Yes, systems. You know… utilities, documents, official papers, those kinds of things.
Today I spent about 10 minutes on the phone (on our Vonage line, using our internet service to call the states) and set up our gas and electric service (and a “plan of action” for our city services for water and trash) in Centerville, Utah.
I didn’t have to go, physically, to any office where I could wait in line for hours. I didn’t have to produce my cedula (ID card) or a lawyer’s statement that I was who I said I was. And I didn’t have to do it in Spanish.
(Although, I must confess that I initially “thought it all out” in Spanish before it finally hit me that this would not be needed. I can see that our re-entry to the U.S. will take a bit of adjustment.)
Here in Costa Rica, changing over utility services to “your name” is nigh unto impossible. There are folks still paying their utilities in the names of “former owners” who are now several owners past. It’s just how it is. Why? No one can say.
It’s peculiar, since in some ways the “system” here seems even more advanced than what’s typical in the states. There’s a vast inter-linked computer system that allows you to go into not only the major grocery stores, but also into many a small pulpuria (little “mom-and-pop” shop) and pay all your bills. It’s all “in the computer.”
But while the “spitting out” of information seems pretty universal and painless — i.e. “here’s what you owe” — and a means to record your payment is equally manageable, the entering of any “conflicting data” seems to cause the collapse of the entire system.
God forbid you actually need to change any of the information you have in the system. A current bruhaha amongst ex-pats is that if your address (or identification number such as passport or cedula) has changed from the time you got your previous driver’s license, you have to go to some godforsaken place down in San Jose to update that info. Once it’s updated, THEN you can return to your home turf and comparatively painlessly renew your driver’s license, but not before.
Now, if Costa Rica were, indeed, still a third world country, this would make great sense. Well, if not great sense, at least it wouldn’t seem odd. But in a “developing nation” that, in fact, has this hugely sophisticated inter-linked computer system, is this truly not possible from the “remote locations” of the other driver’s license offices? Really?
So, with this as our now-common orientation, it was a delight to spend my 10 minutes on the phone today. Even allowing for the not-always-perfect phone reception from the internet (which tends to bother the automated systems more than it does real humans, just FYI), it was efficient, friendly, and just downright EASY.
Yes, there are some things we’re looking forward to about getting back to the states.