“Turn out the lights, the party’s over.” (Willie Nelson [song: The Party’s Over] via Dandy Don Meredith, MNF)
The Thursday before last, early in the morning around 7:30, we had one of our common ICE moments, where the power abruptly surged up and down a few times, burning out several electrical devices, and leaving us with only about half power. I say half power because after this event, if we turned on one light, and then a second light, both lights then failed. We were unable to turn on anything that might draw current, like the fridge, or the TV, or even the gas stove.
There are about three different phone numbers that we are supposed to be able to use to report electrical problems, so we began trying them. The first one, which is to an ICE office in Cañas (no, I do not know why we would be calling so far, but this is one of the numbers we’ve been given), did reach a live person. This guy would not even let Blanca explain what had happened before he cut her off, saying over and over that whatever problem we had was internal to the house, and thus not ICE’s worry. I then became very discouraged, but later on tried the other two numbers. One was not working, and the other was to our local ICE office in Arenal.
I spoke with a clerk at the local office who knows me, and he said that he would send some people out. If they came, we never saw them. We ended up waiting all day long for the only local electrician of any worth. Jose Alfredo did show up late in the afternoon, after 5:00PM. He explained that the connections to our neutral bar, within the circuit breaker box were all corroded, especially the main neutral line, due to cumulative affects of too many power surges. He cleaned up the main connector, and recommended that I replace the entire bar.
So, at the end of the day, we did have electricity again, so that the fridge did begin to run once more, we could turn on lights, and use the stove, and so forth. Meanwhile, our outside security light (a dusk to dawn affair) was no longer working, our coffee maker was dead, the microwave oven was dead, the fridge no longer makes ice, and the freezer is not as cold as it should be (ice cream is like mush, and the temp, according to my special thermometer, is only around 20° F; - - just how cold does it have to be for ice cream to stay solid, anyway?). It was not until a few days later that I discovered that my all-in-one (multi-function printer/scanner/copier/fax) machine is also dead.
Now, this is not a small thing, and with this latest event I would point out that in the two years and several months that we have lived here, I have had to buy (as replacements), or pay for repairs to, more electrical and electronic devices than I have had to pay for in the previous twenty years! And, that is most definitely NOT good.
I was very much aware that the electric provider (my good friends at ICE) is totally responsible for this event, and for any damages that we have suffered as a result. Furthermore, I was very much aware that the laws of Costa Rica even say this. We discussed this at some length over the next few days, and shared the report of the incident with anyone with whom we came into contact. We ultimately decided to not pursue any efforts to recoup our losses, however, simply because of our firm belief that ICE would just do the same thing to us that they did the last time we had a problem with them (that would be nothing, other than belittle us).
Well, the son of our builder, who is now some sort of big shot engineer with ICE, got involved and told us we had to file a claim, and provided the written policy showing the requirements for doing so. Also, he contacted the guy who is in charge locally, and that guy had a letter formally delivered to us, informing us that we could submit a claim, and outlining what we needed to submit with the claim. – Picture this, if you will. He sent an employee, driving a large ICE truck, all the way out here to our house, so that the employee (who happens to be a lineman/tech of some sort) could have me sign for the receipt of the letter.—
Now, the requirements are nothing short of next to impossible, but I did my best. The requirements include receipts showing ownership of whatever was damaged, and of course, my full identification. It took me a few days to put it together, in Spanish, and then we went to the office in Arenal to submit our claim one week after the event. He was ready for me, and he (the local supervisor) apparently had nothing else to do but answer the phone and prepare the paperwork connected to our claim. He accepted my declaration of ownership for those things for which I no longer have receipts, and handed us a written response to our claim.
This response starts out by saying that we are accusing them (ICE) of having damaged our things, and tells us that they will conduct an “exhaustive technical analysis” of our entire house and the articles in it that were damaged. It also informed us (a week after the incident) that we must maintain the items right where they were when damaged, without repairing anything or making any effort to change anything in any way. By this time, I had already found out that the coffee maker was not repairable because the technician in nearby Tilaran could not find parts, so I had already told him to throw it away (yeah, that’s right; we bought yet another new one). The microwave had already gone for repair, and was back in place. And, of course, the electrician had already cleaned up our neutral connection to get us back up and running.
Furthermore, if we were to follow this particular requirement (that of not touching anything), this would mean that we have lost any hope of recouping any part of our losses the moment the electrician got us back on line. And this would mean that they expected us to have existed this past week without electricity, to have allowed all the food in the fridge to spoil, and so on.
I ask you, is this absurd? First, they themselves did not respond to our telephone calls. Second, and rather obviously, we have to have electricity. But (and, here’s that Catch 22), if we get the electricity working on our own, then we have essentially destroyed the evidence of their screw up! Oh, yeah………and, then there’s the timeline. Their letter informs us that the ‘exhaustive technical analysis’ may be done any time within the next ten days, and may take as long as two months!
So, what can I say? Welcome to our version of pura vida.