Sunday, 15 August 2010

COSTA RICAN MUSINGS - Addresses, Mail or lack of

A person considering doing business in Costa Rica wondered about using the local mail to ship stuff.  This is a subject of much debate as Costa Rica has few street names, very few street signs and no real addresses. 

If you ask a Tico when was the last  time they sent a letter, the odds on answer is "never".
Yes we do have a post office in big towns like Alajuela and they even have commemorative stamps though, who these get sent to, is a mystery.  The postal service here must have been modeled on one from a country that has actual addresses however it requires very few personnel and in a town like ours of many thousands (perhaps 70,000 - nobody really knows) we have just 2 people doing deliveries.

So many folks reaction to that is either disbelief or plain ole dumbfoundedness. 
"You mean you have no junk mail!?"
What happens if you forget to pay your phone bill?"
"Um, well, it's one of the commonest reasons you don't get a phone answered here."
"You forgot to go down to the phone company (we only have one) and pay the bill."
"Then what?"
"The phone starts working again."
"Wouldn't it be easier for them to mail you a bill?"
"Heck no, where would they mail it to?"

This is why about one day a month you will find us scurrying around our town of Alajuela  - to ICE to pay the phone bill, the the municipality to pay the utilities and taxes, to the CAJA (health service) to pay the workers comp and insurance and to the bank to pay the rest.

Yes we do have a PO Box but most people in our town do not.  Yes occasionally someone will mail something (about the only thing now is my newsletter from PAII, the Professional Association of Innkeepers) to the hotel in Alajuela.  I will find it a day or two later among front entrance jungle, marvel at the process that got it here and scurry off to read about Innkeepers in the real world we left.
One local thought or thinks their mail they get from the US is opened from time to time.

Which reminded me of a favorite bit in a book:

"Sharing the hospital room with Yossarian are numerous others, including his friend Captain Dunbar, who has also fabricated an illness, and a man wrapped entirely in gauze and plaster. The patients, all of whom are officers and most of whom it seems are not truly ill, spend their time censoring the letters of enlisted men. Yossarian takes particular pleasure in censoring the letters in bizarre and creative ways; in one instance, he eliminates all words except "a", "an", and "the," producing what he terms "a message far more universal." Because all officers are required to sign their names at the bottom of the letters they censor, Yossarian signs his "Washington Irving."

At this point the reader is first introduced to the term "Catch-22." Yossarian uses the phrase to describe the requirement that officers sign their names at the bottom of each letter. The author doesn't explain what Catch-22 means exactly; but he does hint that it reflects a bizarre or seemingly contradictory situation.

The only person left in the ward is an under-cover C.I.D. man sent to investigate the mysterious "Washington Irving." He has caught cold and is actually sick. "

Now what's really stupid is that I borrowed this synopsis of a favorite book from "jiffynotes" designed for people who don't want to read (books).
You see how this all comes around to our beloved post office? They recently made little slogan stickers for each of the empty booths at the Alajuela post office about their excellent service. Pause for some retrospection.

When there are two guys in the office, they usually inhabit the same booth . . . I wonder about such things but say nothing. Overall, if I am not using their services, I rate them #1. And am a big fan of the commemorative stamps.

Every day the employees wake up thankful we have no army or they'd be required to deal with actual addresses. Um what else did you need to know about the postal system?
Here's a bit of trivia in a conversation the US Postal Service might have had a couple of years back when  they were looking for ways to save money (reader note: M-Bags were a fabulous system used to distribute books from countries with too many of them to countries like Costa Rica with almost none):

"We just got a call from the head of the Costa Rican Postal Service."
"About what?  I didn't know they had one?"
"The size of the M-Bags."
"What about them?"
"They complained they're too big."
"Everyone else takes em, even Lichtenstein and Kirjikstanabad!"
"Well they use scooters in CR."
"They do?"
"Ya one guy drives and the other hangs on the back holding the M-Bag."
"OK we'll just abolish the M-Bag."
"Ya, that'll work."

p.s. My Mother Once Sent me some Mail, I promptly asked her to Stop Doing That.

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