Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Tico-Time defined

Let's be clear, 'tico-time' is technically an, really it is. But if you live in Costa Rica, you're well aware of its meaning. Tico-time, regardless of how it's defined, exists here, and it SUCKS big time. I believe this can’t be overstated enough. I’ve probably read just about every book on Costa Rica and they like to say it’s not like the States, you must be patient, things are done differently here…well; I’m here to tell you, that is a vast understatement. Really, I only have a few pet peeves when it comes to ‘things’ Costa Rica(n) and this would be at the top of my list, because no matter how hard I try, this still tests my fortitude on a regular basis. I realize in the States we can be somewhat anal about being on time; as it’s all about schedules and meetings and organizing your time so as not to waste it, or other peoples’ for that matter, but personally I like that system. It works. When I say 10:00 o’clock, there’s a reason, cause at 11:00 o’clock I have something else to accomplish. It seems pretty common sensicle to me. If 10:00 is agreed upon, then I expect to meet at 10:00. I believe when a person is NOT on time, it’s rude and selfish- believing their time is somehow more important than mine. Seriously, it always pissed me off; a person had a 15 minute grace period with me because after 16… I’m walking. Hell, at least call me, I understand people get hung up from time to time. In defense, I knew things were different here, so I threw out my ‘grace’ period principle long ago.

Tico time is obviously a catch phrase invented by a gringo to ironically yet accurately describe in words to his North American friends as to why ticos don't appear to use a calendar or time device.

"There is no ‘time’ per se, there's only a task at hand and it happens when it happens- that's tico time."

They only give you a time because you asked. If you were to ask a lawyer when he thinks the documents will be ready, he’ll tell you a date, but it means absolutely NOTHING. What's truly mind boggling is when you don't even ask and you're given a date which is apparently pulled out of thin air. Here, they tell you what they think you want to hear, and when ‘that’ time comes, well, they’ll start the process over… and over, and Over, and OVER, without batting an eye. Sometimes I’m not sure if they really know it can’t possibly be completed in the time promised, or if they’re just fuckin with you. I’m sure it’s the former, but sometimes….I really do wonder. If the lawyer said a week, it’s at LEAST 3-4 weeks (or more). If your architect says the house will be ready in 4 months, you’re talking closer to 8 or 9 (or more). If they say today at 10:00 a.m., hell, that could mean 11:00 tomorrow. This is not a joke. Really it’s difficult to have, let alone keep to ANY type of timeline (that will just lead to more frustration)….let alone getting things completed in a timely manner- that’s not going to happen- PERIOD.

People say relax, or ‘Pura Vida’ (they will say Pura Vida if you ask them what’s taking so long- also very annoying) and if this tico time bullshit didn’t have serious ramifications and/or consequences, I’d probably say the same thing, but it can and does. Can you imagine trying to start a business or construction that needs some sense of coordination in which you’ve allotted a year to get things done- well imagine that year becoming two. If your house/business isn’t done at least close to when promised, it can cost big time money and money you may not have anticipated on spending. I would have to say legal (lawyers) and construction matters are the worst, but tico time applies to just about any situation- personal and business. I am not overstating and I’m not talking about unforeseen delays, everyone knows those can happen, I’m saying the delays are delayed… and then they’re put on hold.

Now there is another problem. They don’t call you, I don’t know why, but they don’t- I think it has something to do with confrontation- which they do NOT like. This means you call and don’t even think about questioning them or raising your voice, this will accomplish nothing, as they will become very passive aggressive, with your documents quickly finding their way to the bottom of the stack. This is how the game is played- You call in hopes it will prompt or remind them of the task at hand, then they tell you 29 reasons why it’s been delayed, and you say, “Thanks.” This process will be repeated….frequently.

What to do about Tico time? Absolutely nothing, hell, even monetary motivation doesn’t seem to help, can you imagine? You gotta become ONE with it, there’s nothing else to do. Take up knitting perhaps.

There you have it. So whatever you’ve read about tico time, multiply by 50 and it will be closer to the truth. I hope you’re not thinking I’m disgruntled, I’m not (well, maybe a little). I’m just attempting to give you a heads up.

Shit, I was supposed to meet someone for a drink about an hour ago. Oh well, Pura Vida!

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