Alligators 'n Roadkill

Alligators 'n Roadkill
On The Road


Friday, May 20, 2011

ABC News does “Made In America”

The one function TV news performs very well is that when there is no news we give it to you with the same emphasis as if there were.   - David Brinkley

ABC News, in the states, recently ran a feature story over the course of a week, where they reported the outcome of a little test they conducted. They cited Moody's, as having postulated that if every American spent an extra $3.33 on U.S. made goods every year, it would create nearly 10,000 new jobs.

They persuaded a couple (Anna and Jon Usry, who have two kids) in Dallas to let their people (Reporters, including David Muir) go into the family's home, and remove everything by way of furniture, fixtures, and appliances that was not made in America. The first result was that, as reported on Tuesday, everything in the house was removed, except the kitchen sink, which reportedly was the only item made in America. Incidentally, the shot showing that sink also included the faucet. The family was then shown to be eating PB&J sandwiches the night of the removal, and sleeping on the floors, in sleeping bags (likely made in China, but nobody said).

Watching the first night of this coverage, I thought that this was a good idea, and may actually help Americans to figure out how to help themselves. So, I eagerly tuned in the next night. By the end of the second night, my eagerness had turned to mere curiousity, and by the end of the week, I was beginning to wonder why they started this thing in the first place.

To say the least, there are a few parts of this entire story that bother me. First, while a family of four may well be a typical American family, this particular family has a stay-at-home mom. That just strikes me as being way out of the norm. Secondly, I really thought that most brand name appliances are still American (Kenmore, Amana, Maytag, etc.?). Next, I think I should mention that the street these people reportedly live on is a short distance from where we most recently lived in the Dallas area. This has to be what I would call an upper middle class area, marked by homes valued significantly above the norm. So, that is another thing that troubles me about this story – the simple fact that these folks are above the mean, rather than being truly typical.

OK, back to the story: The next morning, the lady and at least one of the reporters began calling and searching online to find American made replacements for all of the items that were gone. The report showed that it took them over an hour just to locate an American made coffee pot (or, maybe it was a coffee maker)! [Editor's Note: a follow-up the next night reported that the search for an American made coffee maker was not successful, as the closest they could come was a device that was only partially made in America.] However, they persevered, and the second night of this ongoing story showed that the producers were able to find enough products to refurnish the Usury's home. There were some items that could not be replaced, and the story as told by ABC News almost seems to pass over them very lightly. First, it was reported that the flat screen Panasonic TV has been replaced with a painting by a local Dallas artist. Then, it was mentioned, almost as if in passing, that the house would be dark, if an exception had not been made. That is because nobody is making light bulbs in the U. S. any more. So much for GE and Sylvania, huh?

That second night of the story also revealed that the only kitchen appliances that could be found were high end products - Viking Brand and Sub-Zero and Wolf. The old appliances were reported as GE. Pricing information so far indicates that going All-American is significantly more expensive all around than using some imports, especially in the kitchen. The fridge, from Sub-Zero ran over $3,000.00, and the microwave (Wolf) ran around $500.00, and I think the stove was even higher.

They did not report on what alternatives might be out there for a family that wants a television, or a stereo, or anything else by way of entertainment, and ultimately, I cannot see that there is any alternative. Maybe Boze for sound, but I just don't see any American made video equipment. Ultimately, while I watched each night, I did not get a feeling that this story was carried out to any real end, and I now have more questions left unanswered. I will give them this. They did bring out an 'expert' on Friday, who stated that it is not necessary to actually follow this thing through to the exclusion of all products not made in America. After all, he said, "We now live in a global economy, so it is all right for some things (electronics, maybe?) to be made elsewhere." I don't know, but I was left with a feeling like maybe ABC News just copped out, when they discovered what any normal consumer could have told them before they started: You cannot hope to fully furnish a home in the U. S. today with only American made goods. Does anyone out there remember Ross Perot, and his 'giant sucking sound?' That sound has turned into silence, as we discover that what he warned about happened all too fast.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The truly high cost of driving in Costa Rica.

If you haven't found something strange during the day, it hasn't been much of a day. - John A. Wheeler

Here is one of the many things nobody tells you about this place, and you have to learn for yourself: There is absolutely no rhyme or reason for anything ever done by any government agency, entity, or employee. The same pretty much holds true for private enterprise, as well, but since we're going to be talking about driving and licenses to drive here, let's concentrate on the Agency that is responsible.

First, that Agency is called Cosevi (officially named Consejo de Seguridad Vial, which translates as the Council of Road Safety). They have got to be one of the strangest entities in the history of bureaucracy. First of all, in order to obtain our first CR licenses, we learned that there is only one location in the entire nation where a foreigner (extranjero, in Spanish) can obtain a license to drive. The least painful way in which to obtain this license is to have been in this country for less than ninety days, and to be in possession of an active license from any U. S. state.

