Archive | April, 2016

SO YOU WANT to LIVE in COSTA RICA the Adventures, Trials and Tribulations of Settling in Paradise by Gary Davis –

30 Apr

chapter 34 continued

COSEVI is thirty minutes from downtown S.J. in a town called Uruca but the highway I need to be on Friday to return home goes by Uruca.   I ask Cesar to confirm with the court in San Ramon that if I pay the ticket Friday morning at COSEVI that when I get to the court I will be able to appear before a judge.  When he gets back to me he assures me that I will be able to see a judge and that I should plead my case and request immediate return of my license and reminds me that the court is closed from 12 to 1pm for lunch and then closed from 2:30pm until Monday. 

I have a narrow window of opportunity because knowing that COSEVI exists and finding COSEVI in that conglomeration of convoluted streets in what is known as “the central valley” that contains a whole bunch of cities with 2.8 million people and no street addresses are two different challenges.

But I found it in time to make it to San Ramon at 1pm.  Why so late you might ask?  I left the hotel at 9am.  By the time I finally found COVSEVI (remember, there are no addresses in C.R. therefore maps are basically useless), waited in the lines (yes, more than one) and finally got the ticket paid (about $50) and then drove to court it was 1pm.

What would you expect to experience in court with not real strong Spanish?   Cesar recommended that I have a bilingual person with me.  Skip that.  First of all the tica wasn’t with me for the trip back home and second, she wasn’t bi-lingual anyway.  I’m in my car on my way home with no bilingual person with me and I know it’s pointless to try to find a stranger, who would be in court for their own stress producing problem, to help me.  First, of course, are the lines.  There’s the one to get into the building since a whole pile of people are waiting for the 1pm opening and where one at a time each person goes through a thorough security search.  Then there’s the one when you finally find the correct counter and take a number and wait your turn.   Finally my number is called, someone takes all my paper work and the only copy of my passport that I have with me and tells me to go sit back down.  I figure then is a good time to go over in my mind the presentation/plea that I will make to the judge in hopes of having him/her release my license to me.


SO YOU WANT to LIVE in COSTA RICA the Adventures, Trials and Tribulations of Settling in Paradise by Gary Davis –

29 Apr

chapter 34 continued

I arrived in S.J. early Wednesday afternoon, got checked into my hotel, had lunch and then headed to a BN branch near the hotel thinking that enough time had passed that my ticket would be in the system.  Nope.  After waiting a half hour in line at the bank the teller informs me that it takes 22 to 24 days for a ticket to be entered into the system.

Ok, enough of this shit… I’m a U.S. citizen and the U.S. Embassy is in S.J.   I decide it’s time to quit playing the Costa Rican bureaucratic ineffectiveness game.  I call the Embassy and get Cesar in U.S. Citizen’s Services on the line.  He speaks good English, listens carefully and understands that I:

1. Am willing to pay the ticket

2. Need to visit the court on Friday

3. Am leaving for California in a week and a half and would like to have my license with me.

He puts me on hold while he calls BN then comes back on the line and tells me they told him I could go into a BN branch after 12 noon on Thursday and the ticket would be in the system so I could pay it.  I wait until 2pm Thursday just to give them plenty of time.  Nope.  Same story.  So once again I’m on the phone to Cesar.  This time when he gets back to me he say’s the bank suggested that I go to the government agency called COSEVI (don’t ask me what those initials stand for).  Apparently they get the ticket first and then ultimately get it into the banks system but Cesar assures me they say I can pay the ticket there. 

Well, it’s too late to go there Thursday because since it’s a government agency they close at 3:30. 

SO YOU WANT to LIVE in COSTA RICA the Adventures, Trials and Tribulations of Settling in Paradise by Gary Davis –

28 Apr

chapter 34 continued

Hmmmm… now it has become interesting as well as comical.  I ask the cop that speaks a little English what I’m supposed to do.  He says I have to go to Banco National and pay the ticket.  Banco National is the only bank authorized by the government to collect fines.  Then I have to go to the court house in a town called San Ramon, which is an hour and a half out of San Jose, to face the judge as he determines whether my infraction is worth twelve or eighteen months of suspension.   This all occurred on Wednesday morning. 

I will be returning to P. Junquillal on Friday.  Coincidentally I must pass through San Ramon both when going to S.J. and when returning home.

So with that we wrap up the conversation and I continue on my way to San Jose with the ticket.  By the way, before I could really get underway again I had to calm the cute little tica down that I had in the car with me.  She was sure they were going to take me to jail and of course she doesn’t know how to drive and here we are many miles/kilometers away from any civilization or a pay phone.  I was appreciative or her perceived dilemma.  But I finally got her calmed down after a couple of miles and it was obvious they weren’t going to haul me in.  When I get to San Ramon I search out the court house so I’ll know where it is when I go there on Friday.  The cop has assured me that I will be able to see a judge then and since I have no idea how long that process will take I want to know where the court is so I don’t waste time on Friday trying to find it.

SO YOU WANT to LIVE in COSTA RICA the Adventures, Trials and Tribulations of Settling in Paradise by Gary Davis –

27 Apr

By now my Spanish is good enough that I’m not afraid to argue so I asked him “what’s the problem?”  To make a long story short, we “debated” whether or not I had exceeded the speed limit and had made a dangerous pass.  Finally realizing that it was not an argument that I could win I said “this is bullshit” (in English).   He said “que es bullshit”.  At which point I thought better of translating and just said “give me the ticket”.  You see, at that point he had not made any marks in his ticket book because the game is that you’re supposed to ask how much is the fine for your particular infraction and then offer to pay “the fine” on the spot.  You haven’t actually offered him a bribe.  You’ve just asked a fair question.  But you’ve given him the opportunity to accept the money (as though he would turn it in to the proper authority), thus saving yourself the trouble of jumping through the hoops you need to jump though to pay a ticket in this country.  And therefore since the cop hasn’t made a mark in his ticket book he can pocket the money and you both go away happy. 

