Friday, February 18, 2011

THE EXCITEMENT OF PAYING A TRASH BILL

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.

-bjd

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