It’s been almost a month since I have been inspired to write here on this page, but, thankfully due to a spark of creativity brought about by my fruitless attempt to zigzag my way around and ahead of a slow-moving thicket of weekday lunchtime amblers, I came up with the idea for the “the Bogotá Stereotype”.
Perhaps this is not the most original subject and is similar to my list of Colombian Paradoxes and of course, I could be met with (he sighs) the usual responses of: “you can always leave,” but there is some humour to be enjoyed here and I have taken a leaf from both the excellent collection of Social Stereotypes from the Telegraph Magazine and the write-ups mocking Summer Intern season in the Washington Post.
So, in this the Bogotá Stereotype No1, I am eager to draw attention to and hopefully create a fondness for the “Oficinista”. Yes, the very same sea of bodies leaving some nondescript office block on the dot of midday, walking five abreast, at least, with no particular destination seemingly in mind. Except that’s not the case, they are all heading to the lunchtime specials at the nearest corrientazo or indeed to the recently installed easy food counters of Carulla.
Of course, the five abreast will consist of a Queen Bee and/ or a Toxic Leader. Either one of these will have taken full advantage of the early bird beauty salon special (between 6 and 6.30am) to ensure a perfect manicure and perfectly straightened hair. The, I’ve-just-rolled-out-of-bed-somebody-grab-me-a-Starbucks bedraggled look so beloved of London’s Hoxton is not de rigueur here in Bogotá.
The genuine Oficinista may well be on the same wage as when they entered this same company straight after university and will probably still be living at home in a location such as a distant extension of Suba. Due to a real fear of redundancy, a stagnant job market and a lack of family money, the Oficinista is by and large happy with their lot but knows fully well that until he or she can combine wages with that of their partner’s they will not be able to afford to move out and independizarse. Even then, there’ll be no disposable income.
Taking the Transmilenio at the mouth-breathing rush hour (each Oficinista has been pickpocketed at least once on the TM) to and from work is part of the grind and the hour break for lunch is the highlight of a day spent filling archives and files with mindless bureaucracy. Office flirtation between Oficinista colleagues is the norm. The most reliable Oficinista is the one who shuns the pavement gridlock and extracts a Tupperware container at lunchtime and queues patiently for the one communal microwave provided in the building.
The Bogotá Stereotype No1: The Oficinista.
Oh! The pavement gridlock! I actually did not ever think it was humanly possible to walk so slow, excepting the elderly with a fear of falling, until I moved to Bogota.
avoid all pavements between 1155am and 1pm!
It's different now. 30+ years ago, when so many offices and businesses took a 2-hour break, it was a mad rush to get home for lunch…OK, maybe not so much in Bogotá where 2 hours wouldn't get you home and back, but in other cities. With the coming of the jornada contínua in the '80s, things got much more compressed…again, it's been a bigger cultural and traffic change in places like Bucaramanga than Bogotá, but even there it's different now. I like it better now, because in Bucaramanga in the 1980s there were areas where it was actually hard to find lunch! So many people went home, and the ones who didn't bought monthly tickets at "almorzaderos" that didn't know what to do with walk-ins, that you really could walk for blocks and not find anything. That's inconceivable now.
Lol. I use the same word to refer to this specimens. Loved the wage part, since i think like that as well. I'd rather leave the country than working here.