Last Saturday I tried to go downtown. I reasoned that at 2 o’clock in the afternoon they would not yet be starting the arrangements for the Festival of Lights. That was my first mistake. The driver of the taxi I had called told me that Sabana Este was closed to traffic. He said he would have to go around the park to get to 10th Avenue.
No way, I said. Go as usual. Second mistake. After being a part of the traffic jam that was the alternate route to the center of town, and getting farther and farther from Avenida 10, I paid the taxista and walked. And walked.
By the time I got to Paseo Colón, I thought I had arrived at the beach. There were people everywhere, thousands of them scantily dressed, sitting on blankets and towels under umbrellas, munching every kind of snack you can imagine. Most of the wrappings identified them as coming from the fast food restaurants along Paseo Colón, conveniently still open, unlike every other business. There were very few people texting or on cell phones.
As I said, it was a day at the beach, the beach being the broad street roped off in front of them, with thousands on the other side. The persistent cold weather we’ve been having had graciously left and the day had turned warm and sunny, and I was seriously overdressed in my layers of shirts. I removed my jacket and slowly weaved my way east past trucks of TV equipment, police cars, ambulances, grandstands and people.
Finally I found an opening so I could cross the street. I looked at the beach scene across the street, at least five people deep and I wondered how I was going get under or over the taut strong yellow rope.
Almost on cue, without a word, one woman jumped up and lifted the immovable rope so I could duck under it and another removed a chair so that I had access to the cross street.
After plodding another two blocks I found a taxi and was informed by the driver that it was impossible to get to where I wanted to go so I said, “Take me home.” I didn’t tell him what route to take. We made it via Sabana Sur.
Once safely home I thought about my fruitless journey, but seeing Costa Ricans still gathering, enjoying
Butterfly in the City
Each other’s company, doing something together, without the use of an electronic gadget made it all worth it. Lately I have been wondering if it is possible for people who have been taught that buying things would make them happy to once again become people who know that doing something together in person is pleasurable and brings happiness.
And then I saw an interview of Andrew Mason. He and his fellow graduate student wanted to do something to change the world in a positive way. They came up with the idea of groupon.com. It is a simple concept based upon the practice of coupon clipping to get discounts in stores to buy things. Groupon features small local businesses in U.S. cities offering huge discount coupons on line when enough people sign up for a particular experience. Their offerings range from an elegant dinner to flying lessons, an evening of bowling, or a day in a spa.
The point is numbers and experience. Because a minimum have to sign up to activate the coupons, people ask others to sign on with them. It has been a boon to small businesses that may not use advertising effectively, and people put down their electronic lifelines to disembodied friends to join each other in some activity for 50 percent or more off the regular price.
Unfortunately, Groupon has not yet reached Costa Rica. There are so many environmental friendly activities that people would enjoy doing together if the price were reasonable, and there are many small businesses in and around San José that would welcome the opportunity.
Or maybe some group here will come up with a similar idea. Prices are going up so drastically, customers could use a break. And life is, after all, a journey, not a destination, and the journey is memorable more for the people you meet along the way, than for how much stuff you have put in your luggage.