It Was Drink or Swim

Cold and Numb

Cold. I’m really. Frickin’. Cold.

These are the only words that weave their way through my brain, shaken by the chattering of my teeth and the muted cacophony of small talk from the crowd behind me. AC/DC blares from the radio. I am so not in the mood.

I look over at my buddy Javier, his eyes wide and a little haunted. Very uncharacteristic. He’s just as tired and cold as I am.

The bowl of peanuts we scavenged from an empty table inside the bar helped a little bit — our hunger certainly wasn’t making the cold, wet rain any more tolerable — but the warmth from the last round of beers wore off before we even finished them.

“Crappy German imports and crappy weather,” I think. “What a country.”

Also: “I’ll probably get sick from those bar peanuts.” I tried to imagine that my stomach hurt so I’d have something other than the damp-numbness to worry about – but failed.

What a country indeed.

How We Got There

The night was looking promising when Javier and I arrived at the modest-sized live music room at Club 69. The bands were pretty good and there were plenty of people to sway and head-bob to the music with.

James Brown. Funk. Lots of soul. Love it.

A few rounds were purchased. Cheek-kisses exchanged.

After the show, Javi and I checked out the main dance hall of the club and weren’t really feeling it. We decided to go meet up with a friend who was at some kind of house party 7- or 8-blocks away instead of sticking around.

This proved to be a mistake.

Unbeknownst to us, and to our friend, a vital text message bearing word that she would be leaving said party and heading home to sleep (read: pass out) didn’t make it from her device to ours, and so upon arriving at the intersection we were directed to, we were unable to find the party or our friend.

Being nimble-minded chaps, we decided to head over to her place a handful of blocks away from our starting location.

Our Options

After a few minutes of ringing our friend’s doorbell, we accepted that she either wasn’t home or was in such a deep sleep that she may as well not have been there.

We went over our options quickly before deciding that we would have one more beer at the packed bar across the street and then snag a taxi home. It was only 4 am, and an early night (morning?) didn’t sound too bad.

Big mistake.

Our Prison

The moment we settled down at a table out in front of the bar it started to rain. The little droplets were immediately soaked up by the porous cement or bounced gaily from discarded styrofoam cups and plastic bags in the street.

So cute and unthreatening. Like a baby raptor.

A European couple ran out into the rain to hail a cab, which whizzed on by without stopping. The couple came back soaked, just as a trio of girls ran past them to flag down another oncoming cab, with identical results.

Traveling by taxi becomes very difficult in Buenos Aires as soon as it starts raining. All of the available cabs are taken, and many of the drivers simply don’t want to deal with the weather and drive home.

A few more sips of our cervezas and our predicament became clearer. There we were, safe under an overhang, but unable to leave. Our apartments in Recoleta were several miles away and the streets and sidewalks were beginning to flood.

The rain intensified, along with the wind. People were pulling further back from the edge of the overhang, their shoes getting soaked.

We were stuck.

The Problem

This wasn’t a life or death situation; the flood of water never came all the way up to the level of the bar, the crowd behind us was not going to stampede and trample us, and no laws of any kind (that I’m aware of) were being violated by the bar or taxis. Javier and I were in no danger at any point that night.

We were, however, incredibly annoyed and very uncomfortable. We waited three hours. Three hours before the rain let up just enough for us to run 4 or 5 blocks away from the crowd so that we could finally flag down a taxi without competing with everyone else at the bar.

We didn’t get back to our respective apartments until after 7 am, and the whole time we were thinking “What the hell is wrong with this place?”

We were stranded at a bar for 3 hours and each bought only one beer. Not great business. Not only that, but we walked away with bad feelings about that particular bar and the taxi services in Buenos Aires.

What a missed opportunity.

What Should Have Happened

Maybe I’m showing too much of my entrepreneurial geekdom here, but the whole time I was standing there, I was wondering how it was that some enterprising individual hadn’t yet come along and fixed (and profited from) this issue.

Just think of it: if no one in this immense city has yet to wrangle a deal with the taxi companies to guarantee service for their clientele, that’s an open opportunity for anyone ballsy enough (and with sufficient connections) to give it a go.

And any such effort would likely succeed spectacularly, because everyone involved would benefit.

The bars would be able to say they offered guaranteed taxi service within a half hour (perhaps a sign would be displayed, like “Wi-Fi Available” stickers, in the window), the taxis services would have a larger number of sure-fire passengers in the participating areas, and the consumers would be able to go out confident that whatever happens, they’ll have a ride home.

Then, of course, whomever starts the program would collect a fee from the business and the taxi service for organizing the effort, providing the window signs and making the connections. Everyone wins.

The Takeaway

Being a good entrepreneur is about more than just knowing how to set up an LLC or build a quick e-commerce website.

It’s about recognizing opportunities when you see them, having developed skill sets so that you can take advantage of them, and making sure that everyone walks away happy so that you can continue to do so in the future.

Leaving out any one of these components will leave you stranded with no way to reach your goals, and I can tell you from experience that you don’t want to be stuck in that kind of situation.

Update: November 25, 2016

Baby raptor! I don’t think I’ve laughed out loud at my own work like that before.

I used to be a lot more fixed within the entrepreneurial community back then than I am today. It was an audience I was happy to have for a long while, and I still have a large number of entrepreneurial folks reading my work these days, but it’s a different sort of person. Back then it was more of the five-flags crowd — those who fixated on the nuts-and-bolts and on dollars as main-metric of success. Today, it’s more of the creative sort, less likely to invest in an import-export business and more likely to be figuring out ways to make their passion project economically sustainable.

Neither is right or wrong, but they have very different focuses.

Also notable: remember life before Uber? Strange.