and the Run-Around. Let me count the ways…
A social epidemic of millennials, ghosting– i.e. ignoring a friend/romantic interest in lieu of ending the relationship properly–apparently was borrowed from the genial yet dilatory people of Puerto Rico.
(I will say firstly that I mean this lightheartedly and am more amused by my experience rather than judgmental. But this is an account of my new life here, so I’m just telling it how I’m living it.)
We visited the island several months ago to research schools and living spaces (and what our WAPF-diet family would eat. More on that another time 😬). We were assured by several realtors that all we had to do was come a week early, get a hotel and we’d have everything set up within that time to become residents. Easy peasy.
After arriving in the middle of the night, we hit the ground running in search for an apartment that day. Our research revealed we would need an address before we could buy a car. The first realtor we worked with while still in the States initially seemed enthusiastic to work with us, yet after a few days he had ghosted us! Our next agent was great, he answered our calls, sent us potential spaces, looked into places we’d found on our own–he did his job and everything went very well. By Wednesday we had picked a spot! We thought, great! We’re ahead of schedule! When it came time to sign our lease, the property owner’s agent stepped in to take over. They were late for the meeting, but no big deal. We signed our parts and the owner was to sign their parts later as they weren’t in town, but we were told we’d have it back by the next day, along with keys to access the building. I noticed that the address seemed incomplete on the lease, and when I tried to google it, there was no result. “We will find out what is correct, just use this for now.” Weird. They handed us the keys and said we were free to move in.
The Air B&B we were at still had a few days left in our reservation, so we didn’t rush to the new spot; besides, we were told the apartment was going to be thoroughly cleaned still. We spent one afternoon walking around our new neighborhood and as we neared the pool on the property we were stopped by a security guard who informed us that the pool was out of service! Part of our must-have list was a pool, since it is so hot down here and my kids can’t just run around out in their own backyard like back home. We had passed on looking at other properties due to their lack of a pool, WHY would our realtor not mention this!? He admitted he wasn’t aware of this and we negotiated a decrease in rent until the pool reopened. Bummer.
We waited another day or so for the landlord’s agent to contact us about our keys, our updated lease, and whether or not the apartment had been cleaned yet. “I am still waiting to receive the keys and the signed lease, and the housekeeper has not cleaned yet because of the pool negotiation.” What on earth does the pool have to do with the apartment being cleaned? Run-around #1. We ask her again when will they come clean and she finally tells us we need to be there to let her in, that we could have done it at any time. Oh, thanks for that bit of info. We go first thing the next morning. To our surprise, the housekeeper (who honestly looks like she’s just someone’s Abuelita that they sent over and not an actual employee of anywhere) came with our lease in hand. So now you’re just handing over my legal documents to perfect strangers to pass on to me. We look at the lease–it is still not signed by the landlord! Run-around #2. I think to myself, this isn’t technically a valid contract, but I chalk it up to how they do things here and move on.
“Abuelita” came to clean empty-handed (besides my lease, of course lol). She asked me where are the supplies; luckily the apartment was full of everything left behind from the previous tenants and she helped herself. That was weird.
The water and electricity needed to be transferred to my name. We get their phone numbers and try to call. “Your wait time is longer than one hour.” Of course it is. The wait is actually more like two hours, and we cannot get utilities set up because our agents should have given us some number that identifies the location, and they cannot verify our address. Run-around #3. We go back to get the numbers and our REAL address. We try to call, the wait time is longer than two hours, we get disconnected. Twice. We will have to go in person when they open. #4
While these things are happening, we are in multi-tasking mode. Trying to learn our way around, going to and from the school, grocery shopping, school shopping, home goods shopping (Zemira said, “Are we poor now? We’re spending a lot of money!” Not yet honey, but soon enough LMAO)
Now that we have an address (kind of haha), we can get a car. The sort of “Craigslist” of Puerto Rico has a lot of options, but every time we ask questions we learn of some serious issue with the cars. One after the next is a dud. During our drives we see some used car lots but they look so questionable. 100% we cannot afford a new car, so we start going to lots. Again, car after car has some serious issue, unknown histories, yet still with “high” price tags (compared to what you would pay in the States for a hooptie). Finally we settle on a not completely terrible PT Cruiser, baby 😆 lol. Uriah talks down the price, because this car too will probably need some work, and we actually get it all finalized rather quickly.
