I met some of my new Argentinian neighbors Sunday evening — in quite a funny way.
While this story takes place Sunday, it really starts last Friday, when I went out to dinner with two Americans who moved here around a month ago. During dinner, they told me about a mobile app that allows you to order food for delivery in Buenos Aires. I honestly can’t remember the last time I ordered food for delivery, so I didn’t plan to use the app but made note of it anyway.
Sunday evening, I went to the grocery store. Before going, I made a list and used Google Translate to figure out what everything would be en Español. I then walked down the street to the local supermarket only to discover it was closed — likely because it was Sunday. Duh. So I turned around and went home.
Remembering the app my new American friends had mentioned, I downloaded it. The app was all in Spanish, so it took me some time to navigate. But with the help of Google Translate, I was able to place an order for a margherita pizza.
Fast forward an hour. The delivery time came and went. I opened the app and chatted with customer service. After a bit of back and forth, I discovered the delivery guy had come. But he hadn’t known which apartment to ring and couldn’t call my cell phone because I didn’t have a Buenos Aires number.
So the customer service rep spoke with the restaurant and told me they were sending the delivery guy out again. I was told to wait outside in 10 minutes, so I did just that.
A few minutes later, a guy pulled up on a motorbike. I greeted him and asked if the order was for Emily. He didn’t really answer as he hurriedly got off the motorbike, opened the hot box on the back of it and handed me a pizza box.
It looked quite large for an individual pizza and also felt too heavy for a margherita pizza.
So I asked again, “For Emily?”
“Si, si,” he said.
The box was wrapped — much like a present — in twine, so I couldn’t easily or quickly open it to double check the pizza.
I checked the receipt for my name. There was no name, but the address was correct.
Still confused, I handed the delivery guy my money, which I’d counted and set aside based on my order total. He shook his head and pointed to the price on the receipt. I needed 120 pesos more.
By now, I was really quite confused. I knew this wasn’t my pizza, and as much as I tried to gesture and decline the pizza, he didn’t seem to understand that it wasn’t mine.
“Margherita pizza?” I asked.
“Si, pizza,” he said, pointing at the receipt.
I looked at the receipt again. It was a pizza, but it wasn’t a margherita pizza.
After a bit of back and forth and him explaining, in Spanish, that I didn’t have the right amount, I went back inside — with the pizza that wasn’t mine — and came back with the appropriate amount of pesos. He gave me my change and left.
Confused by the whole encounter — and knowing the pizza I’d received wasn’t mine — I went back inside, took the receipt to my computer and translated the name of the pizza. Without even opening the box, I knew it had meat on it; I’m vegetarian. Sure enough, it was a ham pizza. (So in addition to “pollo” and “carne,” I can now recognize “jamón” on menus.)
I opened the box and examined the ham pizza. Bzz! The buzzer for my apartment rang. Bzz! It rang again. I scrambled to get my keys, get out the door and go to the gate.
I thought — I hoped — the delivery guy had recognized the mistake and come back to give me the correct pizza.
Not the case.
Another delivery man was standing on the street with a miniature box, likely containing my individual margherita pizza.
I smiled and greeted him. He held up the little brown box. I tried my best to explain that someone had just delivered a pizza to this same address. He furrowed his brow and checked the address. He was confused. I was confused — and apologetic. He left.
I’ll admit I wasn’t quite thinking straight. I already had one pizza; for whatever reason, I really didn’t want two, even if the second one was my pizza. It was silly to not take it — I do realize this — but at that point, the gears in my brain just weren’t churning fast enough.
I returned to my apartment and looked at the box. Why hadn’t I thought to do that when the first delivery guy was there? It was from a totally different restaurant. I’d ordered from Antonia’s; this pizza was from Pizzeria Napoles. Ay yi yi, Emily.
I really didn’t want a ham pizza. I also didn’t want a pizza I’d just paid for to go to waste, especially since it had meat on it.
So I thought through my options. I don’t speak Spanish, so calling the restaurant didn’t seem like a sound idea.
I sat down and looked at the receipt again. My apartment is one of six at the same address. Like I said, the pizza I’d received had the address for my building on it but no unit number.
Ding ding ding!
One of my neighbors must’ve also ordered a pizza at the same time. Maybe I could knock on my neighbors’ doors to see if this was someone else’s. Someone had to be missing a pizza. It just might work.
I FaceTimed with my aunt and told her the story. She agreed I should knock on my neighbors’ doors.
So I grabbed the pizza, walked out my door, went upstairs and knocked on the door to the apartment above mine.
A woman’s voice came from behind the door. She was talking in Spanish, of course, and I didn’t understand. Using what I’d learned from Google Translate, I tried my best to make sense: “¿Pidiste una pizza?”
She didn’t understand.
I tried again. “¿Pizza?”
She still didn’t understand. There was a pause. Some shuffling. A man’s voice came from the other side of the door. I repeated myself. No, they hadn’t ordered a pizza.
“Lo siento. Gracias,” I said as I turned and walked back downstairs.
I knocked on the door to the other ground floor apartment. A young woman answered.
“¿Pizza?” I said as I held up the box and smiled hopefully. She shook her head. She seemed friendly enough — and intrigued — so I tried my best to explain with gestures and facial expressions that it wasn’t my pizza. I pointed to the receipt to show her the address. She seemed to understand.
She smiled, walked outside and called up to the neighbor whose door I’d just knocked on. He kindly repeated it wasn’t theirs.
We walked up the stairs to the two apartments above hers.
“Me llamo Emily,” I said as I followed her.
She knocked on the first of two doors and spoke to a man through the door. No luck; it wasn’t his pizza either.
She turned and knocked on the other door. Two dogs barked. A man opened the door.
She asked if he’d ordered a pizza. He looked at me. I held up the box and smiled.
“Si!” he said.
He looked from her to me, smiling and slightly confused. We all laughed a little. I handed him the box. As he reached into his pocket for money, Ariana said something to him in Spanish.
He handed me money. It was too much. I ran back to my apartment to get change. When I came back, he tried to turn it away. I laughed and handed it to him. I really didn’t need a tip for intercepting his ham pizza!
“Me llamo Emily.” I introduced myself to him, too.
A failed attempt at ordering food and a mixup of pizzas — that’s how I met a few of my new, very nice Argentinian neighbors.