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Here is my latest example of why I love the Costa Rican people.
In the two years I have lived on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica, I’ve driven the four hour drive to San Jose eight to ten times. I lived in San Jose for about six weeks once and I bought my car there, too. Yet driving in San Jose still un nerves me. And I still get lost. Almost every time I go to San Jose, I get lost. But it’s OK. That is how I learn.
Recently I went into the city to pick up my daughter, Chelsea, at the airport. I know the drill. I’ve done it many times before and all went well. After the airport, I had no trouble finding our hotel. It was my third time there. I got lost on the way, last time. I’ve made the hour drive across town and out of San Jose to the highway toward the Caribbean many times. That was a piece of cake - at least I thought so.
There are a number of ways to get through San Jose and out to highway 32, to Limon. I have taken at least three or four of them. This time I chose a way I was familiar with. I’d taken it a few times before. It all went well until I was faced with a sign “No Hay Paso.” that is Spanish for one way.
The main road I had been traveling turned into a one way coming towards me. I had to make a left. It was not the first time this had happened to me with one way roads. There were no signs directing me back to the main road. I figured I’d just follow the car ahead of me and find main road again. Well, it flew around the first corner, I caught it’s tail at the second and after that it was gone. I found myself in a residential neighborhood with no thoroughfares in sight - and no signs. I went on, seeking out a main street.
Now most of the time, I don’t mind getting lost. It can be an adventure. It can be fun. But getting lost in San Jose is a different story. There’s lots of traffic. Everybody else knows where they’re going. They are driving fast to get there and they have no patience for drivers poking around indecisively. You can turn from a two lane residential road to a six lane highway almost without realizing it and then you are in the middle of traffic flying in every direction. Not knowing which way to go, I stay in the middle lane. There’s cars speeding by me on both sides. Suddenly I see my turn and am about to go by it. The car behind me blasts his horn as I cut him off to get in the right lane. I’m so shaken up that I don’t see the red light and I go right through it - more cars blasting their horns. In the States I was a good driver. Here my daughter says I drive crazy! I can’t help it. I cut cars off, I go through red lights and make U turns, all for fear of getting lost deeper and deeper until the point of no return. And then when someone says, “What happened to Lisa? I haven’t seen her in months.” The reply will be,”The last I heard she was driving in San Jose......”
My daughter was hungry so we stopped at a Subway shop to eat and get directions. The lady behind the counter didn’t know but a customer, ordering lunch, offered to help. This kind, Spanish speaking woman explained, consulted other customers and showed me on the map. She even offered to drive and have me follow her but I didn’t want to impose. The best I could get from it was to go strait through four stop lights and then take a right. I’d do that and stop for directions again.
I did that and I found myself back on the six lanes not knowing which way to go next, with no place to stop (or even slow down) for directions. I was about to cry when a motorcycle pulled up along side of me. “Va a la pista?” (going to the highway?) He yelled.
“Si, a Limon.” (Yes, to Limon.) I yelled back. He signaled and I followed.
“Who was that and how did he find us?” Chelsea wondered.
“I don’t know. He must be an angel. He’s got a delivery pack on his back and I think that’s a Subway shirt he’s wearing.” The woman who tried to help us must have really felt sorry for me. She would have had to explain the situation, describe my car and tell him where to find me. Then the delivery man had to drive around looking for me.
“Yes,” Chelsea exclaimed, “He’s a Subway angel!”
Our angel pointed the turns as we followed him off the six lane, down the hill into a barrio, around the corner, over the river and throught the woods to Grandmother’s house - no, it wasn’t that bad. But I never would have found it. As we approached the turn to highway 32, the biker pointed to the right lane and again, I was blasted by horns as I pushed my way through. As he turned to go back, he came close to my window. “Gracias, muchimas gracias.” I cried. “Usted es un angel” (Thank you so much, You are an angel!)
“Con mucho gusto.” he replied. “Feliz Navidad.” (With pleasure. Merry Christmas.) It was Christmas day and the kindness of the Costa Ricans was the best present I could have imagined.