It was a lovely, breezy afternoon when I was just settling down for a nap. Then it happened.
A truck pulled up to my gate and stopped its engine. I didn't get up, but a few minutes later heard someone shouting at the gate.
Dragging myself out of bed, I trudged to the front gate only to find a strange man holding some kind of form. He didn't speak English, but I managed to figure out that he was collecting for the city to haul my trash. He filled out the form, indicating where I should sign, and said the fee was one dollar.
"No problema!" I said as I walked into the house and came out waving a dollar.
"Non!" he replied, and indicated on the form that I had to go down to City Hall to pay my fee.
That was yesterday. Today I made the trip to City Hall and stood in a long line with some other people at "Caja 2". Caja 1 had no line, but I assumed that I had to stand in the line. Then the lady behind the window at Caja 1 called up a lady who had just walked in the door. Something was fishy.
I asked the American man in front of me in line if I was in the right line to pay my garbage bill. Turns out that was the line for registering your car in Boquete, and I needed to be at Caja 1.
Feeling somewhat relieved not to have to stand in a line that hadn't moved in ten minutes, I strolled up to Caja 1 and presented the bill along with a dollar.
Turns out it wasn't that simple. The cashier asked for my passport and took it to another room.
"What are they doing, checking to see if I have a criminal record?" I asked my new friend in the other line.
"One never knows," he replied.
A few minutes later the cashier re-appeared with my passport. She had made a copy of it. Then she pulled out a longer form, one showing all the months of the year, and told me I had to pay two dollars instead of one dollar because this is February and I should have paid in January. How could I have known this?
Two dollars later, she painstakingly filled out the form and a receipt. I asked her if I had to come back in March, and she said "Si."
You can be sure I'll go back to pay the bill each month. I don't want them to report me to Interpol.
All of this for a stinking two dollars for garbage.