July has been quite the month for lessons on crime.

  1. On Day One of Camp J2J, we were stolen from.
  2. At our first cabina in Puerto Viejo, I was accused of stealing, lying and poor parenting.
  3. When I got home, I discovered we’d had an attempted break-in at our house. Thievery from every perspective.

On being accused: I chose our first cabina in Puerto Viejo because they offered wireless internet. I like my internet. Being able to blog about what’s happening while it’s fresh is the best.

We arrived in PV 6pm Wednesday, planning to be there at least three nights, more if we were having a good time. Mr Cabina picked us up in town and ran us back to the cabina. He mentioned that the last guest had not been able to stay online – she complained that the service kept going in and out, so they’d run a cable for her. But they believed they had that problem fixed and I should have no trouble with the wireless. He ran off to his dinner date.

I was not able to stay online that night. Like the last guest said, service kept going in and out. I gave up and went to bed. Cursed with being an early riser, I got up at 5:30a, tried the internet but no go. At around 9a, Mrs came by, told me she’d reset the service, showed the boys where to do that. I got back online and it was working, low but sufficient. I got email, but writing time was long past – we had a new beach town to see! We headed off, were gone all day exploring. The boys rented boogie boards at Playa Cocles, I slept on the beach.

That night, back at the cabina, no internet. It was pitch black and we had no flashlight to find our way to the reset box… Mr and Mrs are at their other job in town. I don’t feel right calling them to whine about my internet. Besides, I don’t have a phone and this place is about a half mile to a mile outside town. A stimulating walk. Did I mention it was hot in PV? Oh yeah. I’m going to walk 20 minutes in the dark hot night, complain about my internet and walk back? I don’t think so.

Mr and Mrs are not internet people and don’t understand it’s important to me. They are probably superior people, but this is my life and I’m paying for the room… It’s Thursday night and on Thursday nights, I put a Key West newspaper up on the web. I do it for free, I get a kick out of it. But I couldn’t do it at my $60/night cabina that promised hi-speed internet. I’m fairly annoyed. Not only can’t I get online, it’s too far to walk to an internet cafe… I decide we cannot stay there another night. We will leave in the morning and find another place for the weekend.

The boys have a surfing lesson in the morning at 10 at Playa Cocles. We have to leave early to get a new room and the lesson. Can’t wait till after surfing: it will be too late and we’d have to pay for that cabina again.

We rise, eat breakfast and, at 8:30a, head to town with all our stuff. We walk to the closest pulperia that has a public phone to call a cab. The phone is not working, but the owner lets me use her phone for 150 colones. The cab drops us off in town near one of the two hotels I saw yesterday. We are racing now. Neither hotel has internet, but there are loads of internet cafes nearby. This will have to do. We book a room at Guaraná for Friday night ($50) and at Jacaranda the following two ($48/night). I run to an internet cafe ($2.40/hour) and send this email to Mr and Mrs Cabina:

Hi Mr C,
We have checked out – raced out this morning to get to a surf lesson. The internet there is just not working up to snuff, very low reception and it does keep going in and out, mostly out frankly. I missed a deadline inputting a weekly newspaper because I couldn’t stay on last night, so I gave up and moved into town with the boys. (I’m at an internet cafe now.) I will deposit $40 more in your account – will that work for you? Or I can stop by tonight [at your other job] and give you $40 cash. Let me know what will work for you. Sorry – no phone, you have to email me. Thank you.

We raced off to our surfing lesson. While the boys were in the ocean, I got to use the internet at the Isla Inn across the street from the beach (free wireless with coffee and it worked GREAT.) I get this email from Mr:

That’s a lame excuse. I told you if you were having problems to let me know and I would install a cable directly to your computer as I have for other guests. You told my wife the internet worked fine. You owe us $100. More really, but $100 will do. I have never had anybody sneak out on us like you did today and it left me feeling very strange. I’ve already notified your husband, because I was actually worried about you and the boys and thought there was a family emergency or something. Oh well. Please call your husband and then do make arrangements for one of you to pay us the $100.
Cheers, Mr C

You gotta love it: he calls me a liar and a thief, then signs his email "Cheers." I wrote back:

The internet did work fine for a brief period the first morning, after your wife reset it and after I’d been on for a few hours (I am quite an early riser) with no luck staying connected. And with no luck staying connected the first night we were there. Once Mrs reset it in the morning, it worked for awhile. I don’t think I tried to go back on until later that night when you were working and I was trying to input the newspaper. I was completely unable to stay connected, couldn’t get email, etc. The last lady who was there and complained that your internet goes in and out was correct: it goes in and out. And the reception is either very low or low. Advertising that you have hi-speed wireless internet available to guests in this cabina is just not correct. You really don’t. It needs a cable or a much better configuration.