 “Give me the ticket” might have worked like it did before if it weren’t for the fact that just at that moment another cop pulled up on a motorcycle.  Now they’re talking in rapid fire Spanish that I can’t follow but the bottom line is that the guy is forced to write the ticket because he can’t proceed with a bribe (oops, did I just use that nasty word?) with another cop witnessing.  He writes the ticket but refuses to give me my license.  I say “what the fuck is this?”  It turns out the other cop speaks enough English to explain to me that this guy has decided to suspend my license and that it will remain suspended for from twelve to eighteen months (he must have promised his wife dinner that night and now he sees that slipping away and is pissed).  And it is my California driver’s license.

SO YOU WANT to LIVE in COSTA RICA the Adventures, Trials and Tribulations of Settling in Paradise by Gary Davis –

25 Apr

chapter 34 continued

Well, this being the macho country that it is, I guess the cop just couldn’t resist exercising his authority when he witnessed that a gringo with a powerful engine was able to take advantage of a brief brake… because a couple miles later I’ve got flashing red and blue lights behind me.

This fool kept motioning for me to pull over in places that were on curves and dangerously close to passing traffic so I ignored his antics until I came to a safe place where we both would be out of harms way.  It was actually a little comical because he would see me look in my rear view mirror and motion wildly for me to pull over.  I’d keep going. 

One time he pulled up beside me honking (I guess he didn’t have a siren) and was wildly pointing to the side of the road but had to drop back to avoid a head on collision with an on-coming truck.  Two other times he actually passed me, again pointing to the side of the road, and pulled off himself as though he expected me to follow him. 

I just kept going.  It had by now turned into an O.J. Simpson style slow speed chase.  The traffic behind us had backed off.  I can only imagine what those drivers were thinking. 

Finally I saw a place on the other side of the road where we could both get completely off the highway and be out of danger from being clipped.  On those curvy mountain roads there are very few places where there is an area wide enough to pull into safely.  Usually you have an upgrade on one side of you and a down grade on the other with a spectacular view.  But C.R. doesn’t seem to believe in shoulders or turnouts so if you have a reason to stop, like a flat tire, you just pray that nobody plows into you. 

Anyway, this wide place had a big pile of gravel in the middle of it and I pulled up just past it and stopped hoping to force him to stop on the other side of it and have to walk up to my car.  I guess he didn’t like the fact that I ignored his macho and used common sense because he came skidding up behind me in the loose gravel and barely missed colliding with me.  He was so anxious to nab me he actually slid into the gravel pile so that his vehicle had partially climbed it.  Maybe I shouldn’t have got out of my car laughing. 

SO YOU WANT to LIVE in COSTA RICA the Adventures, Trials and Tribulations of Settling in Paradise by Gary Davis –

23 Apr

chapter 34

TICKET # 3 (after a slow speed chase)

This is a story that, if nothing else, might cause you to have a different perspective towards the government bureaucracy we complain about in the U.S.

It has been almost a year since I wrote My Radar Detector and between then and now by simply becoming familiar with C.R. cops speed trap methodology and detector alerts I’ve been able to avoid confrontation with the tricky bastards.

Here’s the technique I use:  my detector goes off, I see the cop, he’s invariably 200 + meters ahead of me, I stop and make a U turn immediately far enough away so he can’t read my plates, I back track until he can’t see me, I make another U turn and then progress within the speed limit as I listen contentedly to my detector chirping and wave at him as I go by.

But last week I had to drive my car to San Jose rather than use my preferred mode of transport, which is the bus.  If you’ve read Taking the Bus you’ll recall that I mentioned that one of the reasons that I prefer the bus is because of forever (seemingly) being behind a black smoke belching truck that can’t go more than 10mph on those curvy mountain roads.

Of course I found myself behind one truck after another because you can’t go more than a couple miles after passing one before you catch up to the next one.  The good news is that because they’re going so slow you can get around them quickly so that even if there is a curve up ahead you don’t have to take your life in your hands to pass.

On this occasion I had caught up to one but the road was actually straight at that point so it was an easy, stress free pass.  It happened to be right in front of a souvenir shop with a parking area in front and I saw the cop parked there as I made my pass.  To get around the truck didn’t even require violating the speed limit and the road was clear as far as the next curve so I made my pass with no concern for the cop.

SO YOU WANT to LIVE in COSTA RICA the Adventures, Trials and Tribulations of Settling in Paradise by Gary Davis –

22 Apr

chapter 33 continued (this is no joke, but it is funny)

The next lesson was equally as interesting. 

By now I know their tricks (or some of them).  I’m in an area of heavily wooded but gently rolling hills, the last posted sign was 80kph, I’m doing 90 or 100 and as I crest a hill three things happen almost simultaneously.  I see a sign up ahead that says 40 kph, I hit my brakes hard, and my detector goes off.  By the time I went by the sign I had probably slowed to 60 but I see the cop way in the distance and know he’s licking his chops.   I know his detector will show whatever speed I was doing before I even got to the sign. 

He will do the math and hit me with a hefty fine for doing 60 kph more (or so) than the posted 40 kph.   I pay that and he takes his wife to dinner twice!  Sure enough he’s motioning me to pull over.  I slowed enough so I could, but then I see he has a car parked in the shade, not a motorcycle. 

I so enjoyed the look on his face as I hit the accelerator and blew past him.  F… him, he can trap some other gringo.