It’s been more than 15 years that I’ve started riding the subway almost daily. In all that time I’ve come to a few conclusions about our Chilean ways and customs regarding others.
For starters, we as a people aren’t comfortable in looking at other people. If it’s a couple of men crossing eyes, the idea of some kind of unspoken challenge might arise. This idea is exacerbated if one of the two has had a bad week. Thus, most males tend to avert eyes fast if “challenged”. If it’s two women, it’s mostly done kind of analysis of the other (ask this in my mind’s eye of course). They take notes on what they like in the other, discard the rest and move on with their life as nothing else happened. Finally the sensation I’m left with when a man and a woman meet their eyes, depends on the circumstance. If it’s a nice looking woman, I believe that they all tend to avert their eyes so as not to give the impression that they could be interested in their counterpart. Men on the other hand think take note on the nice looking ladies but disregard the others.
In the end nobody looks at the other to the eyes just to avoid some kind of trouble out conflict that their minds have concocted out of thin air.
All this is just eye contact in the subway. When it comes to having a seat available, I’ve seen people run to grab a seat in station Manquehue and then magically fall asleep before station Tobalaba so as not to give the seat the seat to someone who needs it more. I know that some people ride the metro for a long trip, but that doesn’t mean that a seat is so important that one has to run and almost fight for it. Just think the amount of time one is seated in the office or at work!
Finally the important issue. People riding the subway standing up (this because with the start of the Transantiago most people can’t sit on the floor for a lack of space overall). These people are mostly what I consider as “sheep”. Most of them travel many stations but nonetheless stay as close to the doors as possible, taking up comfortable travel space for the people who get off earlier, and keeping my space comfortable (I personally travel on the trains in-between cars which has lots of space) by staying near the door at all times.
Last but not least, are the people that are deaf but really aren’t. These people are the ones that when asked politely with an ” excuse me” or “would you mind letting me through please?” (“permiso” and “me deja pasar por favor?” respectively) a couple of times, they don’t move an inch or look around as to where they can move slightly so as to make some space. I know what I’m about to describe is not possible by most people, but luckily for me being bigger than most Chileans I can. When these people don’t make any effort or aren’t interested to move our anything of the sort, I become “slightly-annoyed-traveler-with-trample-syndrome”. When in this mode I simply push them out of the way as a plower would dirt out snow. I know this is not the right way, but when civility doesn’t make a difference with these individuals, one must treat them how they want to be treated. It’s slightly pleasing when having a rough week though.
Finally, all these individuals and situations have increased tenfold since I’ve started riding the metro all those years ago. It would seem that civility and our people skills are staying topside more often than not each year that passes. I’d wish that the ” seat-ers” and “stand-ers” would try to keep their civility with them everywhere they go and not leave them street side. The eye contact issue is more of a cultural topic of creating distance with each other that will not change easily. We Chileans are not considered a welcoming people with ourselves.
Just a thought.