There are random police checkpoints all over Panama. There is a permanent one on the road up to Boquete in response to an increased amount of crime, and word is that this has helped a lot. Usually the police just wave us through but, once in a while, they get more thorough. I don’t know if it was because of a home robbery in the area a few days ago, or if it just wasn’t Joel’s lucky day.
He headed up for band practice and a short while later I got a phone call. “Do you know anything about my car documents, my insurance documents?! All I have here is a paper that isn’t good past Dec 2016!” HELP! Unfortunately I don’t know anything about his car documents, and any papers we have are in the car. By now he is off to the side of the road, papers spread all over the car, and the cops are calling a tow truck. No proof of insurance, no driving!
I call our insurance people who respond immediately. They call Joel, talk to the police, and send him an updated document with his current insurance status to his email and WhatsApp. Unfortunately once a tow truck has been called, it’s too late to reverse the situation. But, I am very thankful that they got busy immediately and did everything they could to help.
(our insurance people – Melva Vega
Asistente de Cobro, F&C Corredores de Seguros, Ubicación en David
Edificio Galherna, Oficina #2
Tel: 775-9237 / 775-1615 / Fax: 775-8478)
I also gave Joel the number of Eduardo Horna, our friend and real estate agent. He hopped on his motorcycle and was there within minutes. He talked to the police, helped with communication, and vouched for Joel that he was a good guy, just lacking a document. Joel said he felt much better with Eduardo there, and the police relaxed and were more friendly after talking with him.
(Eduardo, a good guy to know for houses, transportation, tours, translation, and getting a multitude of things done around Chiriqui – https://findingmyselfinpanama.wordpress.com/2015/04/09/video-of-ed-horna-rental-property-available-in-davidboquete/ )
I keep thinking of selling our old Mazda because it just sits here most of the time, but in times like this it is good to have. I head up the mountain, and there is Joel sitting by the side of the road with all his musical equipment. He wasn’t about to leave it in the car, and the tow truck driver didn’t want to take him back down to David.
Joel took a selfie while he was waiting. He was at the checkpoint on Via Boquete at the Caldera road intersection.
Eduardo gave us instructions to go to Sertracen the next day, the office in Chiriqui Mall where you get your drivers license, and apparently pay fines like this. After some conversation that I had trouble understanding from a women behind a window, and another nice gal who spoke some English – no, we don’t have the car, and all the documents are with the car. No, we don’t have the title. All we have is this insurance document and the ticket from the police – yes, we want to pay the fine today – after some back and forth and $50.25, Joel is given two receipts and is told we can go get the car.
The Sertracen office
We head out to Taller El Cid in Las Lomas. We go around the curve as instructed, and another curve, and another, stop at a gas station where the attendant asks a taxi driver who had just pulled in. She came back with directions. We just hadn’t gone far enough. The taxi driver offers to lead us there for $1.50 but I say thanks, I think with all our info we will be able to find it. Sure enough, a while later we spot the shop on the left, so we double back in the next “returno”.
This is only a very small bit of what makes up this shop! But, that green building behind is the office.
I should have taken more pictures. It’s a really big shop and it looks like they mostly fix big trucks and 18 wheelers. Down below is a parking lot with cars. The young man makes color copies of Joel’s receipts, the insurance document, and his cedula (Panamanian ID card), collects $150 (ouch!) and asks us the make and model of the car. We go to look in the parking lot below and I don’t see the car. “Are you sure it is at this shop? Who told you that?” We walk across the shop and look in the other side of the area below, and there it is. Whew! OK, all in order, just need the key. He looks in the desk drawer, in a box of random keys, on the wall, no key. He calls the boss who says he will come shortly to find the key.
Joel brings the car up above on the bad bumpy road, and we wait for the key to be found. An aside – yes that is a July 2016 plate. If you don’t get your plate on time, they don’t order you one for next year. Joel has been to the office twice and gotten a piece of paper that says he is legal, and maybe some day the plate will come in. No, they don’t have stickers. You get a whole new plate every year.
We wait. We talk about his English studies at university. We talk about things in the US, of course including our current president. We talk about a lot of things, and wait, and after 45 minutes or so he calls the boss again who apparently sent him back into the office. He immediately returns with the key wrapped in a bit of paper. Yeah! Ready to go. (I know, I know, you would think they would have all this much more organized! But, TIP.)
Now that you have read all this, go check your car. Do you have your title? Revisado (inspection)? Current insurance document (check the expiration date)? Do you have the correct phone number for your insurance agent? It doesn’t hurt to have a couple copies of each document also, just because TIP. If you don’t have your plates, be sure you have that document also.
I’ll leave you with this picture just because I thought it was very funny. These two guys had put a piece of cardboard under the big truck and were taking a nap.
TIP = this is Panama