Rated R (Language)
Rule Number Three:
Expect everything to take longer in Costa Rica.
This is easily misunderstood as a bad thing, but smart people evolve a healthy attitude regarding slowing down in life—which serves them well in the end. Don’t plan on accomplishing more than one or two tasks per day and you’ll be fine. When going to Official Offices, eat first, pee, and bring War and Peace.
I let the car take us down the hill in second gear while marveling at the clarity of the air. There was no mist over Cortes—the small banana town Dole built and abandoned some fifty years ago, leaving only poor field workers in rudimentary dwellings. All was crystal clear, especially since I was wearing my glasses. This is a semi white-knuckled drive even on the best of days. Rain from the night before may have caused landslides, but the national utility company has been efficient about cleaning up. Same with power outages—we’re usually back online within a couple hours. But today is perfect for driving into town. We’re on our way to the local ICE (e-say) office in order to set up our internet.
I parked across the street from the small, brightly painted office, turned to Babe and said, “Good luck.”
“You too.” We are nearly confident and go inside.
Diego is at his desk but busy with another customer. He takes special care not to make eye contact, it seems, as we take a number and sit down. There’s always a small TV somewhere in banks and offices showing Discovery Channel documentaries about wild animals who feed on humans. I settle in to wait as a crocodile tears the arm off a golfer looking for his ball, leaving the rest of him to be devoured by carnivorous ants
.Much later, our number is next and Diego is finished with his customer. He grabs his cell phone and walks out the door. Lunch time. A distinguished looking gentleman takes his place and it’s our turn. He read every word of each document we have, opened his computer, and read something there for ten minutes.
“No puedo.” (He can’t.) “Blabbity-blah con bippity essay eee…..” I could tell it wasn’t going to happen, for some reason. I think we got stuck on the address line. The subsequent ninety minutes was made up of his trying to explain something to us, which we didn’t understand, consulting with his colleagues, reading his computer, reading more of our documents, saying “No puedo” and sighing heavily. Fortunately, I had the bright idea to call our lawyer so he could explain the papers he drew up for us. They spoke for about ninety seconds, after which the gentleman said “Perfecto,” hung up, and went back to his computer.
“Yes!” I said to Babe, exchanging mental high-fives. We had done it by ourselves, sorta. I looked behind me. There were two dozen people waiting where there were three when our number was called. “Wow, it’s getting dark outside,” I noticed. Strange, since it was only a bit after noon. No sooner had I noticed than it started raining. Big, tropical drops, then water balloons until…
Power outage at the utility company! I wanted to say “Are you kidding me?” so I did. Not now, we’re so close! Flashlights were produced and incomprehensible chatter followed. Power returned after five minutes. The rain was so thick I knew running for the car would completely soak me. We had an umbrella but it was in the car, naturally.
Twenty minutes later, he had put the proper chip in our hardware, handed us papers to sign and our PIN numbers, sank back in his chair with a huge sigh of relief and we shook hands good-bye. Mission accomplished. I had to get back up the mountain to tend bar for a private party (since Alonso, the new bartender, had the night off and Twinkletoes couldn’t handle fifty people by himself) and we still had some shopping to do. I ducked my head and ran to the car.
“Nice job, Babe,” I said as she got inside. I had pulled up to the front door so she wouldn’t get too wet. Water dripped off my nose. I blew on a drop and it landed on her forehead. “Oh, sorry.”
She laughed and fist-pumped. “Yes!” Now she would be able to play online poker from the comfort of our own deck. Some people drink. Some smoke pot or meditate. Babe plays Texas Hold ‘Em. She’ll be happier now that she has her internet. I’m happy we don’t have to get a TV.
What followed is best described in Screenplay format:
Our couple drives out of town in the pouring rain.
The sky is dark, the drops fat.
HIM: Wow, the sky is so dark! And the drops so FAT.
The wipers are working furiously and the defroster is at full blast as they make the turn onto their road. For the next seven kilometers they slide in and out of mud and rocks, drive over fallen trees and around landslides in a near-straight-up trek to their property.
HIM: Shit. Fuck. Damn. Hell. Bastard!
Their access road is under water but HIM attempts it anyway, immediately getting stuck in approximately 15.88 inches of mud.
Tires spin, going nowhere.
HIM: I know.
The rain has let up some. HER gets out of the car and proceeds to walk. HIM gets out and inspects the clay-like mud that’s up to the runner. It’s deep-shit deep, maybe all the way to Australia. HIM shakes his head as if that might create a miracle. It doesn’t.
HIM’S sandals are thick with sticky mud, causing a gushy sucking sound when he steps away from the vehicle. There is perhaps five pounds of the stuff on each shoe. He sets out for home sounding like a suction cup
on a frosted cake.
Their “luxury camping” site in view, HIM watches HER go inside.
HER (in the distance): SHIT! FUCK! OH-MY-GOD!
HIM reaches the steps and ducks his head under the tarp strung with string and bunjee cords to get inside. The place is soaked. There’s puddles on the kitchen tables. The inside of the bedroom tent is wet (having left the screened windows uncovered.) Clothes are wet.
A carpet is halfway soaked. The power is off.
HIM: Hmm again.
HER: Look at this place!
(HIM already was.)
HIM: Don’t worry. It’s just stuff.
HER: (Frowns at Him.)
HIM: We’ll upgrade our tarps tomorrow morning.
That’s how a simple ride to ICE turns into a two-day schlepp.
9 thoughts on “Tropical Cancer—Rule Number Three”
Hey Mitch, I can totally relate and miss days like that even though at the time they seemed to be a pain in the ass. Such is life in Costa Rica.
I know huh… Only 1 or 2 tasks per visit to town, please. Thx Duane.
oh my….I am laughing and crying…..both at the same time. I can’t wait to see the movie one day!
A movie… hmm, how irritating haha! Maybe I’ll audition for Kevin Gray’s part… Thanks, Cath.
Mitch, baby, sweetie, (agent talk..)
This, with some serious editing, is good, really good.
I have a suggestion. (Doesn’t everyone who you ask to read your stuff ALWAYS have a “suggestion?”)
There are now a few so-called Travel Channels (and I don’t know who, what or how to reach them) that, with a well-written letter introducing you and your work, combined with what you’ve written about Costa Rica in your inimitable style, that they might be interested enough to BUY them(!) and, eventually, buy them on a regular basis. I think your work is, again with editing, eminently salable….and such a beginning might eventuate in a permanent source of MONEY.
Mistah Nat! You know I love all your comments, no matter what. I hear what you’re saying. For now I just have fun assembling this CR experience into a book. It’s the language, of course, which dictates that. There’s something very satisfying about finishing a book, if I ever get there with this thing… Keep reading and keep commenting.
Loved this story and can’t wait to read more.
Your style is energetically realistic.
My type of read!
The book will be done soon. Notes and anecdotes. Thanks again, Jill.