In the adoption world, Gotcha Day is the day we gotcha, the day we brought our new baby home. I get all teary remembering our two Gotcha Days. Yesterday, December 10th was Mo’s 16th Gotcha Day. To celebrate, Jen made cookies and brought them over. Hey, Jen, we ate every single one immediately, every delicious morsel!!!!
Serendipitously, yesterday was also Gotcha Day to pick up our cedulas [SAY-do-lahce, Costa Rica’s ID cards]. The cedulas that confirm our legal status as rentistas. We’ve had the appointment for weeks now: 9am at the Immigration Assistant Service’s (IAS and not its real name) office. We were told to come a little early.
If you’ve ever owned a business, you’ve had the Customer For Whom You Can Do Nothing Right (CFWYCDNR). It’s a nightmare situation: no matter how many times you’ve done a thing, for this customer that thing is always totally screwed up. The simplest thing will never go right. It’s uncanny. Ridiculous. If you’ve ever owned a business, you are shaking your head in recognition.
We are IAS’ CFWYCDNR. Everything we’ve done with them has been difficult, fraught with ill-will and screwed up. The difference between you and me and IAS is that IAS doesn’t attempt to make it right. In fact, IAS makes it clear we are the CFH: Customer From Hell. Even though we are paying CFHs. I’m like totally sick of this attitude. For instance.
During the hour we waited, two employees chatted us up as they passed by, congratulating us on gettin’ legal. El Presidente of IAS, who I’ve met and had lunch with, rushed by us several times without saying hello or nodding in our direction. I thought that was pretty rude, but what do I really care? Nada. I mention it so you know it’s not like people didn’t know we were waiting. And waiting and waiting. About which I did care.
By 9:30, we’d waited long enough. We got up, asked the receptionist to please reschedule the appointment and left the building. Serendipitously, our ex-attorney was walking up as we were walking out. We get a questioning look.
I said, "We’ve been waiting an hour…."
He interrupts me: "Your appointment was at 8am."
Me: "I was told 9."
Attorney: "It was at 8." Not, "Oh, gee, we’ve had a miscommunication, so sorry you’ve been waiting all this time, someone should have called me, let’s get you down there, yada yada yada…" None of that. Just: "Your appointment was at 8."
I asked why no one called us? How could we have sat there in the waiting room for an hour and no one thought to call the attorney? Are all expats this late? Apparently the assistant had been down at migración holding our place in line since 7:30am… Didn’t he wonder why we hadn’t shown up? Why didn’t he call? This is met with a shrug. This attorney is not accepting any responsibility. Our appointment was at 8 and we were late. Our problem. End of story.
You know, our dentist calls us the day before dental appointments to remind us. She speaks no English, yet we’ve never missed an appointment or gotten the time wrong.
In fact, December 10th was actually our second cedula appointment. Our first appointment last September slid by without us even being notified. I was perfectly lovely about it then. I am not lovely now.
Since the assistant was already there, we decided to go to migración. The attorney says great, expect to be there between one and six hours. We stare back in stunned silence. SIX hours? As in SEIS? We get a nod yes, no smile.
You know, it would have been nice to know that in preparing for the day… but, ok. This is Costa Rican bureaucracy; to expect anything less would be madness on our part. We remind ourselves inefficiency is part of the reason we love it here and head to the car.
The attorney stops us and asks if we’ve
forked over paid the $1,300 migración holds for plane fare in case you get deported. We said yes. El Presidente is with us by now and says no, that is never paid up front. Since we do not have our receipts with us and IAS does not have a record of this payment on file, there is nothing to do but reschedule and leave. Completely annoyed.
This payment SNAFU happened before with IAS. When we first signed up, back in February ’06, we paid 1/2 the IAS fee in cash. BIG MISTAKE, but we didn’t have debit cards yet and were still carrying around wads of cash. Hal and I both clearly remember counting out the cash. But in the early days of our adventure, we must’ve lost the receipt. IAS, who still handles their receipts the sweet old-fashioned hand-printed carbon-copy triplicate way, did not find a receipt either. With no other choice, we paid that first half again. I mean, they’d already submitted the mounds of paperwork to migración…
And here we are again, distinctly remembering paying – with a credit card – the deportation deposit, and IAS doesn’t have a record of it. We’ll have to go home and sift through our drawer full of receipts to find the proof.
But not today. Maybe not ever. We are completely over this kind of service.
You know, maybe we haven’t paid that deportation fee yet, even though we both remember doing so. Maybe we were just told about it. Every time we went to the office to take care of some paperwork, we were informed of a new fee, a new law, a new requirement. This is not their "fault" of course. Hey, maybe we really are old and confused. Hal could be.
The thing is, I’m a paying customer in a new country with a new language hiring the very people who promised to help smooth the way. Instead, I get stonewalled, taken advantage of, haphazardly helped, then blamed when things don’t go as planned. Who needs that?
But, whatever! I’m looking on the bright side: it was a Gotcha Day and nothing can ruin a Gotcha Day