Friday, November 02, 2007

Getting Out (of CR)

Part One: Getting Part of Your Life Back in 3 hours

We had found a little guesthouse on the outskirts of San Jose the day before. Big Dog had only $20 and some colones so I had to break out my emergency cash to pay for our room, but the guesthouse was clean and comfortable and had a computer in the communal living room/lobby. (Of course, public computers are of no use to me when I need to check my mail since they normally don’t have Japanese language capability.)

It was kind of cool having nothing. It took no time to get ready in the morning. No hair brush, no makeup, no clothes selection. I was beginning to enjoy this part.

It’s true. We get what we really want. Maybe deep down, I wanted to rid myself of everything.

The streets of San Jose are impossible with bizarre roundabouts, a lack of traffic lights (and signs,) belching diesel smoke and wacky drivers. Our little Yaris was spazzing through the congestion. Because Big Dog didn’t trust the Natural Born Navigator, we made a few costly wrong turns but eventually got to the US Embassy.

There was a giant line of people and it wasn’t until we hung out for a while that I saw a sign telling us that for US Citizen Services, proceed to the door. There were two or three other people who were also getting replacement passports, including one man-boy who told us that he got everything stolen in the first five minutes at Jaco Beach. I hope it wasn’t his first trip out of the US!

By 11am, Big D had a new passport.
“Ugh. What a terrible photo,” he grimaced.
“You look like a criminal!” I laughed. It actually wasn’t that bad, considering what we were going through.
“You could have touched up my hair or something.”
“At least it’s only a temporary passport.”

Part Two: Traveling Real Light

At the rentacar office, we noticed a pamphlet advertising a new Westin Hotel at Jaco Beach. The infamous den of thieves!

So far, aside from the Very Unpleasant ordeal of having everything stolen and being forced to go back to the US, our Costa Rican experience had been pretty positive. The people were very sweet and the countryside, especially the lush hills and valleys, very beautiful. But we were about to be clobbered over the head with one last Bad Moment (actually two) on our way out.

The first one was the US$26 “departure tax.” It really made us feel ripped off after all that had happened.

The second and the one that left a most unpleasant aftertaste came from a pretty, but pretty horrible, American Airlines check-in women. First, we had to bulldoze our way through two security personnel who wanted to see the receipt from the payment of our departure tax before we can even get to the counter. Then, once we were there, the woman, instead of asking how she could help, brusquely asked for our receipts and passports. Was it the terrible way we looked that made her so snooty? If so, that was unforgivable.

“We don’t know if we’re going anywhere. Can you just look up our info?”
“Calm down.”
“I am calm.”
“Calm down.”
“Listen. I AM calm.”
“Calm down.”
She’s the kind that has to have the last word. I hate those kinds of people.
“If you don’t calm down, I’m going to have to send you to the back of the line,” she sneers.
By now, there was no line.
“Can you just look in the computer and see if we are booked on any flights today? Here’s our locator number,” BD pushed a slip of paper towards her.
“It’s the wrong number!” she said angrily.
“Hey, it’s the one YOU guys gave me!”
“Calm DOWN!”

Turned out, we were on a flight, so we left The Princess to be robbed of our last 52 dollars. We were able to pay only by adding all our Colones and dollars together. Now we had no bus money. We were traveling REAL light.

Back at the counter, I was glad to see Princess gone. But the woman who checked us in, told us we had to pay a penalty because of the change in reservations.
“That’s what I tried to straighten out with Princess over there. I should have gotten the supervisor.”
“I AM the supervisor,” said a slightly older woman who came to the counter.
“I KNOW.”
“Calm down. All I’m trying to tell you is that you have to go to our office with the police report…”
“I tried to do all of that before we paid our departure tax and had our boarding tickets printed out!”
“Calm DOWN.” It started all over again.

We are starting to really get angry now. We probably had a lot of supressed anger in us (isn’t that another Stage in Loss?) and those airline personnel merely pulled the trigger. And what a trigger! While the back and forth was going on between BD and the Supervisor, I catch Princess actually smirking to her supervisor! I was so disgusted. By her and by the supervisor. We had been a little reluctant to leave – we spent so much time getting here – but now we were happy to be leaving. Any doubts we had disappeared. Thank you, Princess.

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