Sunday, October 19, 2008

Out dumbed!

My husband remarks that living in Honduras is a country in which the people will never outsmart us, they will simply out dumb us!  And, it is true!

I recently went to LaCeiba with a friend who had doctors she wanted to see.  Leaving the island of Guanaja is fairly simple.  We have no complicated method of boarding; we wait under the thatched-covered casetta until we see the plane land, walk to the white picket fence that is on either side of the walkway, pay our airport tax and walk to the plane and board.  Our luggage is tagged at the casetta and taken up to the plane and loaded after the incoming luggage is off loaded.  Simple!  Right.  

We take off, fly all the way to LaCeiba with no incidents, get off the plane and go to collect our luggage.  After collecting the luggage one thinks, ok, I'll just head on out to my hotel!  Wrong.  Just as you reach the exit door some young man motions you to put your luggage on the metal chairs used for waiting (there are no tables in the room) and insists that you must open your suitcase before leaving the terminal.  Why, I have no idea!  I was a little miffed and challenged the young man asking him what he was looking for as I just got off the plane and we were all safe.  He shrugged his shoulders (the first sign of out-dumbing you) and says it is his job.  I say, yes, but what are you looking for?  He says "bad stuff".  I say, what bad stuff?  He replies with another shrug of the shoulders indicating he has no idea and then says it is his job!  Two military types are standing off to the side but no one offers an explanation.  Now if he were indeed looking for something that proved to be dangerous like a weapon or a drug, he would never find it the way he searched!  He patted my clothing a little big, lifted the corners of a few items, shuffled things on top around and proceeded to "clear" my luggage!  I really believe they do this just 1) to justify his salary and 2) to irritate deplaning passengers as apparently we looked too happy when we got off the plane.

Then we get a taxi!  I have just discovered on this trip that people on the coast, for one reason or the other (but I have no idea why) do not have change!  If you get a taxi and all you have is Lps. 500 (heck even Lps. 100) he must stop at a gas station and change the bill.  I can understand not wanting a lot of money on your person driving around during the day in case you get robbed but I doubt very much that these drivers make periodical stops to "unload" some the of money they have received from daily fares just so they will not have enough to make it worth while for someone to rob them!  

But, lo and behold it is not just taxi drivers.  I went to a large grocery store and made a purchase only to be told (at 9 a.m.) that they had no change!  They just opened their cash registers for Pete's sake, what would they do if everyone came in, bought groceries and needed change?  Refuse the sale?  At this particular store I had to wait 10 minutes for their clerk to go to the nearby bank and get change.  The peculiar thing is, they took their own money to get change!

I went to a restaurant; same excuse - no hay cambio!  So I must go to a bank and get change for some of the Lps. 500.00 I am carrying so I'll have smaller bills to pay with!

Then, back to the taxi.  In town I knew that the fare is Lps. 20 per person.  We had to go to a hotel out near the airport and they said now it was Lps. 40 per person.  We said ok, we'll go with that.  But when we tried hailed a taxi in the middle of town to take us to our hotel out by the airport, the driver wanted to charge Lps. 100-150 for 2 people!  In one cab I told him to stop we were getting out because I was not paying Lps. 150 for something I had been charged Lps. 80 the day before!  He relented and lowered his fare to Lps. 100.  Again, from the mall I hailed a cab while it was raining.  I guess the driver felt the rain justified a higher fare for one person and wanted Lps. 150 to take me to my destination.  I argued this was way too much and told him that I pay Lps. 40 per person or Lps. 80 for 2.  He said no, he would have to charge no less than Lps. 100.  So, I told him I would only if he would take his friend's umbrella and walk me to the door when we arrived!  On the way he said for two people, yes, it would be Lps. 80.  I said, good, I'm one person so it should be Lps. 40!  But he out dumbed me by shrugging his shoulders saying it did not work that way!

Of course there is the restaurant menu that gives varied selections but when you make your choice, the item is not available.  When you ask for a particular drink they say "no hay" but later on when one of the members of the group (male) gets a manager over, suddenly they have the drink!

My friend wanted to buy some personal apparel - a bra.  Now, all women know that you must try bras on as each one is different and will fit differently.  Nope, not in Honduras.  They ask if you know your "number" and if you say yes, they say, well, any bra with that "number" will fit.  You try to explain the fault in their logic and they look at your like they've never tried a bra on before --- well, now that I think about it, maybe they haven't.  After all, they work in lingerie and this does not necessarily mean they know anything about the product.  Finally the salesgirl tells my friend she can try on a particular brand but only that brand and not the other brands!  And, get this, she must try it on over her own bra!  Now that is really smart - like trying on shoes with heavy socks!  Out dumbed again.

In LaCeiba most stores close at 12:00 noon for lunch and reopen at about 1:00 or 1:30 p.m.  Imagine our surprise when we approached one store at 11:29 a.m. and they were closed.  We got to another store at 11:31 a.m. (down the block) and were told they too were closed!  I protested and the owner who knew me saw us outside and thankfully waived us in!  This is the biggest problem going from Guanaja to LaCeiba to shop.  We can no longer get an early morning flight and now arrive at about 11:00 a.m. (or 11:30 a.m.) and have to rush and find somewhere that is open so we can get some of our shopping done.  Re-opening at 1:30 p.m. only gives us about 45 minutes to shop if we want to return the same day and not incur the cost of a hotel, meals and taxi rides.  So, when the shops closer earlier than 12 noon, we are, once again, out dumbed!

The thing is, the people here come to expect this kind of treatment and, I guess, figure that's all they deserve - businesses with no change, businesses that close earlier than the expected hour, businesses who employ people that know little to nothing about what they are selling and employees who have no idea what they are suppose to do!

Yup!  Out dumbed - they have made an art of it!


  1. An art? Heavens, no. An "art" implies a hobby or something taken up capriciously. But no, Hondurans have made a profession of out-dumbing everyone else. It's not just their raison d'etre, it's their national mission statement!

    The longer that I've been away from Honduras, the more bizarre it seems in retrospect. I tell friends about how things are down there and they shake their heads in disbelief. Search your luggage after you get off the plane? Perfectly logical! To a Honduranian.

    It is why, looking not so far into the future, Honduras will never amount to anything. If it can exist as a an sovereign entity past the year 2015 would be a miracle in my book.

    Thanks for the entertaining post! Makes me remember all that I'm "missing."

  2. Oh shucks. While I see plenty of that crazy stuff in Honduras, there's an endless amount of nonsensical "dumb" in the U.S. Does that mean we won't exist as a nation past 2015 as well?