Just before leaving the States I sold my car to my roommate of five years. The amazing thing is in all that time we never had an argument. Yesterday, however, we had our first. I was really pissed off. Here’s why:
The idiot didn’t transfer the title to his name. He has been working a job in Stuart, Florida the past few months and got caught speeding. Normally not a big deal except for the fact that he doesn’t have a driver’s license. It had been taken from him several years earlier in New York where he comes from. So now the car has been impounded and his excuse for not transferring the title is his lack of a license.
It seems the only way the impound yard will release the car is by my sending them a notarized letter authorizing the car to be released to another friend who DOES have a license.
This wouldn’t be a big deal in the states where it seems that just under the number of lawyers, real estate agents and used car salesmen comes notaries public. I was a notary. Big deal. You send a bonding company $75 bucks and they send you a rubber stamp and a cheesy certificate signed by the governor. Being a notary in a Latin American country is something else, again. It seems to be just one step below being a lawyer. I remember the surprise my immigration lawyer showed when I mentioned that I was a notary in the States.
I designed a letterhead with my Panamanian address and wrote a letter to the impound yard authorizing my friend with the driver’s license to have custody of the car. Then, not having a printer here at the house, I downloaded the letter onto a thumb drive, took the bus down to Dolega where I had it printed out at one of the internet cafes. Not too difficult and only 20 cents. Then I asked where I might find a notary and they directed me to the alcaldía, the mayor’s office. It is only a short walk from the cafe to the alcaldía and in short order and payment of a $5 fee it was done.
Next came another bus ride down to David center to find some kind of international courier service to send the letter as quickly as possible to my miscreant friend. Luckily there was a place called MailPak only about four blocks from the bus terminal that serves as an agent for FedEx, UPS and DHL.
Two very attractive young ladies in their early 20s run the place. I told the girl who greeted me, in Spanish, that I wanted to send a letter to the States as fast as possible. I have no problem expressing such things in proper Spanish but her immediate reaction was to ask me if I spoke English. Of course, I told her, but added that I feel uncomfortable speaking English to Panamanians since Spanish is the language of the country. This didn’t deter her in the least and she insisted that we conduct the transaction in English. I think she wanted the practice and she spoke English quite well. Both of them did.
The least expensive way of sending the letter was with DHL but at the exorbitant price of $42.80 cents. Almost ten bucks cheaper than FedEx. And there’s no such thing as “overnight,” either. Three to five days and the impound lot is charging $25/day to keep the car. So, I forked over the money for the letter and sent it on its way.
With that out of the way I spent another 20 minutes or so talking with the girls in Spanish…MY turn to practice and they complimented me on how well I spoke. Whether they were simply flattering me I don’t know, but aside from having to deal with a problem at a great distance I enjoyed the task.