A continuation of a little something about our mutual friends at ICE started yesterday……….
I, for one, have no choice but to go to them (ICE) for telephone service (landline), cell phone (if I wanted one bad enough to deal with them for this, too, but fortunately I don't need one), and the current bane of my existence, their marvelous, up to date, dependable, reliable, clean and sharp 3g service, known as Kolbi. But, first, let me tell you about how we got a landline connected at our house.
We knew, while construction was going on, and while we were waiting for our cedulas, that we could not even think of asking for a phone until that pesky little residency thing was finalized. So, we didn't. Once we got our cedulas, however, and even before we took our first trip back to Texas (for an event that we knew was coming, our oldest son's wedding in October of 2009), I went to ICE to request a phone. I carefully explained that I already had undertaken to have the line run from our neighbor's property to ours totally underground. What I asked of them was to provide the line from the road down to that pole, and make the connection. There was no need for any digging or for any additional poles to be placed. Just run the line, right? I also explained that we had a document prepared by our attorney, with all necessary signatures, that gave us – and ICE – permission to run any lines needed over the neighbor's property.
They said there should be no problem, and upon accepting my deposit, they printed out a document that they said should be posted in a prominent location for their representatives to see when they got to the property to assess what was going to be needed for our connection. We then posted that notice on our house, explained everything to the caretaker, and took our trip. This notice was essentially to their (ICE's) representative/engineer, to see upon his arrival at our property, explaining to him that all fees had been paid, and even listing our eventual phone number. His job, as I understood it, was to simply look over the situation, walk the property as needed, and give the go ahead to the folks in the office to go ahead and run the additional line (on existing poles, from the road, over the neighbor's property, to the pole on her property where they were to connect to our line) required.
Upon our return from our trip, we were of course disappointed to pick up the phone, and to see that it still did not work. Timeline to this point, by the way, looks about like this: request to ICE, in their office, was made by me, and a deposit paid, on or about September 15. We left for Texas on Sept. 20, and returned from Texas on Oct. 10. So, we're only talking about three weeks and a couple of days at this point.
We naturally asked our caretaker what had happened, and found that he really didn't have a clue. He thought that someone had come from ICE, but wasn't really sure (you should be aware that this is as much due to his being a few fries shy of a happy meal, as to any actions on the part of any ICE representative). He just couldn't tell us anything.
So, I went to ICE, and learned that they didn't really know what had happened. I next asked them to please send their engineer, or whatever, back, so that I could actually talk to him. He came. I showed him my documents. I showed him where my line ran underground. I showed him where the pole is located on my neighbor's property. I showed him where the line runs, on her property, from the road. He said he understood that ICE did indeed have her permission to run my line on her property, and he said that he would give the go ahead for the connection.
A week went by. Nothing happened. So, I went again to ICE's local office. Now, I was told that the engineer, after talking to me, and after reading the documents that I had showed to him, and after being given a copy of said document, had reportedly gone to the trouble to speak directly to the neighbor, asking for her verbal OK. Again, reportedly, she had denied permission. So, I asked how could this be, and why did he feel that he had to talk to her, in the first place. In my presence the clerk placed a phone call. She told me that she was calling my neighbor personally (my neighbor happened to be in San Jose that day, so she called her on her cell). I, of course, only heard one side of the conversation. The clerk concludes her call and says the neighbor has just denied permission to her, yet again.
So, here I am, truly pissed at my neighbor, with whom I haven't spoken for a time, but who had recently, on the street in town, agreed with me that ICE could run my phone line through her property whenever they wanted to. So, next, a friend of ours, a Tica, and a truly lovely lady, went with Blanca (my wife), to talk to our neighbor. Again, she (our neighbor) couldn't be nicer, and repeated that she had no problem with ICE running my line through her property. She also repeatedly said that she had never once denied ICE any permission to go through her property. As a matter of fact, all agreed that this was the most logical way to hook us up. This was again communicated to the local ICE office, by me and by the neighbor.
What we finally figured out was that ICE wanted to run the line down the road, maybe fifty meters west of where our neighbor's line runs, and make me pay for all of the posts that this would take, so that the line would then be ready for future use for any other people who might happen along. I guess I should mention that we are on a public road (at least according to the municipalidad that has authority over our area. And, here we have yet another Costa Rican idea that is similar, yet very different from what gringos might be used to – municipality might mean a city government, but here it refers to what is more like a county-wide jurisdiction), and let's face it, it is sort of logical for a public phone line to run along a public road. However, we were very much aware that we were the only ones on said public road, and that the shortest route between us and the nearest lines, was to go across private land, and that is all we were asking for in this instance. But, evidently the fine folks at ICE had decided that by stalling my request, I would eventually agree to pony up the significantly larger amount of money that it would take to do what they wanted, as opposed to simply acceding to my original request.
It only took a few more weeks before one day two guys showed up in a little truck, with a bunch of ladders and stuff, and in less than an hour, they routed wire from the road, along our neighbors existing poles, and hooked us up right where we had asked for it all those weeks before. And, here is another twist: Those two guys? They were sub-contractors to ICE, because ICE evidently doesn't do any actual connections in our area! However, the phone is still working, albeit less than totally clear at all times, over a year later! But, here is the thing: yes, the phone is pretty much there, but not really all there, if you know what I mean. Lemme 'splain:
Not too long after the phone was finally connected, we started to run into people who asked us what was wrong with our phone because they had tried to call, but never could get through. Turns out, as improbable as this sounds, that the ringers on three separate phones all got fried at approximately the same time, so that if someone was calling us, we had no way of knowing since our phones made no sound! Not only did that happen, but the caller ID ceased to function. So, I had to buy a separate item, a ringer that I stuck on the wall, and it connects to the phone jack, and a phone then connects to it. As if this is not bad enough, we also have noticed that many times the phone rings, we answer it, and there is no one there. People trying to reach us tell us the phone rings, but then just stops. We easily confirmed this because many times when we answer no one is there, so we hang up, and then the phone rings again, and we do this over and over until we find someone on the other end who tells us that they have been trying for numerous times to reach us.
Naturally, there is nothing that ICE can do, and I can sort of see their position. You see, in order to connect us the subcontractors had to run easily over a hundred meters of line, probably more, from the road down to the pole where our line was waiting. My guys, the ones who ran our phone line underground, from the house, up to that pole, had left at least 20-30 meters of coiled line hanging on that pole. The sub-contractors didn't bother to cut off the excess, but connected to the end of that coil. So, I have at least 200, maybe more, meters of phone line running down here, without benefit of any sort of equipment to maintain a strong signal. Undoubtedly, some of the original signal strength, as found in the main line, up on the road, has been lost, so I can't ever expect to get a clean phone connection, without even more expense.
There is more to come, so stayed tuned for Part III.