A slip of paper wedged into the door handle of the closed police station read"El taxero es numero uno." I, however, was number thirteen and jealous of the taxi driver's genius. While I stood on line in the sun, he went to buy breakfast and then sat in his cab eating while reading the newspaper and listening to classic baladas.
How did we get here you ask? I don't know about taxero numero uno but at 5PM on Valentine's Day I backed into a (different) taxi in a gas station. I was going at a glacial pace but since I was driving a tank and he a microwave there was a little damage to his car.
As the taxi driver ran around the gas station telling everyone "I honked!" I totally cried and called my office.
As far as I'm aware, in the States we would have just exchanged insurance information and maybe called the police for a report. The system in Nicaragua, I suppose, is somewhat similar. My office called the insurance guy and the transit police who both arrived on scene...after an hour or so. The insurance adjuster took a statement and several pictures. I found it telling that the taxista had already met him before, having had several previous accidents...many of them in gas stations.
The policeman who showed up was evidently the wrong cop (?) so we had to wait for a new one. The new one had forgotten most of his supplies. He needed a clean white sheet of paper and a ruler to draw a diagram of our cars and their placements relative to each other and to the pumps.
They actually measured.
In situations like this you are not to move your car post-impact so that the diagram and measurements can be absolutely accurate. As you can imagine this makes it a little hazardous when accidents happen on the highway or involve pedestrians.
Then we got all of our documents copied in triplicate. Luckily there was a copy shop across from the gas station and I had small change. The cop kept our drivers license and would have given us a form to tell us when to come pick them up but he had forgotten them. So we had to follow him (as he drove like a freaking maniac through rush hour traffic) to the police station which was hidden in Mercado Oriental, in a neighborhood I had been repeatedly warned against entering.
(No worries Mom, the office driver met me at the gas station, did the crazy driving to the police station, and made sure I knew what was going on.)
We sat there for a while comparing accident battle scars and sharing snacks until finally we got our paperwork back with an appointment at 8AM on Monday. The driver asked the taxista to arrive at 7:30 and we headed off. My driver asked if I didn't want to take advantage of his driving and go to the grocery store. I had a friend waiting for me at my house and I was going away for the weekend (and I'm slow on the uptake) so I emphatically said that I did NOT want to go to the grocery store. It wasn't until we stopped at the grocery store did I realize that the driver needed to buy dinner because it was 7:30PM on Valentine's Day and his wife had asked him to pick up something.
Then I dropped off my driver in his neighborhood where he told me in the same breath that "no worries this neighborhood is safe" but that I couldn't drop him off anywhere but right in front of his house because he "might get assaulted and robbed."
I drove home, had a romaaaaantic dinner at the mall with a Peace Corps buddy, and had a great weekend at the beach with her and three other peeps...and then returned to face the music at the police station Monday morning.
I was naive enough to think that our 8AM appointment card meant that everyone had a distinct time to sign paperwork and get their documents back. But the driver and I arrived at 7:30 to find a line already forming outside of the transit office. Not because people were afraid of missing their appointment but because everyone who had had an accident or traffic infraction in that part of the city over the entire weekend were to arrive at 8AM.
Except for the taxi driver involved in my incident. He was not there.
The office opened at 8:30 and as we walked in we were handed a number. I was lucky number 13. The 10x20ft room was packed with about 50 people (and five chairs). At least there was good ventilation. It seemed like a surprisingly friendly place as people involved in the same accident reunited, often greeting each other like long lost friends. My taxista finally arrived bearing number 45 and out of the warmness of my heart I invited him to share my number. We were called into another room where the office driver was quickly kicked out and I signed a document agreeing that the accident was my fault. The taxista was given his license back and told where to pay to get his accident report for insurance claims and was out of there like a shot. I was told that I had to pay a fine according to Ley 431 and bring the receipt back before I could pick up my license. (Looking it up later, it seems I had gotten in trouble for driving backwards in a public right of way. Which is ridiculous because it was a gas station and I was trying to change sides of the pump.)
We went back to my car where we found that one of the taillights had been popped out. The driver was so furious that he almost ran over a guy who was way too stoned to get out of the way. He was not way too stoned however not to harrass us by blowing kisses.
We drove like maniacs to the bank (which wasn't the one I thought the policewoman said to go to) but I didn't have my passport and therefore couldn't pay the bill. The driver obligingly paid for me (with my money). Then we went back to the police station where I jumped the line waving around my receipt and got my license back! YAY!
Next time "la chela es numero uno." Although I really hope there won't be a next time.
zeezrom: Yulia Ustinova
8 hours ago