The deciding factor in staying with you all was the internet. Since that was not available to me there or even nearby, I had to leave. I will happily pay you $40 as the balance for the nights I stayed. My family has been in the guesthouse and spa business for many years. If our service was not as advertised or up to snuff, we did not require guests to pay for time not spent.

I am sorry to have this end badly. The boys and I enjoyed your music and your hospitality, your other job has a very good reputation in town. I need reliable internet access and was unable to have it at your place for the two nights I was there.

He writes back Saturday morning…

I’m surprised at your audacity. As I told you. I ran a cable direct for the other guest and she used it for two weeks with no problem. She worked an average of ten hours every day. I offered the same to you your first night and you never informed me of the problem so I could fix it. Sneaking out like you did without informing us of your leaving, or why, is not appropriate behavior either. You really owe us $360 for a six night stay minus the $80 deposit. You should know this if your family had a guest house. Please pay us at least part of what you owe us and deposit or drop off $100. I had you booked until yesterday through Monday night July 30 per our agreement. I turned down 2 requests for that house over this weekend because the house was reserved for you. Don’t get into semantics. You had totally reliable high speed internet service available to you whether wireless or direct. This is just an excuse not to pay what you owe.  Just so you know, dozens of persons have used our internet service and have been satisfied.
I sincerely hope you or your husband make sure we get the $100 you owe us.  Sincerely, Mr

I respond…

As I am surprised at yours. I informed you of the problem every time I had it during waking hours. Should I have come to your door late Wednesday night after check-in? That would have been difficult since I didn’t know where your house was, I don’t have a phone and it’s too dark out there to stumble around. [I understand not having a flashlight is my responsibility. As you were quick to point out, I should have read the webpage more carefully and discovered I needed to bring one. My bad.]

Did you expect me to come to your other job on Thursday night to complain about my internet? Or wake you early Friday morning? Oh right, I couldn’t do that. I was busy sneaking out at 8:30am after making breakfast for three teens, packing up, trying to make a 10am surf lesson in Playa Cocles.

I will deposit the $40 into your account. If I had real audacity, I’d ask for all my money back.

Since all evidence points to the fact that your wireless is inadequate, you might want to run a permanent cable to the house instead of making each customer run the gamut of no working wireless before being rewarded with cable.

He does not write back. On Sunday afternoon, I am walking on the main road in town, taking in the sights while the boys are surfing. Mrs rides up alongside me on her bicycle. She says hi and asks if I am going to pay her. I say I will check with Hal, see if he has already deposited the money in their account. If not, I will come to their other job and give her the cash. She gives me the "I will believe THAT when I see it" look, then starts lecturing me on my behavior. I walk away. She is calling after me down the street and finally stops… I stay quiet.

Mr takes over – he rides up on his bicycle, circles me and as he comes alongside, leans down and speaks softly in my ear: "That’s quite an example you set for your kids, sneaking off like that." I don’t respond. Mrs circles back around and says: "There’s such a thing as karma, you know." I still don’t talk… they give up trying to shame me into giving them more money and ride off.

That night, I go to their other job with the three younguns I am training in a life of crime and hand $40 to Mr. He does not say anything. We leave. As we are crossing the street, he calls out: "Thank you. But just because you paid this, doesn’t mean you behaved properly." All three boys burst out laughing. For which I am grateful. I don’t want to be mean, I don’t want to do anything but move on. The fact that they found this amusing lightens the episode.

I wonder why they thought I would sneak out of their place just to go to another place in town to pay as much money? I don’t get that. Was I sneaking out just to sneak out? ‘Cause it’s fun? Was I doing it to THEM in particular?

And is it my imagination, or was that mention of retributory karma sort of a threat? Like, you better act like we say or something bad will happen. Would that give them some satisfaction? Does she hope I spend the next few days looking over my shoulder?

If nothing bad ever happens, does that mean I behaved properly in the eyes of the universe? Or was the prior stealing from us bad karma setting me up to do this evil act?

Was getting home and finding an attempted break-in… was that my karmic retribution? So… are we even now?

But wait a minute: does the fact that it was an unsuccessful attempt and, in fact, warned us that ladrones are scoping out the house, telling us we should take further action… Does this mean my karma is ok? That my behavior was in line with the universe all along? Are these events even connected? I dunno. Too deep for me.

I think of karma as lovely background music, playing whether I’m listening or not, regardless of whether I care or not, believe or not. Karmic retribution/reward could not be so swift and identifiable. Otherwise, life would be way simpler.

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