The Costa Rica crime of the century
You know that sinking feeling in your belly? That “Oh man this isn’t gonna be good” gut wrenching thought. I was walking back up to my truck after taking the dogs on their Sunday run on the beach. From about 100 yards away I noticed one of my windows was open. “Did I forget to roll them up?” I thought, and I started to walk a little quicker. As I came up on the truck, you could see the broken shards of glass still hanging in the rubber window seal, piles of it on the ground, and that’s when I knew what happened. Like a moron, I left my iPhone sitting out in the open on my console, begging someone to steal it.
Ask and you shall receive, they always say, and this guy really let me have it. He had taken a big rock and smashed it through the back window, covering the inside of my pick-up with thousands of little chunks, rifled through the glove box and center arm rest, and was gone into the woods, probably in less than 10 seconds. Of course no one was around, and if they were, they probably wouldn’t have seen anything anyway, you know the drill. I know better. I usually park in a populated place, not on the desolate part of the beach, where families camping or swimming are at least with in eye and ear shot of my truck. But I just wasn’t myself this morning, not thinking clearly. I am sure the fact that I was out celebrating a friend’s birthday last night until midnight had something to do with it; or the 7 or 8 shots of Chile Guaros that I consumed while drinking my face off, too. Boy did 6 am come real fast today, and I almost just pulled the covers over my head, planning to hibernate like a little bear. But it’s not my dog’s fault that I was an idiot last night, and they look so forward to this you can’t even imagine. They know, in some crazy unknown way, when the 7th day is upon us. They are all sitting at the back of the truck, waiting for the tailgate to go down, tails waging, tongues hanging, barking like there is no tomorrow. So I was obligated to go, and I did; and I paid for it dearly.
What is so upsetting is that it was one of the most amazing days I have ever seen. The beach was abandoned, and we had almost the entire place to ourselves, except for a few fishermen and a couple of families camping (at the opposite end from where I parked of course). It was the perfect temperature, the waves were crashing like I had never seen them, and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. I saw a troop of white faced monkeys cruising through a tree, about 15 parrots squawking in another and a group of tourists riding through the sand on horses. My dogs were in a complete state of euphoria, as they chased every squirrel in site, rolled around in horse manure, and dived bombed in and out of the waves. But all that good feeling went right out the window, literally, when I got back to my truck. So we swept out all the glass off the seats, loaded the pups in the back, and returned to the house, where I spent the next hour or so Shop Vacuuming up the pieces. As you can imagine, I had a miserable attitude, I hated the world, and found myself wishing a slow, torturous, painful death to the thief. “I hope he sells the phone for 20 bucks, buys crack, overdoses and chokes to death on his own vomit in his sleep” I thought to myself. But very quickly, I got over it, because I am just not going to allow that kind of thinking to destroy my life. I have always been a firm believer that you are a product of your thoughts; you will move in the direction of your attitude. So I tried to find the silver lining on the cloud, and focused on all the great things going on in my life. Maybe he just needed the money to feed his family, and now I have a great excuse to upgrade my phone to the next level of technological stupidity, one that I will never be able to understand or operate no matter how many hours I spend playing with it, but I will be the cool dude with the new phone.
Now, I know what some of you are saying, “See I told you there is Costa Rica crime.” Of course there is, this is not Disneyland, or some fantasy theme park; there is crime everywhere, but compared to what the rest of the world is going through, a broken window and a missing phone is not a big deal. By the way, he didn’t steal my wallet with my credit cards and IDs, nor did he take my Great White CD that was in the glove box, Thank God for 80s music. I am sure he did glance at it, considering it for a moment though, but seeing 5 dudes with hair to their elbows, over loaded with Pantene styling spray probably completely freaked him out anyway. In life, sometimes you are the windshield and sometimes you are the bug, and this day I was flying along, minding my own business and SPLAT. When I got back to the house, I called and put a hold on my cell phone, checked my emails, and then went to my favorite news page to get an update on the world’s happenings in the last 24 hours.
Hundreds killed in Gaza, including dozens of little children.
Thousands of violent criminals and gang members, illegally crossing the borders into the USA pretending to be children fleeing from harsh situations. Secretly being shipped to undisclosed locations around the country.
298 people blown from the sky by a rocket attack on a civilian airliner.
Man choked to death by NYC police officers.
A 6 year old girl was raped in her school in India.
22 people shot in 12 hours, including an 11 year old girl in Chicago.
Drone strikes kill dozens.
Civil war imminent in Iraq.
