I just returned to the States from a quick three days in paradise to get things ready for a series of guests coming in to stay at my Vieques casa during the next several weeks of the winter vacation season. It turned out to be a ride on a carousel of exasperation.
I’ll Get Back To You On That
Upon my arrival at my house, the reddish light on the router in my office was blinking. You guessed it. No wifi.
Many, many attempts at troubleshooting yielded nothing, so I called DirecTV. Almost two hours on the phone—no exaggeration—to learn that because of the merger of DirecTV and AT&T, the new entity had pulled the plug on my Internet service. They could transfer me to the local provider, Claro, which has a reputation in Puerto Rico worse than Comcast has in the States.
So I asked to simply cancel. But the only agent in the cancellation department who spoke English was not in “just then,” but would call me later that day, or within 24 hours, or within 48 hours. I’m serious here. You guessed it—no call back, so I’m officially still a customer.
Solution: On Monday I am canceling my Cape Cod Five bankcard, so auto-payments to DirecTV in Puerto Rico will stop. And because I was never notified by DirecTV of the change in service, I’m not telling them their future auto payments are going to bounce. Bet they’ll call me then.
Do I Know You?
Before traveling to Vieques, I checked my Banco Popular de Puerto Rico status and saw that my checking account showed zero balance. I tried to transfer funds from my savings account to checking, but I kept getting an error message. So when I got to the island, I went into the branch to resolve the matter.
A smiling clerk peered into her desktop computer and determined that my checking account had been closed “by the computer” because of two consecutive months of non-use.
Could she reinstate it? No, she smiled, I would have to open a new account.
I told her to forget it because I seldom use the checking account anyway. My savings account comes with a card I can use to pay for things around town. But I'd like to change my mailing address to Massachusetts.
Of course, she smiled. All she needed was the new address . . . and a photo ID.
A photo ID? It’s me! I’ve been talking to you for half an hour. You see on your desk my checkbook, my Banco debit cards—here’s my American Express Gold.
I need a photo ID, she smiled. “The computer” won’t let me go on, she explained sweetly.
The whole thing reminded me of applying for my Puerto Rico driver's license some years ago. I needed a passport, even though I had taken a written test and was surrendering my current Massachusetts license.
Show a passport in order to get a driver’s license? Solution? Just drive home and return with the damn passport.
Who says you can’t fight city hall?
Three of us North Americans own houses on a dead end road on a mountainside overlooking the Caribbean. We’re the only three houses on the road. It doesn’t qualify as a cul-de-sac, which offers a circular space at the end in which you can turn around to exit. The definition was driven home for us when municipal garbage pickup abruptly stopped. The truck always came once a week. After they picked up at the last house at the end of our road they would back all the way out to the main road.
My neighbor in the last house on our road, fluent in Spanish, went to the municipal offices to complain. He was told the driver of the garbage truck couldn’t see when he backed up. The unseasonably torrential autumn rainy season had made the trees and underbrush alongside the road so dense that the road was unmanageable for the truck.
Vieques, I hear, is the only municipality in Puerto Rico that's solvent in these adverse times. To gain solvency, one step the municipality has taken is to not spend money to cut back trees. Instead, they simply stopped our garbage pickup.
Solution? My neighbors—husband and wife armed with chain saws, weed whackers and sheers—spent this past week clearing the roadside themselves.
The day after they finished this extreme act of citizenship—and neighborliness—the garbage truck came rumbling down our road yesterday. Small graces are sometimes cause for great celebration.
In closing, I’ll remind you that Jesus spent three days dead in the tomb. I wonder how he would have handled my triduum in Vieques.
(Image: The view from my house, Casa Cascadas, which makes it all worthwhile.)