Recently I made a trip to San José on the bus from my home in San Ramón. After conducting my business which took several hours, I tried to telephone my wife, who had promised to meet me at the bus station. My phone was no longer in my pocket. Of course, I suspected the worst, and spent the ride home worrying about the time and money I would have to spend in the morning to cancel the phone: A lawyer’s fee to prove ownership to the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, and the purchase of a new phone, many hours and many colons.
My wife and her girlfriend who had been out shopping were waiting at the bus station and having called the phone and figured out that the phone was in the hands of a Tico, were trying to establish a conversation with the man to no avail. Case closed, the phone was a goner.
Several hours later the girlfriend, who is fluent in Spanish, and her husband arrived on our doorstep, they had established communications, and the man wanted to talk to the owner of the phone. I speak very little Spanish but managed to convey that I was the owner. Conversation then went on as the man said he worked for the Tránsito in San José, had found the phone in the street, that he was an honorable man, and just wanted to return the phone, but he lived a long way away and returned to work at 4 in the morning.
Cautiously, he did not want to say where he lived, so finally we blurted out that we lived in San Ramón. After he got over the shock, it was established that he lived only about two miles from us!
We all piled into the car and went to the man’s house, where he showed me his Tránsito badge, I showed him my cédula and proved the ownership of the phone by turning it off, putting in the PIN and turning it back on. He gave me the phone, and with profuse thanks I tried to reward him for his generosity. He refused. The next day we took over a box of cookies and brownies, and learned his name: Eduardo B. of San Ramón and the Transito. An honorable man.
In comparison, when cell phones were a new additional thing to hold in your hands, I lived in Portland, Oregon, and had the misfortune to put my phone on the roof of the car, rid myself of the rest of the stuff in my hands, and then drive away. The homeowner whose house I was appraising at the time called me and said he had the phone and wanted a reward of “only $20” for me to drive the 120 miles round trip to retrieve my phone.
With so much focus on crime in Costa Rica and the sometimes hassles of getting along in a foreign country (both of which can be true!), we sometimes need a reminder that Costa Rica is also blessed with many wonderful people, good of heart and as honorable as they come.
While my wife and I have many great relationships with Ticos established during the four years we have lived here, this particular encounter where we were expecting the worst and instead experienced the best, certainly served as that reminder.