Friday, December 14, 2007

Wilma 16

Sometime after lunch we heard an “hola” being shouted from the front porch. I went to investigate who the visitor was, since I did not immediately recognize the voice. It was Lola, the wife of Luis, our carpenter friend. She had come to tell me that my scooter was done and that I could go pick it up. The only problem was, I did not know where it was! Lola explained that this was not a problem because she had to pick up Luis’ scooter too, so we could just go together.

So off we went, up the hill behind our house to the top of the island and then down the other side. She led me to a greasy, dirty little hole in the wall motor scooter and engine repair place. At that point I did not especially care what the place looked like, I just wanted my transportation back. Before that could happen, they had to show Lola and me the tires they had removed from our respective scooters and what the damage was. Incredibly, my tire and Luis’ tire had exactly the same kind of damage and almost in the same spot on both tires! I mentally scratched my head at this unusual development. What were the chances that we had both run over the same kind of nail in almost exactly the same spots on our tires? Slim to none, you say? So did I! Having satisfied themselves that we agreed the tire inner tube was beyond repair and we did, indeed, need to purchase a new one, which was already conveniently installed, they rolled out our scooters.

The bill for this repair was 180 pesos, or about $17. I guess I really did not think that was too bad of a price to pay for the new inner tube and labor combined. It did burn my butt a bit that I knew they probably wrecked the original tube beyond repair so that they could sell us new ones.

Poor Lola though. She only had 70 pesos to her name and they would not release the scooter to her unless the bill was paid in full. I was contemplating “loaning” her the money, knowing I would never see it back but not much caring. This family has been so helpful to us in our lives down here that anything I can do to help them out is fine with me. However, before I could tell Lola that I would make up the difference, they announced that since both scooters were brought in by the same person, they would not release either scooter until both had been paid for! I found this appalling but unfortunately typical. Somehow the rules down here are always subject to change and sometimes even get made up on the spot! Although I was going to give Lola the money anyway, I felt like I was being extorted into paying for Luis’ scooter just to get mine. Ok, no big deal in the entire scheme of things. So I paid up and Lola hopped on Luis’ scooter and off she sped. She must have yelled “gracias” over her shoulder as she sped away because I certainly did not hear it from her while I was paying the bill!

The repair guy gave me my keys and I fired up my scooter. Before I pulled away, I glanced down at the fuel gage. I was shocked to see the needle was in the red area of the Empty category! Especially since when they came and got the scooter, the tank was full! Can we say siphon? I pointed to my gauge and asked what happened to the gas. I was met with blank stares and looks of “duh” from the now totally gathered around me crew. All five of them. The boss then said that it was empty when they got it. I looked from face to face as they stepped in even closer to me and, even knowing that they were lying through their gold capped teeth, I decided the better course of action was to drop it and just leave.

As I backed it out of the driveway/repair stall, the boss followed me and asked me for a tip! I just looked at him and it was my turn to give him the "duh" look. I gave him a firm no as my answer. What a bunch of crooks. First they more than likely did more damage to my tire in order to sell me a new one, then they extorted Luis’ payment out of me, then they stole gas out of my tank and yet had the prairie oysters to ask for a tip. In case you can’t tell, months later and I am still angry with them. Needless to say, they will never get any of my business again. Nor will I ever send another person to them for work. I hope they spent that 170 pesos well.

Later that evening, Luis stopped by and tried to pay me back for the money I forked over earlier. I would not take it and the two of us commiserated with each other over what crooks these guys turned out to be. Luis assured me that he would never do business there again either and kept apologizing to me for their actions. Lesson learned for the both of us.

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