Arkansas still trying to rebuild after massive tornado kills 16.
Child thrown from car, found dead.
A father walks in on his 18 year old male babysitter sexually assaulting his son, and beats him unconscious (right on dude.)
Johnny Manziel partying in Vegas, Cleveland Browns bound to suck again.
And this was just National Headlines. If I had checked any major city there would have been dozens of robberies, rapes, murders, assaults and missing children or kidnappings.
Out of curiosity, I checked the statistics for Costa Rica crime, especially for unnatural deaths to US citizens in 2013. Those are deaths not caused by heart attacks, old age or being harassed to death by their wives. There were a total of 25. Yes TWENTY FIVE, in the entire year.
3 were Vehicle accidents.
11 were drowning’s.
1 was drug related.
2 were suicide.
5 other accidents.
3 homocides. THREE. In the entire year. There are 3 a day in Chicago. Land of gun control. And none of these happened in Hermosa or Coco Beach by the way. Trust me, you are pretty safe here.
Overall, Costa Rica crime is very low and the country is pretty safe, but like anything, you have to use common sense, and I didn’t, and I let my guard down. That is usually the scenario. You see, it feels so safe here, because for the most part it is, so you forget to turn on your radar and every now and then, someone steals some of your stuff; a phone from your car, a cooler from your patio, your wallet from the bar. 98% of Costa Ricans are the hardest working, most honest people you have ever met. I can’t tell you how many times I left my phone somewhere, only to have the bartender or waitress run out to my truck and give it back to me. It’s that 2% you have to watch out for, because they are really good at snagging your belongings. But I will take that any day over the fear that most people live in everywhere else on this planet. I reside in a gated community on a golf course, but the guards are just for show. I have hemorrhoids that are more motivated than the guy that works the front gate. Our transit police, which are like your highway patrol, have the brains of a pork chop.
When there is an accident, the law says you CAN’T move the vehicle out of the way, even if it is just a minor fender bender. So everyone has to be inconvenienced trying to get around the pile up, for an hour or two waiting on these talking monkeys to show up, just so they can “evaluate” the situation and fill out the proper paperwork. Let’s see: your headlights are broken, his taillights are busted; YUP; you ran into him. Serious detective work here people. They also have these random road stops, where they check to see if you have your ID and if you are legally allowed to be in the country, as you must carry your passport at all times. Wow, what a concept that we actually have to PROVE that we are not illegal aliens, yet the USA calls that racist. I am a white guy, in a brown guy’s country. Obviously, I was not born here; there are not many Ticos with long blonde curly hair. Yet I have no problem with them singling me out, to make sure I have entered the country legally, call it racist if you want, but it is the reality. It takes 30 seconds and I am on my way. NO BIG DEAL. One time, as I went through the stop, the police officer asked me “Do you have any drugs sir?” What a great country, they politely ASK you if you are carrying drugs, and then let you on your way. Pura Vida, I love this place.
My mom once made a comment to me that I lived in a gated community, and Costa Rica crime obviously must be pretty high. I tried to explain to her, that anywhere you have a bunch of empty homes, as many of our residents are not full time; you need to have someone to keep an eye on the properties, but that we really don’t have much crime. She made some remark about how much safer it was in her white, suburban, upper middle class, stuck up neighborhood. Mom, I told her, you live in a gated community, even though there is not a wraught iron entrance on your street. I once sat outside on their front porch having a beer one holiday weekend, enjoying the evening and counted the police cars that went by. There were 8 in one hour, that is one every 7 minutes, and two helicopters that flew overhead with spot lights. There are SWAT teams that can respond in seconds, DEA, FBI and Homeland Security, all just around the corner and just about every person in the state of Colorado packs a gun, but that didn’t stop those psychos from shooting up Columbine or the Aurora movie theatre. They live in a prison, they just don’t realize it. If I called the police, they might not come, but then again, I have never needed it in 11 years. We have no serious crime. Although we do have a brand new police station being built now.
That same trip back, my 10 year old niece went out for a bike ride and was supposed to be home at 6pm in time for dinner. At 6:04 my mother, her grandmother, went into a panic, that she must have been kidnapped by a serial killer, sold to child slavery, or tied up in some crazy guys basement. I found it funny that when I was a child, we lived in Brooklyn. My parents NEVER drove me to school, ever. At 6 and 7 years old, I walked 10 blocks through a horrible part of the city, and back every day, never once did my mom worry about what happened to me. Yet at least once a week, some group of thugs would beat me up for my lunch money and I would have to run for my life to get away from them. Truthfully, I don’t know a single person my age who wasn’t bullied; it’s what’s toughened us up for life. Best thing every happened to me. Kids these days are soft; we let them be that way. In Costa Rica, you see 5 year old children walking down the street, holding their 2 year old brothers hand, going from mom’s house to grandmother’s house, no one is ever concerned for their safety. Why? Because it IS SAFE. Do you know what we have on our milk cartons? A picture of a cow.
