Sometimes I can’t believe how inefficient things are here in Panama. Case in point — getting a new driver’s license. Since I already have a California license, I don’t have to go to driving school or take an exam. Sounds great except that the alternative isn’t much better.
Little did I know when I finally found my way to the DMV equivalent a few weeks ago that I would be g
Ten minutes later my line buddy and I are granted access into the bank along with the next wave. This is when I realize there’s another Disneyworld-type queue inside the bank filled with lots of people. Now I’m a bit miffed. Luckily, Line Buddy continues to sympathize with my plight and coaches me to stand in the special line for Senior Citizens, which only has 2 people in it. Willingly, I play dumb and get in line with another person who is also not a senior. After about a minute, I hear someone speaking my way. The guy in front of me is being busted by another person in line. Shortly thereafter, I get busted by the security guard and told to stand in the other line. Strike two.
Not as dejected as I am, and a bit more creative, Line Buddy coaches me again — this time to ask someone at the front of the line if they will do my transaction along with their own. I tell her that that I’m a bit embarrassed to ask for help and explain what I need given my Spanish level. She pumps me up by telling me my Spanish is good! After about a minute, I pick my target and approach a man in the Senior line for help. Strike three. He turns me down without even speaking — he just rolls his eyes a bit and nods his head no. “Egoista!” Line Buddy says when I return to the line in front of her yet again. “He is selfish,” she says in Spanish. “I would have done that for someone else. It’s not a big deal.”
Still committed to saving an hour of my time, Line Buddy goes about searching the queue for a kind face. She spots a short man with a backpack towards the front of the line and asks me for my paper. I give it to her and she makes the request. He agrees! I hand him $4 in coins — $2 for the fee and $2 for his help — and he takes my papers to the cashier with him. I’m so thrilled I forget that I haven’t signed the paper before giving it to him. So even as I try to lay low and stand near the wall behind my helper, I have to make my way to the cashier, ask for the paper back, find a pen — which is I eventually get from the cashier — and sign my paper. Any cover I might have had is blown. Now I am really embarrassed and do everything I can to avoid eye contact with everyone in line. Luckily, Helper doesn’t take long to wrap but and returns my paper to me in jiffy. I’m so thrilled to be out of the line and quietly wave to Line Buddy on the way out. Had it not been for her, I would not have tried every trick in the book — ask for special privileges; play dumb; make a powerful request; pay someone else to do it for you. I’ll have to keep these in mind the next time beaucratic BS threatens to steal my sunshine.
By the way, I still don’t have my driver’s license…