I was downtown this week after a visit to Hospital Caderón Guardia for an annual checkup. Theoretically, my pacemaker is good to go for another year. I just hope it takes me with it. Being lazy, I took a taxi from the hospital to the Automercado on Avenida 3. I could have caught the bus by walking over to the stop opposite the Parque Nacional, but the sidewalk to the bus is a landmine of peddlers and pedestrians.
After shopping for a few things, I took my usual method for crossing the city. I caught the Sabana Cementerio bus on the corner of Calle 3 and Avenida 3, being careful not to get hit by one of the countless buses that cross that intersection. Sitting on the bus beats driving or taking a taxi. It saves money, nerves, and maybe even one’s life.
Busing through the market area on Avenida 3 is the only way to go to turn a nerve wracking, frustrating ordeal into an interesting sight-seeing trip.
Today I noticed yet another impediment to the journey: policemen on bicycles. About seven of them had gathered on the side of the street to, as far as I could see, chat. There was no suspect visible. They were resting on their bikes side by side, blocking the lane and turning the street into one lane for more than a block, and then to complicate matters a fellow pushing a high cart filled with cartons of eggs came walking against traffic in that lane. Now, if one were in a car or taxi, one would be furious. I was amused and amazed at the tranquil way the bus driver took it all in stride. He directed the egg man to either cross the street or get to the side. He got to the side. We then waited patiently while the police moved themselves enough so we could pass – just barely.
That bus took me to near the Canada House on Avenida 4, just past the park with some remarkable trees where I hailed a taxi for the rest of the way home. As I got off the bus, I thanked the driver and told him his job was not an easy one.
I am more and more aware of the difficulty with which older residents mount the stairs and manage that last long step off the bus. I had to smile as I read the newly posted sign on the bus window that cautions riders to be considerate ofmayores. The bus companies could follow their own advice by adding a step.
I always enjoy my rides through San José, unless there is an accident, which seems to happen more frequently of late. But the end of the ride is past the Sabana Park, with the newly planted native trees that are already adolescents and the people taking advantage of the park’s many offerings.
Recently I was reading an article about the mystery still surrounding the death of an American, John Bender, in Costa Rica. The author, Ned Zeman, basing his comments upon a seemingly brief trip through the city, described San José as a “sprawling grey mess that doubles as the sex tourism capital of Latin America.” He adds that, thanks to the legalization of prostitution, “parts of downtown look like Disneyland for horny middle-aged Australians.”
That is not the San José I see. One must go to a certain section of San Jose to be aware of the sex workers and their clients. What Mr. Zeman did not see were policemen going after defenseless women for plying a trade that seems to have a huge Australian as well as American demand.
He obviously did not see the pedestrian promenades where the positive energy of the people going and coming is contagious or the market district where all manner of colorful fresh fruit and vegetables are visibly on sale to tempt the passerby. So often, it seems that in the eye of the beholder is the I of the beholder.