As I went on with my day, I found myself thinking more and more about all the glass that had landed in the sand back at the beach. The last thing I wanted was for a child or some beautiful animal to walk through it, and cut their feet, as you couldn’t see it until it was too late. So I jumped back in my truck and returned to the scene of the big Costa Rica crime. On the way there, two guys and a young lady were hitchhiking. They had on RIU hotel clothes, and it was obvious they were on their way to work. The resort is just a mile or so up the road from where I was this morning, so I stopped and they jumped in. I have to tell you that I pick up dozens, sometimes maybe 100 people a month hitchhiking, without ever giving it a second thought. I would never do that back in the USA, with visions of Ted Bundy swimming in my head. It is very common here in Coco and Hermosa for people to thumb a ride, as they are just trying to get to work or back home to their families after a long day. I have never heard of one single example, of anyone being harassed, or robbed from any of these individuals. After a while, you start to recognize many of them, knowing exactly where they work or live. The first thing these 3 people noticed, of course, was the black garbage bag I had taped over the window. “What happened?” they asked, and I told them the story. At this moment, they didn’t know that I lived here, or that I was a permanent resident. They had no way of knowing that I owned businesses here, nor that I had resided in CR for over 11 years.
They just assumed I was a gringo tourist on vacation. “We are so sorry, Senor, please do not judge our people by this one individual. This is a beautiful country, and when situations like this happen, it makes us sick and embarrassed. We are all hard working, family people, and most Ticos would never steal from you.” I told them that I knew that and went on to tell them my story, and that one of the reasons I moved here is because I feel so safe. They proceeded to tell me their 3 stories, and it was very consistent with most of the locals I have met here. The girl was from Limon, which is on the Caribbean coast. As you may have read, we are experiencing the effects from the big El Nino that is going on in the Northern Pacifico Ocean, somewhere off of California and Hawaii. The Guanacaste region has had almost no precipitation, even though this time of year is supposed to be our green season. The Caribbean coast on the other hand, which normally experiences a tremendous amount of rain, anyway, was being bombarded with record rainfalls and torrential downpours. Many of the local residents have actually been flooded out of their homes. This young lady had come to Guanacaste to seek a better opportunity, as there is very little development in the jungles of the Caribbean. She said that she took a second job at the RIU so she could send extra cash back home to her family to help with their dire situation. How many 19 year olds would do that back in North America?
The first guy told me that he spent all of his free time helping at the local church. He lived almost an hour away from where he worked (by car) and that some days it took him 2 plus hours, to either hitchhike or take a bus, each way. You definitely don’t see work ethics like that in America anymore. The last guy really touched my heart. He said he lived with his grandmother, because his parents were no longer alive, and that he was the sole earner for the entire family. He attends the University in the evenings, trying to earn a degree. He told me he had BIG PLANS for his life, he wanted more than to just work in a hotel, and he was adamant that he was going to make his Abuelita proud. He also told me how he spent his spare time, helping at the local dog shelter, and of course we hit it off right away. So many Ticos and Gringos have gone above and beyond the call of duty, to find homes for all the abandoned, abused or homeless dogs and cats. You can check it out by going to the CARE Facebook page and please find it in your heart to donate.
I gotta tell ya a great dog story. I have a client from Bermuda named Ray, who is planning to retire here in the next few years. He bought a gorgeous condo a while back, and tries to spend as much time as he can here in paradise. Imagine leaving a beautiful place like Bermuda? It says a lot about Costa Rica. Just last week I had finished dinner with some good friends, and stopped at the Italian Gelato place in Coco for a double cone of Snickers and Chocolate Chip. The place was packed with families, and it reminded me of when I was a kid, my parents always took me to Carvel. As I am licking away like a mad man, racing the melting cream, I see this bike go by, with a blue flashing light on it, like a fire truck. And there is Crazy Bermuda Ray, riding around on his beach cruiser, with a big bag of doggie treats in his hand. Now remember, it is 9 PM at night, and this guy is peddling up and down the boulevard, feeding all the street dogs T BONZ and BEGGIN’ STRIPS. I am telling you, this place just brings out the best in people.
