05-02-2019, 02:10 PM
#1
  • Barrylu
  • Senior Member
  • Portland OR
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Copywritten material. Please do not publish without the authors permission



I started my first job in Puerto Rico in the 1970s. My wife and three children stayed in New York at my in-laws until I could rent a home and wait for our household goods to be delivered from Wisconsin. I found a nice rental home near to my job and moved into the house with some borrowed furniture. Now the Puerto Rico experience really began.
The house had running water but the electricity had been turned off. All utilities were controlled by one agency. One would think, that centralization of utilities would make it a lot more convenient to obtain services. However, nothing could be further from the truth. I called said agency and requested to have my electricity turned on. I was politely informed that my house had electricity but no water. I patiently explained that I was currently living in the house and it surely had water but no electricity. Finally, the woman agreed with me and said they would be out that afternoon to turn on the electricity. Three days later the utility truck finally arrived. The workman quickly and efficiently turned off my water and left.
There is a saying in Puerto Rico that without a Godfather one cannot be baptized. Simply put, this statement means, unless you know someone most things do not happen easily. For example, my next task after straightening out my utility problems was to have a telephone installed. I called the phone company to request a telephone installation. I was informed that there was a three-year waiting list for a phone unless I wanted to pay extra for a color phone. I thought at this point I understood how the game was played. I said OK then, in that case, give me a white phone. I was then informed there was a five-year waiting list for a color phone. That evening I went to a party welcoming me to the island. I met a man at the party and we got to talking. He told me he was a Vice- President of the phone company. I told him about my conversation with the telephone company representative that morning. His response was simply to ask me to write down my address on a piece of paper. I complied but was resigned to the fact that I would probably never get a home phone. Promptly, the next morning a telephone truck pulled up in front of my home. The driver knocked on the door and presented me with two white telephones. Unfortunately, telephone service on the island was a hit or miss endeavor, but I did have two phones and a Godfather in the phone company.
Finally, no discussion of living in Puerto Rico would be complete without mentioning Puerto Ricans attitude towards time. Attitude towards time in PR is a bit cavalier to say the least. There are two different times in PR. The first is Mainland time. An example of Mainland time could be 9 AM would be anytime from 8:50 to 9:10 AM. Puerto Rico time at 9 AM is defined as sometime this week of maybe next week. Television programs do not start on the hour or half hour. Rather television programs begin after the last commercial. New programs can be as late as fifteen minutes after the hour.
When we lived in PR electricity was a hit or miss affair. Electrical service was provided by an enormous electrical generator called Big Bertha. Big Bertha was manufactured in East Germany. At that time in history, it was very difficult if not impossible to get parts shipped from East Germany to PR. In order to ensure that Big Bertha would not break down when demand for electricity became high, the system would automatically go into brownout mode. As a result of the brownout, refrigerators would go into defrost cycles and electric clocks would slow down appreciably. Eventually, the brownouts became so bad that the correct time on the island became almost unknown. At work, we had people arriving as early as 7 AM for an 8 AM shift and as late as 9 AM for the same shift. Finally, in an attempt to offer a service giving the correct time Banco Popular advertised in the San Juan Star two phone numbers to call for the correct time. One number would report the time in Spanish and the other number would report the time in English.
Finally, now I could find out the correct time. I called the number which would report the correct time in English. I fully expected to be connected to a computerized voice which would announce the correct time every five seconds. Instead, a woman answered the phone and said in perfect English Hello, Banco Popular, how may I help you? I stammered and said, Is this the number to call for the correct time in English? She responded, Yes it is. Oh, then could you tell me the time, please? She said, of course, it is about 9:20.

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 05-02-2019, 08:42 PM
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(05-02-2019, 02:10 PM)Barrylu Wrote: She said, of course, it is about 9:20.
Love your stories.

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 05-03-2019, 08:37 AM
#3
  • RyznRio
  • Active Member
  • Connecticut
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too bad seinfeld is off the air, that would make a great story line for a seinfeld special or movie if they ever get together to make one.

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 05-03-2019, 08:56 AM
#4
  • Barrylu
  • Senior Member
  • Portland OR
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I worked briefly as a stand-up comedian after I graduated from high school.

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 05-03-2019, 09:13 AM
#5
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Cool story Barry!  I have a friend who is marrying to a federal government employee, and they were assigned to PR a few years ago.  Her stories sound eerily similar to yours!  I am guessing that there haven’t been vast improvements, especially since last year’s storms!

I like to be on the money in terms of punctuality, and by that I mean ten minutes early to everything.  So the paradigm in terms of time that is presented in your narrative would likely drive me bananas.  However, I assume that plenty of fine Puerto Rican rum could help me cope!

Vr

Matt

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 05-04-2019, 03:40 AM
#6
  • RyznRio
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  • Connecticut
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The entire Caribbean is affected by a different appreciation of time than most other mainland places. Also PR is the southern point of the Bermuda Triangle.

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 05-04-2019, 04:16 AM
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That is truly hilarious...

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 05-05-2019, 08:29 AM
#8
  • MaxP
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  • Des Moines, Iowa
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(05-03-2019, 09:13 AM)Ols67 Wrote: ... drive me bananas.  However, I assume that plenty of fine Puerto Rican rum could help me cope!
I had occasion to be in Puerto Rico some years ago. 
I don't consume alcohol, so can't speak about the rum, but the bananas were GREAT.  LOL

And, yes, if the the locals busted arse, they really could get it done ... mañana!

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