Walking the streets of Quepos on a hot and hectic Friday afternoon, two voices fight for space in my head. One is the voice whose philosophy is simply ‘Live and let live’.
It is the voice that brought me here over 30 years ago, the voice of tolerance and tranquility, a voice best personified by a man lounging in a hammock, eyes slightly glazed after a short smoke and a long drink, beatific smile painting his face as he stares out at a panoramic Costa Rican vista.
The other voice demands attention every time I see someone double parked blocking traffic, or aggressively and arrogantly turning a one way street into a two way street, or when I see some emaciated street person wanting some coins because he pretended to help me pull into the street.
This other voice is not charitable or tolerant or even remotely me, yet it occasionally boils up unexpectedly, like Volcan Turrialba, emitting gas and noxious smoke, and almost but not quite erupting and sending the passersby running for cover.
If I had a name for this unwanted inner voice it would be Wilhelm or Josef, or–what the hell– Adolph, but I don’t have a name for it, though if I had to call it something I would call it my inner fascist. It is a voice that screams for control and discipline, and has a cut and dried solution for all of those little tics and nuisances that accompany life in Costa Rica.
VE MUST HAF ORDER! is this voice’s mantra, and I freely admit that I have no freaking idea where this voice originates, for I am Scotch-Irish, West Virginia-born and raised, and a nationalized citizen of Costa Rica. Seriously, one look at my bloodlines and places of residence and the truth is self-evident:
Mine is the background of a slacker and a partier, a drinker and a rambler, a comic and a babbler, and most definitely not one worried about regulating traffic flow or creating ample sidewalk space or making sure every citizen is a productive and contributing member of society.
Yet this voice hovers within and demands solutions to the woes inflicting Quepos:
If only we had police, many more police, well-trained police, walking the streets to write tickets every time a pirate taxi impedes traffic or an unmarked camion parks on a corner blocking cars from turning, if only we could set up a tent city in the campo and take all those homeless crackheads and drifters and grifters and fence them in, if only we had more jail space, if only we could exert some control, if only we could legally break the hands of the thieves and break the balls of the locos, if only if only VE HAD ORDER!
What can I say?
Its not easy living with an inner fascist, yet I would bet there are many out there who harbor there own version of my Wilhelm/Josef/what-the-hell Adolph. All I can do is let that weird, disjointed voice run its course, before inviting that first voice, that voice of tranquility and reason to emerge. Pssst, hey Wilhelm or Josef or whatever I should call you, my first voice whispers. Nice boots. Do you polish them daily? And that uniform. Spotless. Not a wrinkle to be seen. I don’t know what you’re doing here, but I do have a little advice for you.
If you don’t like the way we do things here in Costa Rica, maybe you should check out some place like Singapore or China or Saudi Arabia.
I understand they have a lot of order and control and do things more to your liking in those parts. Then I retire for a short smoke and a long drink and stare smiling through heavy-lidded eyes at some majestic mountain or ocean view, and repeat that worn yet welcome phrase on the lips of so many Costa Ricans……..Pura Vida