Living in the quaint town of Atenas, where the entertainment choices are limited, I occasionally crave a visit to the “City”! Going to San Jose isn’t exactly like going to San Francisco from my home in Santa Cruz, California, or going into Manhattan from my home in Canarsie, Brooklyn, but it’s what we have. There are sophisticated restaurants, theaters, and museums. There is even a live streaming of New York’s Metropolitan Opera House!
The first time my friends, Nelson and Trudy, ex-New Yorkers living in Roca Verde, invited me along, my first response was: “Ooh, the opera! Do we get to dress up?”
Trudy said: “Well, you can if you want to, but we leave at 9:00 in the morning; you might look a little silly in your sequinned gown. The opera is in the afternoon, and we’re home before dark.”
“Got it. Well, at least I can get my hubby to wear long pants. And real shoes. Oh, but wait. He doesn’t have any. Hmmmm, gotta go shopping in Escazu! Multi-Plaza, here I come!”
We shopped and shopped and finally found a suitable pair of plain black slacks we both agreed upon. We were pleasantly surprised to find a pair large enough for my gringo hubby where the tico sizes tend to run smaller. They fit around the middle but were too long. Hemming is easy; after all, I used to make all my own clothes when I was in high school. I could whip out a little hem job lickety split.
On our way out the door, I spotted a pair of shoes I couldn’t live without. They were so practical with the multi-colors; they would go with most any outfit. Had to have them!
When we got home with our purchases, I pulled out the slacks and looked for the sewing kit. What sewing kit? When we moved to Costa Rica, I did not plan on sewing, so I gave away all things sewing-related, as well as all the crochet, knitting and needlepoint projects I was going to get to some day. I had other plans for our new life in Costa Rica. I was going to finish my writing projects – all three books I had started, plus start a blog! No time for sewing. Or cooking. Well, okay, I do make time for cooking – mostly chocolate cake and brownies (no, not loaded).
I remembered seeing a sign on a gate on the way home: “Clinica de Ropa”; clothing clinic? I wasn’t entirely sure it meant what I thought it meant. Nevertheless, I grabbed the pants and trotted on down there. I hollered over the gate: “Hola. Necesito ayuda!” (Hi. I need help). A woman came out of the house, saw the clothing in my hand, nodded her head and said: “Pase” (Come in). With a great sense of relief, I explained what I wanted and that it was an emergency. It was now 4:00 in the afternoon and I needed the trousers by 8:00 the next morning.
Nothing happens fast in Costa Rica. Sometimes if you ask to put a “rush” on something, it can slow it down. I took a chance and left the pants with the seamstress, knowing that if they weren’t ready on time, we would have to forego the outing. Although there is no actual law in San Jose saying men must not wear shorts, it is frowned upon and considered disrespectful. In my mind’s eye, I pictured myself in the 1970s when I was flying the Hadj; taking Muslim pilgrims from Kano, Nigeria to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia for the trek to Mecca. On a layover in Jeddah, I wore a tank top and shorts to the open market. I didn’t think the rules of full coverage applied to white American flight attendants. After a few dirty looks and harsh comments, I ran back to the hotel to change clothing. I pictured getting stoned to death in the street. I didn’t want that to happen to my hubby in San Jose.
The next morning as I approached the Clinica de Ropa, the seamstress, Nely, saw me coming, went inside, came out smiling with the hemmed pants in her hand. As she handed them to me over the fence, I asked how much. She quietly said: “One thousand colones.” (2 dollars). I smiled and handed her two thousand colones ($4.00). When she reached into her pocket to make change, I stopped her. “Please keep it. You get paid double for rapid service!”
She was grateful; I was ecstatic. I am now a regular customer. She always charges too little; I always pay double. I don’t want to be accused of ruining the economy by paying gringo prices in the tico world … But, she is worth it and I am grateful.
I think I will make her a chocolate cake for her “Un-Birthday!