $4 in change, even after rummaging around in her purse, so she sold me a nail file I didn’t need. When paying for a pastry that costs two and a half pesos, I am not surprised to hand the cashier a five peso bill and hear “Do you have 50 centavos?”
This afternoon, Lou and I needed to take a remise to tae kwon do class and I wasn’t going to risk handing the driver a 100 peso bill (about $20) for a ride that cost $4. So on the way home from school I decided to buy Lou a gaseosa (soft drink) at a kiosco to break the 100 peso bill. For good measure, I put two bottles on the counter: 14 pesos ($3). The cashier asked if I had anything smaller than the 100, and I said no. He looked in is his till and dug in his pockets and, apparently coming up short on coins, asked if I had a peso. No. Another guy working in the store didn’t have one either, so Guy #1 threw up his hands as in, “What can I do?” It turned out Guy #2 did have a peso down in the depths of his pocket lint, so I was able to leave without further incident, but Guy #1 acted seriously put out. Whaaa?