I was planning on writing a lot this weekend, but I was busy taking care of some other pressing matters.
On Saturday evening, my car once again returned home triumphantly on the back of a tow truck. The problem this time seems to be the transmission, so hopefully we’ll be able to get it fixed soon. Fortunately, it happened in the late afternoon, as I was returning from a job fair at work. Usually, I get home at 11:30 or so, which is a much worse time to have your car break down, as you can imagine.
I only mention this because some of the details surrounding the car’s breakdown and subsequent towing seem—to me, anyhow—to be an interesting asterisk related to Costa Rican cultural studies.
The car’s transmission got jacked as I was going down a hill, and I was fortunately able to take it out of gear and coast into a parking lot…a parking lot for a car dealership. After I called Angela to ask her to call the insurance company to request a tow, I started hanging around outside my car. I walked over to one of the employees working at the car lot, and apologized for leaving a broken car in front of his dealership, since I imagined it wouldn’t be great for business.
He said it was OK, that they were closing up anyhow, and that they were going to start bringing the cars “inside” soon (even used car dealers don’t leave their cars outside…such is the paranoia here regarding car theft). We talked a bit more and as it turns out, the guy was named Andrés, and he lives in Llano Brenes. Llano Brenes is the town just down the road from Berlín, and as far as I can tell, its claim to fame is a motocross track. I mentioned I was living in Berlín, and we started talking more about cars.
This is the strange part. He asked me if I was thinking of trading in my car, and I said that I had ironically said to my wife the night before that I wanted to try to find a smaller car to save money on gas. He told me that RAV-4s—the car I have–were in demand, and that he could probably give me a good deal if I wanted to trade. Out of curiosity, I asked him how much I could get for my car which, being laid out in front of him, obviously wasn’t even in great working condition. The price he quoted me was $3,000 more than I paid for the car a year and a half ago.
I thought I’d misunderstood him, and had heard the price in thousands of dollars instead of millions of colones. I told him that the car had 150,000 kilometers on it, and I asked again. He said that was no problem, and told me the same price. I’ve done some investigation since then and apparently, cars here appreciate in value. I still cannot believe this, but everyone reassures me it’s true. And it’s not only got to do with inflation, because the prices converted to dollars also go up, as well.
For example, Angela’s dad’s car—a 1985 Toyota Land Rover–is now worth more than he paid for it when he bought it used three years ago. Also, a Toyota Yaris bought new in 2004 for $10,000 can now be had for $11,000 or even more.
Look, I don’t know shit about mechanics or economics, but should this really be happening? Anyone got a good explanation?
Before I left the lot, the guy even said he could give me a small, economic car like a Tercel or a Yaris as a trade-in for my RAV-4…and that he’d even throw in a Suzuki Sidekick or a Geo Tracker, so that I’d still have a four-wheel drive car if I needed it.
In any case, the tow truck driver arrived, and he brought the car to my house. As it turns out, he was from Palmares, and is probably some sort of cousin of Angela’s dad. Even before we knew that, though, Angela had invited him in for coffee and cookies. Johnny—the driver’s name—told us that he used to fix Angela’s family members’ various cars, and then regaled us with stories about towing cars that Berlín drunks had crashed into ditches.
Maybe to you, these events aren’t that interesting, but when I put them all together and take a step back for observation, it just makes me think, “Hmm, I guess that is a bit different than in the