A Little Bite, Please~


The puffed up cop leaned against our pickup holding the expired registration and Alan’s driver’s license.

Casting his eyes toward heaven he said, “Huy, putchica.”

I guess the best translation for this is, “Ouch, life sucks.” Literally it’s more like “Ouch, little whore,” and they use it for all sorts of occasions the way we use, son of a bitch.

But I knew exactly what he was telling me.

It was a first for me. Almost twenty years living here and I’ve never paid what they call chorizo— sometimes called mordida, which I think says it better– for anything.

Mordida, the little bite. It says it all.

In a communally idiotic decision, the Costa Rican government decided that all license plate stickers, or marchamos, would be due in December of every year. I’m sure this was decided back at the turn of the twentieth century when there were all of 500 cars in the entire country. This means that a person must pay for their stickers in December or they will be faced with fines, or worse, removal of their license plates until the fees are paid.

This necessitated all of us stand in line at a local and, I might add, rare government office where these stickers were available. Last year, miracle of miracles, the Internet made its appearance in the country as a viable tool for a bureaucratically bogged down system. I paid for my marchamos online and they were sent to our post office box. ¡Que facile!

I paid for ours online again this year on the fifteenth of December and haven’t seen our stickers yet.

We had to go to the capital, San Jose, to buy tires for the car. A slow leak in the right rear tire has made it plain that it was time. We waited until after the New Year, checked the Post office–no hay marchamos. We drove to Limon and stopped off at the local Institute de Nacional Seguros office (INS).

There, I was just able to wedge my way in, pressed against the wall by a horde of dejected marchamo seekers and asked the guard about getting a verification of payment for my Internet receipt, which I waved in his face. He managed to risk life and limb and asked the clerk about my request, returning with the sad news that I would need to take a fecha and wait my turn.

We decided to take the risk and made it as far as Siquirres, where we met our chesty little cop. I showed him our receipt, proving we had paid for the marchamos and I explained about how it wasn’t our fault they had not arrived yet. He was unimpressed. According to him unless a lawyer notarized the receipt, it was no good. I suggested that he let us go and we would find a lawyer in Siguirres to notarize the paper.

“But they will charge you 12,000 Colones for that,” He said.

“That’s fine,” I countered.

“If I give you a ticket, it will cost you 16,000 Colones and you’ll have to come to court here in Siquirres on January 14th.”

“Then, let me go and we’ll go get the notary.”

This is when he rolled his eyes toward heaven and uttered the comment about little whores or how tough life can be. At this point I opened my wallet where he could see a 5000 Colone bill- about ten dollars.

He threw the receipt through the window onto my lap, but retained the registration and Alan’s license as collateral, and said, “Go get it attended to.”

I handed the five thousand to him and he handed the documents back to me.

Just a little bite.

We finally found an INS office in San Jose this afternoon that wasn’t too crowded. It was also one hour before their closing time and they were processing paperwork like bookies. I was in and out in fifteen minutes with our new registration and window sticker for 2008.

Huy, putchica, another year done. We have to have the car’s annual mechanical check in March…

  4 comments for “A Little Bite, Please~

  1. Tim Elhajj
    06/01/2008 at 5:37 am

    Thanks for asking, Sarah! Timmy made out OK. They only impounded his license plate, so he just scrounged up $4, paid his fines and liberated his tags. They make you ride around with big organge sign where your tags should be that says IMPOUND, which is I guess what would happen if you don’t give them all their money. Talk about a little bite!

    Hey, check your mail for lit mags I sent last week! With all your onging neighbor troubles, I don’t want you wandering whether to dip the package in water before you rip ‘er open. 🙂

  2. sc morgan
    05/01/2008 at 8:14 pm

    Tim and Ruth– The thing I love about Costa Rica is its egalitarian sense of graft and corruption; even the little guy can get into the action. No hording it for the Fat Cats and lobbyists like in the USA. It starts right at the bottom and works it way up– a sliding scale you might say. Thank God we only have to do this once a year.

    Tim–Let me know how your son makes out. Knowing the system he is also paying athrough the nose for storage on his vehicle while impounded. Ain’t life grand?

  3. Ruth D~
    05/01/2008 at 3:20 am

    Interesting. Were I to flash the contents of my wallet, here in Massachusetts, I’d be in trouble for sure. I’d have to find something better to flash to get out of it, and I don’t have what it takes anymore. :>)

    I love these stories you tell.

  4. Tim Elhajj
    04/01/2008 at 7:30 pm

    Great story!

    My son just called to tell me that the Miami traffic police siezed the tags off his truck (replacing them with big orange impound signs)because he owed $200 in parking tickets.

    He had only $197 in the bank this morning and coudln’t get his tags back. He would have loved to pay off the cop, but I guess they don’t do that in Miami (probably more like they only do it on a larger scale).

    Be interesting to see how he makes out. Thanks for sharing your highway perils!

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