I could go on for hours about how honest and hardworking the majority of the Costa Ricans are, but it is their big hearts that really impress me. Everywhere you look, someone is helping another person, or a cause in this country and it is what brings so many of us together here. Just this next week, there is a massive fund raiser to help repair the school in Hermosa. There is a belly dancing show, by my good friend Alessandra, and a live band afterwards, and all the proceeds go to the school. Take some time when you are here and talk to some of the locals, and you will be amazingly impressed at some of their lofty ambitions and goals. But even the ones who are not so fortunate, and might be a little down on their luck, have way too much pride to steal or beg. In the USA, you see people all the time with a WILL WORK FOR FOOD sign, yet they never work for anything. They are alcoholics or drug addicts who just sit around waiting for a welfare check. Not here. Every couple days someone comes by my office, asking if there is a house they can clean, or a lot they can chop, and we always do everything we can to find them some work. Often times, their entrepreneurial spirit kicks in and you see them on the streets of Playas del Coco “watching” your car. They buy a glow in the dark vest, write PARKING ATTENDANT on it and hang out where the tourists shop, and ask you if they can keep an eye on your vehicle while you have dinner or drinks. Do me a favor; ALWAYS SAY YES, and give them a few hundred Colones when you come back. Costa Rica Crime? Not with these guys around. I could leave a suitcase of cash in my truck outside of the bars in Coco and it would be there when I get back. Sometimes, they even sit on the tail gate of my truck, waiting for my return; but I am known as one of the better tippers.
There is only ONE beggar that I know of. She is a very old lady, older than dirt, and she is always on the same corner in Escazu. She was around when the Lions were winning, and I don’t mean Detroit vs Green Bay; I am talking the Romans vs the Christians. I don’t go to the city very often but every time I see her, I give her $20. She even recognizes me now, as the gringo from the beach, and walks through traffic to meet me, almost getting creamed by a bus. God Bless her soul.
When I got back to the scene of the big Costa Rica crime, it was close to noon now, and there were dozens of families enjoying the day at the beach. I guess I must have looked a little odd, out with a rake and a dust pan, sweeping up scoops of sand. I probably should have brought a shovel, but they scare the hell out of me; hard labor and I don’t go well together, I get blisters and calluses just cutting an onion. This nice woman comes up to me curious as to what I was doing, and she saw the window of my truck. Again, the apologies were flying, and she wanted me to know how angry she was that someone could do that. That is NOT the Costa Rica we are striving for; she went on to say, as she helped me pick up the glass.
I have a T-shirt my best friend bought me. It says “Losing faith in Humanity, one person at a time.” Well, I have to be honest with you; Costa Rica helps to regain that faith again. I think the only Costa Rica crime I really worry about, is if they run out of beer and rum. We might see a riot that makes Rodney King’s look like a 5 year olds Birthday party LOL.
The new President came to Guanacaste this week for the annual Annexation celebration. He came with 2 motorcycle cops and a couple of body guards. Just a couple weeks ago, as the country was celebrating its amazing win over Greece in the World Cup, a photo surfaced of the Big Cheese partying on a freeway overpass with thousands of people, not a secret service agent in site. My secretary has a photo of her and the last President at a beach party in Coco. Seriously what country feels safe enough to allow their leader to mingle with regular people when it isn’t a staged photo op like we have in the USA?
Let me tell you about the REAL Costa Rica.
It will shoplift your stress and throw it away.
It will kidnap your terrible outlook on life, and bury it alive.
It will rob you of your daily grind and give you bundles of free time to enjoy your life.
And it most DEFINITLY will steal your heart.
That is what we call Costa Rica Crime. PURA VIDA BABY.
Hope to see you down here soon.
PS I am back in Boca Raton Florida as I finish this Newsletter. Unfortunately, my COPA airline stewardess was not working my flight. I came to see a friend, check out a ballgame, do a little shopping and of course get my hair cut by the world famous Paul Ferraro. As I pulled up to the Town Center Plaza, perhaps one of the nicest and most expensive malls in the USA, there are dozens of security guards in golf carts. On every street light is a camera on top and a sign posted to the pole. THE MALL IS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR ITEMS STOLEN FROM YOUR CAR. I chuckle, realizing it is everywhere in the world and I proceed to lock my rental car. I stopped dead in my tracks, a slight panic came over me, but then I realized; Yup, I have my phone. I won’t ever make that mistake again.
Tank Tops Flip Flops Newsletter edition no. 53