In defense of frustration

I recently bought tickets for a concert that never happened. The whole process was what is commonly referred to as a “clusterf*ck.”

It was frustrating, but I know it was good for me.

First, my credit card didn’t work on the ticket website. I live in Colombia, and my credit card rarely works on local websites.

So, I just went to the ticket kiosk in a mall. (Malls are still a thing in Colombia.) But, there was a line of people 30 minutes long, and the kiosk was closing in 15 minutes.

I came back the next day, and the girl working at the ticket kiosk told me the system was down. I asked if she knew when it would come back up. She shrugged her shoulders and said ahorita. Ahorita roughly translates to “right now,” but where I live, it means “sometime in the next three hours.” (I’m not joking.) Quizás — maybe — it would be back up in half an hour.

This was mildly frustrating to my American brain, but I reminded myself I lived in Colombia. I sat in a comfortable chair in the mall and waited half an hour. When I went back to the kiosk, I was able to buy my tickets.

Something didn’t seem right when we arrived at the concert hall. Peering through the locked gates, we could clearly see there were no lights on in the building. There was nobody there except for a stray cat, and I don’t think she had a ticket.

Was it the right day? Was it the right time? I checked the website, and everything seemed fine.

We walked around the side of the building, as if we would find a secret entrance. There was a security guard there. He told us the concert was cancelled. Something broke in the building. He pointed at a ticket window where we could ask for our refund.

The guy at the ticket window pointed at a piece of paper. Given that they hadn’t bothered to post something about the cancellation on the website, there was something surprising about the piece of paper — that it was all printed on a laser printer, and such.

The piece of paper said that to get my refund, I’d have to travel across town to a particular ticket kiosks. I couldn’t do it right away. I’d have to wait a week.

A week later, the man at the ticket kiosk took my tickets, and called the home office of the ticket broker. After about 15 minutes on the phone, he handed me a piece of paper, and said in about 10 days, I’d get a refund on my credit card.

“You already have the money, now you have the tickets, so what happens now is you give me the money back,” is what I tried to explain to him in my bad Spanish. Self-conscious of my appearance as the impatient extranjero, I was relieved to see a few heads nodding in agreement in the line behind me.

It was no use. He wouldn’t budge. The tickets had to first be sent by carrier pigeon to the home office where they would be shredded, forgotten about, and sold as campfire tinder, he explained.

This experience was really f*cking frustrating, but it’s not unusual. In fact, amongst the expats living here, we have a word for it. It’s what my friend and I turned and said to each other when we learned the concert had been cancelled: Colombia.

It may sound completely disparaging, but it’s not. Wrapped up with the frustration with the malfunction at hand, is the frustration with our selves: that we’ve once again fooled ourselves into thinking we have control over, or are entitled to, much of anything in this life. The subtext begins as [f*ck you, Colombia], with the admission: [thank you, Colombia].

As for the tickets, the carrier pigeons died of bird flu, and the refund never got processed. I did a chargeback.

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