Day 06: Frustrations.
6 dicembre 2021

Our day starts off well. It is excruciatingly hot here and we decide to visit a craft market not far from our hotel. It is very nice and quaint. Full of merchandise and souvenirs. In the various stands you can find all sorts of locally produced items such as clothing, hats, jewelry, artistic objects in pre-Columbian colors and styles. The environment is very suggestive, with music and friendly sellers. It is clearly designed for visitors and tourists. Loyal to our mission, we start to ask around if it is possible to pay in bitcoin. About 40% of the shopkeepers allow it and in fact they display the orange symbol outside their businesses. When those who don’t accept them yet hear us say that we can only pay in cryptocurrency and see us enter the adjacent store they look at us a bit strange. It’s Darwin’s law: evolve or become extinct.

With surprise we notice that among the products on sale there are several that represent President Bukele in almost mystical poses. Mugs, t-shirts, even masks: a true hymn to the cult of personality that we had only seen in Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Let’s hope this is not a bad omen.

We don’t buy anything but we’ll definitely be back for gifts before we leave the country. We order two bottles of Coca Cola at a food stall. The owner knows how to produce a QR lightning and the transaction goes smoothly. In the last few days the Chivo wallet seems to have stopped acting up, to be honest. Better that way.

In the afternoon we decide to visit a few places in the surrounding area of San Salvador. There is a lot to see around here. Lakes, volcanoes with concentric craters and forests. All just a few kilometers away. And this is where our day takes an unexpected turn.

In yesterday’s blog we triumphantly announced how Uber would be the most convenient and fastest way to get around the country. Overnight we bought a gift card in bitcoin and added it into the app, but even though we have $100 in credit, Uber still asks us to register a credit card. No harm done, we will always use Bitrefill anyway so this does not contravene the rules of our mission. After entering the Mastercard details, however, at the moment of confirming the first ride, the app tells us that the payment method is invalid. We try several times but there is no way to bypass this step, forcing the service to use the Uber cash credit already present. We change credit cards, insert a third one. Nothing to do. It keeps telling us invalid payment. The frustration begins to be felt and we decide to contact the customer service. After about ten minutes, an email informs us that our method of payment is not valid according to the “terms and conditions” of the company, referring us to a document of ten pages all written in strict legalese. We ask if they can be more precise, if they can tell us clearly what the problem is and if they can help us solving it. The answers are laconic and always refer to the infamous “terms and conditions”. We can’t get out of it, so we ask to speak with an operator. The answer is deaf and no one gives us a direct contact. We are always served the usual mantra and we get the suspicion that we are dealing with a bot. But it’s not like that, the emails carry names and surnames. We’re really talking to employees of the lousy Uber service. Three hours after we’re still stucked.

As this comedy of horrors worthy of the movie Idiocracy unfolds before our eyes, we can think of nothing but the stark reality: Bitcoin fixes this.

Because you see what the problem is, right?

In order to pay 15 flea-bitten dollars for a ride, a cumbersome series of superfluous international intermediations must be activated. The app has to ask permission from the credit card provider, who has to get the okay from the bank, who has to communicate to Uber’s bank, who has to give the app the green light. All of this in 2021, when at the speed of lightning we could give cryptographic proof to the system of the actual possession of our value, and carry out an inviolable and mathematically irreversible transaction, without the need for any further guarantee from third parties. To protect the privilege of a few we have built around us a world unnecessarily complex, which today is obsolete as well as idiotic and must be eradicated from the foundations.

After hours of trying we throw in the towel not knowing if we will ever be able to use Uber in El Salvador.

The only positive note of the afternoon is that at a certain point the hunger pangs remind us that out of frustration we even forgot to have lunch. Laura goes down to the reception desk to order two sandwiches and the attendant, smiling, opens the Chivo wallet and, navigating all by himself in the Machiavellian settings, selects a Lightning payment. Our role as adorable pain-in-the-ass educators is having its effects. The Salvadorans are learning.

Last remark: if I were Pope Francis I would make an official endorsement to Bitcoin as soon as possible because the blasphemies we have launched today because of Uber and the traditional financial system would have annihilated even the most sophisticated pantheon.

Now night has fallen in San Salvador and we’re going to drown our sorrows in a bucket of gin and tonic. That’s all for today. See you all tomorrow.