Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Way Things Are - The Line

It's a new year here, although I don't quite think it is 2013 yet...maybe 1950.  A new year brings a new chapter to the Puerto Rico saga, a new group of posts I will call "The Way Things Are" for lack of a more interesting title. This first installment came to me today as I was in da da got yet another LINE.

I dread leaving the house (unless it is to go underground or underwater) but we are in desperate need of bread and other "food" items. I hopped in the truck and realized I had another thing to add to my list of things to get - gas. Here in Puerto Rico EVERYTHING is difficult and what makes it frustrating is that 99% of these things could be easily fixed. No brain power required. I pull into the gas station and have to go get in LINE  (yes there is always a line) to give them my credit card. After that I pump my gas and guess what? Go get back in another LINE to pay for it. The fact that it involves going in there twice is bad enough, but often they are writing checks to vendors who are blocking the LINE (or are in the LINE) and even when that is done (which is hard to do with 4 inch fancy fake fingernails) they still have you press this or that on an archaic credit card machine after they manually (yes manually) put in the numbers of your card. Then you have to pull the metal drawer twice...once to sign the slip of paper and a second time to get your card back. Great way to start the day! The only alternative to this little scenario is to try to guess how much it will take to almost fill your tank and pay with cash. Since you are guessing, you will never have a full tank and spend twice as much time at the gas station so it is basically a wash.

Next stop was Marshalls - the store you love to hate. It didn't look crowded so in I went in search of another bottle of some awesome barrel-aged balsamic vinegar from Napa Valley. Last I checked was before the xmas chaos and there were 5 bottles. At that time I left the line (as I often do) leaving items in the aisles, literally, (my personal %$^% you Puerto Rico) when I discovered one cashier and over 50 people in LINE. Today looked better but they didn't have it! I did find a couple other kinds to try and proceeded to the LINE. There were 2 cashiers and about 20 people. People here always seem surprised that they have to pay for things. After waiting for 12 minutes or so in LINE they finally get there and aren't ready. Is this fun for them? 12 minutes. After a register opens up (the line is now bigger) the male cashier decides that now is a good time to take the size thingys off the hangers...saunter over to the hanger place to sort them...remove hangers from his area and THEN call the next person. Unbelievable. Marshalls is notorious for stuff like this. Once I was in line while a cashier waited for a customer who brought 3 things to the cashier, then left to continue shopping, and the cashier just stood there waiting. I had some things to say about that and after a bunch of excuses about not knowing what to do, I told her what to do - void the $%#^ order and help other people! Like it isn't obvious?

This didn't happen today but I love it when people at the supermarket or where ever get in the 10 and under line with 20 plus items. This happens all the time and cashiers have no common sense about it. In the early days here I would go to Walmart for cat liter and cat food (thankfully I have discovered Petsmart). On one occasion a man a few people ahead of me had 18 or so items in the 10 and under line. I said something and he pretended not to understand so I said it to him and the cashier and everyone else waiting with 10 items in Spanish. As a parting shot the guy says, in perfect English, "what do you care, you're almost out of here anyway?" Exactly - I COULD BE OUT IF YOU WEREN'T IN THE WRONG $#%$# LINE! Another time a man was in line with 20 things in a 10 and under. I said something in Spanish to the little girl with him, that daddy needed to count things. Uno, dos, tres.... The man insisted that 10 items were his and 10 were his daughter's! Really? Does the 8 year old have her own Familia card or cash? In that instance the cashier sent him to another line but that rarely happens. They just need to have the register shut off at 10 items. So much for being in the short LINE. Next time I will bring 20 things there too. FYI is the register DID shut off they would probably just ring up the guys other stuff anyway.

Doctor's offices (and dentists and any medical, vision, surgery stuff) are horrible for the LINE. Some offices are like cattle roundups where everyone has an 8am appointment (get eyes checked), then you get herded from one room (mass dilation drops), to another (wait for them to take effect), then one by one to slaughter - oops- I mean the helper to look at the chart, then another room to wait some more and then finally the doctor some 3 hours later. I recently went for a stress test where you guessed it, 10 people had an 8am appointment. Normally I would just go at 11 but I really needed this test and I was fitted into the schedule amazingly fast (like 2 days) so I figured I better behave. So there I sat in the refrigerated cold room for 3 hours IN LINE for the test. Is it that hard to just stagger appointments? Each patient takes 20 minutes (or less) so why not have 3 people come at 8, 3 at 9 or 9:30 etc? Is it THAT difficult to figure this out? Do the receptionists feel powerful handing out numbers and having mobs of people waiting in LINE? Does this make the doctor feel successful? I'm sorry, but I just don't understand it. How can this be comfortable for anyone? (and why is it always so freaking cold)

Another unbelievable supermarket episode was in Sabana Grande (when we lived at the other house). Everyone is in LINE with their carts of cold stuff and nothing is moving. Hmmm. The checker blips the stuff through, leaves them on the belt (didn't bag them), tells the customer to take their Familia or Credit Card over to another LINE where there are 8 people at least. What's going on? When I finally get into that line I realize the problem. The credit card stuff isn't working except the one special one. Could they maybe have said something? Maybe put people with cash in one line? Nope. People here LOVE LINES!