Time to celebrate! The car was our hardest task, we should be able to get our utilities switched on Monday in person, so let’s go home and relax at the pool (because they are actually open on weekends for limited hours)! Suits on, towels in hand, SPF’ed up, we prance to the locked? gate of the pool. We are denied entrance because we STILL have not been given our keys to the building. #5
At the electric company there is a hoard of people, which we expected. We sit in the annex, which needs to be physically unlocked by a guard whom one must call on a phone attached to the door each time they enter or exit, which is often, and quite inefficient. Two hours (and a quick power outage!) later it is our turn. Everything has been entered into the system, we are ready to pay our deposit and “Wait, this lease agreement is not valid. The leasor has not signed.” Eff my effing life, I knew it! (Sidenote: I’m definitely not a “woe is me” type of person, I just like to curse 😝) The gentleman tells me he must delete my profile and we must return with the signed agreement as proof of our residence. #6
Our landlord fortunately contacted us (wondering why we hadn’t made the switch yet 🙄) and we were able to get her signed copy quickly. Back at the office, we waited another two hours, but were able to use this time to get water finalized online and over the phone (our address still needed verified as everyone has a different opinion on just what the real address is!). As I give my name to begin my profile again, she tells me that I already have a full account and there is nothing she needs to do. I just have to pay the deposit, which I can do in the wait-free line to my right. OMFG. My most irritating run-around #7
The next day, we want to celebrate again (maybe we need to stop counting our chickens before they hatch!). We haven’t heard from the agent about the keys in a while, but we’re used to the ghosting by now, maybe she’ll call soon. We spend a few hours in the morning going to a far away school supply store for specialty items we’d been searching for since we got here (would have been nice if we were told from the start that you can’t just go to Walmart to find this crap. Definitely a run-around from the school, there, #8). Then it is beach day! The girls are looking forward to some R&R and we get sandy and salty and wonderfully tired out. They head straight to the tub when we return home and the freaking water is shut off! Somehow when we call them they actually answer and we are told that it is just normal procedure to turn off the service while transferring from one client to the next. WHAT?! If that isn’t ridiculous enough, I was definitely on the phone with you yesterday, maybe this is the type of thing you mention?
Thank goodness I’m patient enough to deal with this. My husband went to a nearby store to buy jugs of water and I bathed my babies in a large bowl (I’m SO glad I decided to just watch the water this time rather than get in!). We were told the water should be back on by noon the next day. Suuuure #9
By the next weekend we decided to just buy a pool key from the building because this agent was still ghosting. She was also supposed to send our mailbox keys, but the landlord contacted the building office (and not us?) to tell them that the mailbox key was lost. So when we went to purchase the pool key, they informed us that we would have to get the lock changed, and we have to call the post office to do that. We call, they tell us we have to come in. We call again to be sure, they tell us we can just do it ourselves. #10 We decide to wait for the mailman (who happened to be three hours late that day) to ask him. He said we can change the lock ourselves after he opened it. And it just so happened I packed a wrench from home (you never know 🤷🏽♀️) so he was able to remove the old one. I bought a new lock and changed it that evening.
Two days later, the ghoster agent comes by with the fabled keys to the building–mail key and all. #11
As we anticipated, our busted car started to show signs of distress. Something is up with the power steering. It keeps getting worse. I cannot get stuck on the side of these roads with my babies. We don’t know any reliable mechanics so we drive out of our way to a Pep Boys with a service center after taking the kids to school. They should be trust-worthy. It will be several hours for a diagnostic, and more if we choose to get the work done. So we walk to a Kmart near the plaza and buy two booster seats for the girls in case we need to catch an Uber home from school. We Uber home and wait for news–the cost from Pep Boys is about double what we were guessing.
Earlier in the week, my husband had met a mechanic at a gas station who gave him some help and we had his phone number. We called him and explained the issues as we could remember and he said he can work on it, and attempted to give us his address. I don’t know what it is about addresses here, but what he gave us just couldn’t be found online. He asked people around him on the other end of the phone what they thought the address was, we went back and forth on WhatsApp for clarification; how are the addresses so subjective here? #12
So after working out the logistics of finding this hypothetical address, trying to Uber back and forth from school, to the shop to pick up the car and all the other craziness it would take to try to save money, we decided to just go with Pep Boys. Who knows if this other mechanic would even fix our car. As it stands, I am waiting for them to finish the work. They give us a time, we call for an update on progress, they give us a new time. We call again and it just repeats. Keeping my fingers crossed that this is LUCKY #13 and it might be at least semi-smooth sailing from here!
All I can do is laugh at my experiences and try to grow from them, because this immersion is what we came down here for! Maybe soon I’ll be on Island Time too, don’t take it personal if i ghost you…I’ll be at the beach working on my Spanish!