Not Typical

by Jack
(Villarrica, Chile)

Although there was one scene shown world-wide hundreds of time of a man carrying a crated washing machine which he had presumably stolen in total daylight from a department store, I don't find this typical of Chileans or the country.

Following the earthquake I was stranded in a small town because there wasn't any gasoline available. I got in line with my vehicle one morning to buy gas and about three cars to go, the station ran out of gas.

Although there were dozens of people who also were stranded the line simply disbanded and people went back to their homes or where they were staying.

The next day I learned that the station was again selling gas and asked, before I got into line if it was likely that I would get served. When I learned that gas was rationed but that I'd likely get my share, I put my vehicle in line.

After about 5 minutes in line I discovered that I'd left all my money where I was staying and feared that if I gave up my place in line, I'd end up without gas again.

I asked the man who was in the vehicle behind me, a complete stranger, if he would hold my place in line and move my vehicle up as it advanced while I went to get my wallet ... he said no problem and was kind enough to help.

When I returned about 15 minutes later the line had advanced but I still had to wait a few minutes more to reach my turn at the pump.

When I arrived at the pump, I learned that credit cards were not being accepted because the online payment network was not working and went inside to arrange with the station manager some arrangement to pay. As I returned to my vehicle, the electricity went off and the pumps couldn't operate.

It was over two hours before the electricity was restored but during this time I observed that little by little people arrived on foot carrying gasoline cans. When they arrived at the pumps and learned that the pumps weren't operating they simply set down their can in a neat row and went off to find a cool spot in the shade to wait for the power to come on.

In the two hours while I was waiting, I never noticed even one instance of anyone arriving with an empty can attempting to switch its place to a more favorable position which would have been quite simple to do since no one was supervising the line or any of the other can owners nearby to observe.

This impressed me as a very orderly respect for the position of others which was not imposed or regulated in any way.

An unfortunate outcome of all this for these people was that just before the power was restored, the station manager, informed all the can owners that because the sale of the fuel was rationed, no fuel would be dispensed for anyone who was not in a vehicle which had taken a place in the line. There were a few protests, which is normal, but when they realized that this was a firm decision, they disbursed without any incident.

It may also be important to note that this was the only service station within 15 miles and that at no time during my wait in line were there any police or security personnel present.

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