So finally today I was in another LINE at Kmart. Kmart is another store on my avoidance list (which grows bigger each trip out into the world) but I didn't want to drive to Petsmart just for clumping cat litter and supermarkets here don't carry that (just the old fashioned non clumping stuff that is cheap). The LINES didn't look bad so in I went. I walk into the store and guess what? No carts. Are there ever carts in there? No. The "greeter" points across the street. Across the street is where they keep them. In the parking lot. There is one way in and out of the Aguadilla Mall (or the Yauco Mall, or most stores here in fact) and you have to cross the LONG LINE of cars to get to where the carts are. After you get the cart you have to maneuver it back across the LINE of cars along the curb to the flat spot in order to get it into the store. And guess what is there? A long LINE, more like a stream, of people discovering there are no carts. They are all walking into you like zombies not giving way. I get my stuff, get in a short LINE and after MANUALLY entering the bar code numbers for my 2 items I am able to escape to the final line of the day - the LONG LINE out! Yes, that is The Way Things Are (here anyway, not in most other more civilized places).


Anonymous said...

Why are you here?

Everything about this island annoys or offends you in some way.

Puerto Rico has its legit problems, obviously, but most of your complains are petty, privileged, and prejudiced.

If it's come to the point where a gas station's cashier's nails cause you distress (not to mention the station's "archaic" credit/debit card machine), you really need to take a moment, and think.

Seriously, get off your pedestal, and chill.

Jeff and Katrina Kruse said...

Anonymous - Chill? Seriously? It is 80 something degrees out! As one of the 2% (that's gringo, not privelged)I have seen how efficient things can be and can find great humor in the day-to-day goings on here. There must be something humorous or you wouldn't be reading... (now go hop on your motorcycle, ride up and down the street and wave a big PR flag for me!) Oh, and if I were on a pedestal it would probably have collapsed, I would have fallen off and been waiting in another LINE at the doctor's by now katrina

Linda said...

Hahahaha.. Kmart line and Marshall's line. My nemesis.... Mayaguez mall, Marshall's... I could be the first person in the store when it opens, run around to get what I need and there is a line. And the cashiers go on break and your still in the line when they get back. And the family in front of yknows the cashier.. And wants to talk.. And wants to see the baby.. Ad hold up the clothes for the baby.. And on and on and on.
Kmart in mayaquez.. One casher open and 50 people in line. Or maybe 10 people and they are all families shopping with grandma. Oh I FEEL for you. But I also go with a very high tolerance and breathe DEEP.
Now home depot seems to be better..

Anonymous said...

Off topic, but has anyone noticed that much merchandise at KMart by Home Depot in Western Plaza isn't marked, or marked incorrectly. And prices are super find this out after standing in THE LINE!!
I am feeling pretty good, I have done OK so far at Marshall's. But I can see how a baby can gun up the works. There is a high GAB factor there. Wil

Cesar said...

I find the entry interesting for the most part but not humorous, there is definitely a mean spirited streak in it. Just my opinion after reading The Line several times. Indeed, your reply above came off as defensive rather than accepting a differing opinion responding to what seems as an attack, not an attempt at humor. Perhaps we have a different sense of humor. As for me I live in what you'd consider a civilized place Arlington, VA but am a native of PR, the uncivilized place you love to hate.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Cesar, i find most of it offensive. I have been reading your blog for over 2 years now, mostly for your stories on home and garden repair and especially your cats. But when it comes to the people in PR you always have to blog the negative side. Is there any thing good about the people and lifestyle in PR that you appreciate? It will be nice to read about it also. I am also a proud Puerto Rican liven in NJ.


Anonymous said...

Cesar, Lori, We write about the good stuff all the time, however we write about the bad stuff and unfortunately there is so much of it it may seem to dominate the blog. Just today I drove by another big (6 feet tall) pile of trash that was dumped either yesterday or this morning just a few blocks away. Then I encounter countless starving dogs on the side of the road for my 8 mile drive down highway 112. I don’t even care to talk about the trash on that road. It makes the few 6 foot tall piles near our house pale in comparison. Then I could go on about how I have to slam on my brakes so frequently because people just “go” when they want with no regards for physics or others. Why are Puerto Ricans so proud to be part of this? What is it with this sense of pride? You don’t see us waving the Washington St flag or getting upset when some says the traffic and weather sucks in Seattle.

Now on to the good. We have been diving more. The vis is good. I hope to go tonight after work. I think we also mentioned how nice the people were who live near the cave Jaguar. They told us to walk through their yard to get to the cave and then gave us cans of ice cold coca cola when we came out. The people here are always friendly and helpful.

Anonymous said...

There' s good and bad stuff everywhere. Otherwise it would be haven...

Cesar said...


I don't know anyone that is proud of our worst habits. And I find most of them as annoying or more than you do. But to quote Latin American hero Simon Bolivar: "My wine, though spoiled, is my wine". I'd guess that some Puerto Ricans, I know I do, despite being annoyed and even criticizing the same things you do, see some of the comments in the blog as a personnal attack on Puerto RIcans as a group of people.
I do see that you appreciate many things the Island has to offer. Namely caves, diving, flora, old churches, museums, etc. I could not help but notice that all these places and activities put you away from the Islanders and their non-sensical business practices and stupid ways and/or are quiet places that limit interaction with others.(I am aware that you must have many local friends, the expat community in the northwest is not that large to insulate yourself). But you've been in the Island for awhile now, there must be some redeeming qualities about the host population you have encounter that is worth writing about if only to balance the negative view that seems to dominate many of the entries. BTW, thank you for your reply. Respectfully, Cesar.

Britton said...

They stopped pumping gas for you here in CO a long time ago, so now I see it as a courtesy of times past. I kind of like it.

Jeff and Katrina Kruse said...

Britton - Nope, they don't pump it for you here. Most of places don't even take credit cards (which you don't find out until you are at the head of THE LINE)!

RDWest said...

Your house looks fantastic! Great job!! Wanna come do mine? Bob