The difficulties associated with living in a developing nation is rich fodder for sarcasm and humor. It puts the "frustrating and hilarious" in our daily lives. As much as we are frustrated by these little difficulties, we’ve chosen to happily suffer them in exchange for the peace of mind and quality of life we’ve found in Costa Rica.
This morning, however, I am humbled by the common sense and ecologically-sensitive manner in which I was presented with my cel phone bill.
We got our cel phone at the end of August. The entire process took less than two hours and cost less then $70, including the phone: $25 to sign up, $8/month, plus a deposit. I asked how I would pay my monthly bill and my new friend, Alejandro, told me I would not receive a paper bill. That around the same time next month, I simply go to one of the many places where you can pay utility bills (most grocery stores and the national banks), give them my number and they would tell me how much.
Well, I’ve gone periodically since late September and asked about the bill. Just last night I was in the Auto Mercado [OW-toe mare-KA-do, a grocery store chain], went to the caja [KA-ha, cashier), gave her my cel number and asked if there was a balance due. "Nada," she told me.
Which I’ve been hearing for two and a half months now. What’s up? Surely, I owe something. Or was Alejandro a better friend than I thought? (Nah. I wasn’t that cute then. He should see me NOW, right?)
This morning, I received a text message. From ICE. It was my factura [fack-TOO-rah, receipt] for cobro [KO-bro, collection] that I must vence [VAN-say, conquer] by 12/15/06. The amount to be conquered is 3,560 colones, about $7.
This would be in stark contrast to my mom’s Cingular bill. Those clever people at Cingular secretly – at least without telling me – did away with my mom’s just-barely-affordable $59/month plan with nationwide calling, no roaming and 1000 minutes. And gave her the jokes-on-you 450 minutes per month plan for the same money. Plus $.45 for each additional minute. Mom’s phone bill last month was $250. Let’s just say Cingular has stopped working for me. When I read Dilbert in the morning, I think, "That must be Cingular HQ."
But text-messaging your bill! Short, sweet, sane, simple. And CHEAP. What a great idea. Odd how something so sensible would occur in a developing nation.
Hal, whose given name Harold means "army ruler" and who delights in the notion of conquering anything, will conquer the bill tomorrow. He also tried to explain how it’s only cheap because it’s so heavily subsidized, blah, blah, blah. But I did the mature thing, covered my ears and made boat motor noises till his lips stopped moving. Tell it to Cingular.