If you meet these two pre-requisites, then by going to that one location, in La Uruca, a part of San Jose, one must first pay the necessary fee (at present this is 11,000, or about $22.00), then go to a nearby "medical" facility with the words "Dictamen" posted outside. In this place, one pays another 15,000 (about $30.00) for a "doctor" to "certify" that you are medically OK to drive. Most folks who have gone through this report that the examination these doctors conduct consists of them asking if you have any medical conditions, if you are right- or left-handed, and then they ask you to read a line on an eye chart across the room, and tell them the color (red) that they point to on that eye chart. This place also has to stick your finger to check your blood type (unless you have documentation of it on your person, that is acceptable to them; i. e., in Spanish, and certified and authenticated).

After paying these fees, one must then go to the actual line for licenses, which is located way back at the first building close to where the public parking lot is. (Cosevi occupies a pretty large land area, a bit larger than a city block, and has things scattered all over that area, with the licensing line at the entrance, the bank where one must pay the license fee all the way at the front, and then, the medical facilities are located out on the street, nearby). As long as you have paid all fees, and have the documents from that in your possession, along with your current license, then you will be allowed to enter this first/last building, and take a seat, along with about fifty other people. Once you reach this point, the line usually moves rapidly, and the new license will be issued on the spot.

That first license was obtained by us before we had achieved our primary goal of obtaining legal residency. Cosevi, in all its wisdom, does issue a unique number to each and every license in the nation, but doesn't use its own system to create those numbers. Instead, they issue a license based on one's Passport Number for non-residents, or one's cedula number, for residents. That means that our licenses had a wrong number on them, since we are now residents, with legally issued cedulas. In order to renew our licenses, which were issued for only two years in the first place, we first had to get the numbers on our old licenses changed to match those cedulas.

Once again, in all its wisdom, Cosevi, for whatever reasons, is capable of making this change at only one location in the entire nation, and that is - you should have known this was coming - NOT in La Uruca, where the drivers licenses are issued in the first place. No, this is near downtown San Jose, in an area known as Paso Ancho (wide pass, and don't ask). In case you have never visited the city of San Jose, think of narrow, poorly paved streets, very few of which go in a straight line. Consider that very seldom will you ever see any sort of street sign, and there is absolutely no numbering (or other identification) of any dwellings, or other buildings. Once in a while, you may encounter a street name on a corner building, but that would be like every ten blocks, or maybe more. I made some maps on the PC, before we ever left home, and these maps do show very clearly, where we needed to go. What I forgot, and what makes it nearly impossible to find your way in San Jose, is that lack of street names and numbering. How can you determine where to go, if you can't determine where the hell you are?

So, needless to say, although we did make good time from our house, to San Jose, we then spent at least an hour just trying to find our first destination, the Cosevi location in Paso ancho. We then made our way onto the grounds of this office complex, discovering along the way, that this is where Ticos go to take their driving license exams. After an interminable wait, along with a goodly number of other people who had reason to request changes on their licenses (apparently a number of errors occur in the production of licenses, or else maybe all the Ticos waiting had to do name changes, or something), it was finally our turn. Blanca had the misfortune to be attended (and, I use that word in full knowledge that this person demonstrated a physical and mental capacity to just barely manage attending to his own personal needs) to by a man, who evidently had the use of only one finger for entering information into his PC. The female, next to him, who attended me shortly after Blanca's ordeal began, was finished with me, and providing assistance to the cretin dealing with Blanca long before that guy got halfway done. Ultimately, both did enter the proper information into their respective PC's, and gave us printouts attesting to that fact. They then said we could proceed to the offices in La Uruca to renew our licenses. It was nearly noon by this time.

Now, here is where I want to explain a bit about what it has cost us to comply with the requirements of having a drivers license in Costa Rica. We had to get up early in the morning, like around 5:00AM. We then drove to San Jose, via the new toll road, and then trie to find the first of two places we had to visit, as described above. Then, after we completed those requirements, we had to find the other location, where the actual license is issued (and, where we went through the motions described above in the third and fourth paragraphs), and comply with whatever was required at that place. Ultimately, these are the actual expenses we had to meet on this one day:


15,000(X2 for 2 people)            for "medical' exam

11,000 (X2 for 2 people)            for license

30,000 (X2 for going and coming)        for gasoline

7,000                     for tolls on the Autopisto Del Sol

10,000                     for lunch in Santa Ana

500                    Parking


30,000 Dictamen

22,000 Licenses

60,000 Gasoline

7,000 Tolls

10,000 Lunch

500 Parking

129,500 $259.60 Total cost for two people, without considering the length of our day (over twelve hours)

What more can I say? Oh, yeah, in case you were wondering about what pertains when one does NOT possess an active license from another country, and/or has been in Costa Rica for more than ninety days……….in that case, one must take a written – in Spanish - and actual physical driving exam, and yes, there is only one place in the nation where this may be done – (Paso Ancho for the driving part, and I think the written; and, then over to La Uruca to actually get the license). And, before I forget to mention it, by law, the driving exam must be done in a vehicle that has a standard transmission. No automatics. The law may be changing about this little detail, but changing laws here takes a long, long time…………Pura Vida, Mae!