In many blogs we have mentioned how kind the Ticos (people from Costa Rica) are. I can honestly say that we have found nothing but kindness from every Tico that we have encountered. And the ultimate proof of that was an incident with a traffic officer when travelling to Monteverde.
I should start by saying that, for a long time, we have been warned about how tough the traffic officers in Costa Rica are, particularly around San José. We had only been stopped a couple of times when driving during the curfew but, on both occasions, we had all the required documentation that allowed us to drive. So, we had no issues.
On January 2nd, we drove from Turrialba to Monteverde. We had to pass San José, and we decided to take a Southern route. It was a Saturday, after the Christmas/New Year’s festivities, and we were not expecting a lot of traffic since we assumed that most of the Ticos would return to San José on Sunday. We were right. There were very few cars in the motorway around San José. We were paying in one of the tolls when a traffic officer looked at our car and asked us to drive to the side.
We put on the masks and opened the window.
– “Good morning”, he said. “How are you? Could I see your driving license?”
– “Of course”, I said and gave it to him. He checked it and asked, “Could I see the Marchamo?”
-“Marchamo?” I asked. What is that?
WEEEEOOOOOOOOWEEEEE (Alarm sound in the background) WRONG ANSWER!
Very kindly, he explained to me that it was the circulation permit that I had to pay before December 31st. I told him that I thought that I had till the end of January 2021 to pay it, as the sticker in the window indicated.
It turned out that it was the wrong sticker. Indeed, I had until the end of January to pass the technical inspection of the vehicle, but that we had to pay the circulation permit before the end of December.
I told him very honestly that I didn’t know. Else I would have paid it.
He then informed us that he needed to fine us and take the plates of our car.
I panicked. Our car was packed to the brim. We were moving houses, so we had all our luggage, Matilda, and several boxes with food and other house staff. I suddenly pictured myself with all the luggage, the boxes, Frank and the cat stranded in a motorway in the middle of San José.
I told him that, of course, he should fine us but beg him not to take our plates since we didn’t have any other way to reach Monteverde. All our things were in the car. We had no family here to help us.
He just repeated, still very kindly, that it was the law. That he needed to take the plates and fine us. He added that even if he let us go, we would be stopped in the next two controls until Monteverde.
I started to think about solutions and asked if there was any way in which we could pay the Marchamo now, at this very moment.
Uhmm, he said, still playing with my driving license in his hands. “It is Saturday, so the INS is closed. You cannot go to any office to pay”.
– Can it be paid online? I asked.
– “Unless you have a bank account here, in Costa Rica”, he added
– “I do”, I said, color returning to my cheeks!
For the next minutes, the world faded. I turned all my attention to my phone. I connected to the internet. Entered my bank. And there it was, a tab to pay the Marchamo. Frank and I started mumbling as I was asking him for the information that I needed: number plates, name of the previous owner, preferred place to pick up the sticker, etc.
I didn’t hear the officer anymore, and I didn’t even notice that he was still standing beside the window, with my driving license in his hands.
He must have gotten bored since he suddenly gave me my driving license and told me to continue my trip. I looked at him, startled. And told him that if it was okay with him, we would stay parked on the side of the motorway until the payment was made. He nodded, jumped on his motorbike, and left.
We didn’t realize how incredibly lucky we had been until we told our story to some locals.
For me, it was just another manifestation of the endless kindness that we have encounter from the Ticos since we arrived in this wonderful country.