I can’t say that I wasn’t warned…..when in a previous existence I was waxing forth on the delights of San Jose Pueblo Girl suggested that I was probably there at the right time…once the street cafes, pedestrian zones and horse drawn carriages for the tourists arrived I’d be looking back with nostalgia.
Well, some little time later…I am.
San Jose could be grubby at times but it was always full of life….people selling sweets at the bus stops; itinerant vendors all offering the same thing at the same time ( a Mr. Big somewhere in the background I used to think) from cheapo reading glasses to watches via shoes for children; fruit and veg sellers on the corners and in office doorways; knocked off mobile ‘phones on sale in the street; pirated film and music discs laid out on black plastic sacks causing you to do a hop skip and a jump to avoid treading on them; people selling lottery tickets or newspapers on almost every corner.
San Jose could be dilapidated…..but that too was part of its charm for me. Neglected treasures to be discovered on every walk.
And now what do we have?
No horse drawn carriage rides for tourists…as yet…but a street cafe has appeared opposite the Post Office, buildings are being restored and….we have pedestrian areas.
We also have yellow lines on the roads, parking places and, horror of horrors, parking ticket machines.
Just one look at the number of buttons is enough to daunt me….and the idea that you can have a mobile ‘phone app to use the thing turns my blood to ice!
It looks like a descendant of the Daleks and, from the reports of disgruntled users, acts like one.
It swallows your bank card – no cash payments allowed in case someone on the lower end of the municipal feeding chain – or someone with initiative and a claw hammer – gets their hands on proceeds reserved for those with electronic money transfer knowledge further up.
It spits out your bank card.
It charges you and won’t give up the ticket – probably a feature in the specifications laid down by those with electronic money transfer knowledge on the higher reaches of the municipal feeding chain.
It charges you and swallows your bank card. Ditto re specification.
It hurts your foot when you kick it.
It has forced us to clear out the garage at the San Jose house to enable the car to enter it….though it’s a hell of a performance. The garage dates from the days before 4x4s, so can take the car only if its doors remain closed.
The technique is to empty the contents of the car while still in the street – keeping a wary eye out for the meter men, the transport police tow truck and young men liable to grab a bag and run faster than you can – then lower the back seats to the floor, drive it in with the tailgate up, shut all the windows and climb out over the driver’s seat to exit via the tailgate. You can then shut the garage door and have a heart attack.
Scots blood will out.
Before these abominations you had self appointed chaps who would sell you parking tickets in the few areas where parking controls were in force. You paid the ticket and a tip and all parties were happy.
These chaps have had their livelihood taken away with no consultation….but it takes more than a municipality to keep a good Josefino down: they are now patrolling the yellow lined streets collecting the parking tickets of those leaving before their time has expired and flogging them to people who don’t want to use the Daleks.
Litter bins have been one improvement….the municipal street cleaners are super efficient….so the grubbiness is going, but so is the old way of identifying your destination – which was by its proximity to a local landmark. Thus my house was described as a lado del Escuela de Chile and al frente del American Bar.
This habit grew up because those with initiative and claw hammers had long since removed the metal street signs.
These are now being replaced (in plastic I believe) so I now live between avenidas 12 and 14 on calle 19T.
It’s just not the same.
And don’t all go looking it up on Google Earth.
The municipality is waging war on unlicensed street sellers too….much to my displeasure as the lady from whom I bought sweet peppers now has to be hunted down as opposed to being found on the corner by the Mercado Borbon – where, according to tourist guides, they all but practice cannibalism and in fact sell cheese, meat, fish and veg.
I buy my prawns there and no one has eaten me yet.
And not content with hassling those without licences, they have now started hassling those with.
Newspapers and magazines are sold from portable stands.
The sellers have to pay for a licence to do this….but there is a problem.
There shouldn’t be, but there is.
The licence is only valid for one person…so if the holder has a hospital appointment, is not well, or merely wants to go to the loo no one else is authorised to sell from the stand.
Of course, no one has taken a blind bit of notice of this, but just recently a municipal official has instructed her staff to check identities…so if the official licence holder is holed up in the loo when her staff make a swoop he risks coming back to find his stand dismantled and taken away.
Keep taking the prunes.
But let me not forget the pedestrian areas.
The avenida central has been pedestrianised for years and it is, I must admit pleasant to be able to walk without traffic noise and on regular pavements, instead of going up hill and down dale on the other streets where each frontage owner makes his pavement to his own specifications.
We now have avenida 4 pedestrianised….and this year the old Paseo des Estudiantes has been turned into…
China Town. Barrio Chino.
This is the monstrosity erected at the entrance…together with concrete copies of one of the national treasures of Costa Rica, the pre Columbian stone spheres found over the southern half of the country.
Behind it is this:
Iglesia la Soledad.
I know which I prefer.