You can find almost anything at a Costa Rican hardware store...
“Use It Up, Wear It Out, Make It Do, or Do Without.”
This morning A and I were at the local ferretería buying silicone, an inner tube, and some other hardware odds and ends. I was standing at the counter waiting for our vendador, disappeared momentarily into the stacks for one of our items, when my attention was drawn to the man standing next to me.
He was a stocky little man in dirty work clothes, his hair a rooster tail of disorder. He looked and smelled as though he’d been hard at work in some cramped space. He was in a deep and earnest conversation with another sales clerk. In between them on the glass counter was a kitchen spigot that had seen better days. In fact, even when new, I doubt that faucet had been much to look at, but now the escutcheon plate—you know, the chrome protection bar that holds the faucets and spigot and covers the sink—(that thing) was bent, slightly corroded, and, well… beyond used. No wonder his hair was in disarray. I can only imagine the work it must have taken to get that thing out. I instantly forgave him his odor.
Both men hunkered over a box of mixers, that secret and hidden gismo that turns the water on and off when you turn the tap. There must have been fifteen or twenty different varieties in that box. Sr. Rooster Hair and the clerk were going over each, trying and find a match, comparing them, arguing whether one would work or not. Watching this, I was reminded how often I can find a part for some item that in the States would be considered a throw-away, a desechable.
Costa Ricans are true MacGyvers; they make things do, they wear them out. What North Americans consider junk, Costa Ricans save, find spare parts, and revamp until the item is totally irreparable. Or the item is too old to have spare parts anymore.
I left the man and his problem. A and I paid out. But as we were leaving, I looked over and saw that Sr. Rooster Hair had bought a new spigot. I was sorry to see this. I bet if he’d gone to Limón or San José he would have found the mixers for that beat up old faucet. I’ve found all manner of stuff a Condominio Las Americas* in San José. But I also bet his wife was waiting at home with a sink full of dirty dishes.
He probably weighed the situation and declared it time to buy, or else end up with more than rooster tail hair.
*Condominio las Americas is on Calle 6, San Jose, Costa Rica, and chances are, if you take the part with you, they will have it.