Welcome to Panama


To receive my stuff via ocean freight next week, I need to notarize my passport and ID. So my mom and I drive to a notary office where a fast-talking man makes copies of my stuff and instructs me to come back in 30 minutes. “There were 3 people working and no one could help me. What are they all doing?” I ask my mom back at the car.

“Nothing,” she replies mirroring my frustr

ation.An hour later I return to a front office full of customers. Fast-Talker is not there. I wait 10 minutes and he reappears. He then lays about a dozen important documents, legal agreements and other notarized copies on a small table. People waiting swarm to claim theirs and leave. I tell him my passport is missing and he says I didn’t give it to him. I want to remind him that he stapled them together, but I don’t know the word for “staple.” “Recuerdas, pusiste las dos paginas juntas?” is the best I can do.For some reason, I happen glance at the desk to the right and notice my passport copies in the out-going mail bin. “There they are. You forgot them,” I growl in Spanish too basic to finesse and seem polite. He grabs the papers and heads out the door again. Another 10 minutes pass and he returns with my notarized docs. “Viente y cuarenta,” he snips. I give him $20.40 in cash. “Donde esta el resto?” he asks. Apparently he wants more; the cost is actually 20 plus 40! Humph. I thought this would cost like 15 bucks so I call my mom who is waiting in the car. I put her on the phone with Fast-Talker and he explains the cost is due to having carefully reviewed my passport and examining each piece of ID. He’s clearly exaggerating since he didn’t really look at my things, much less inspect them for legitimacy. I take my phone back and hear my mom say, “Give him the 40 bucks and let’s get the eff out of here!”

“That guy is schiester,” I complain when I get back in the car. Mom replies, “Laura, welcome to Panama.”


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