Panama 2017: Tia Pamela Hits the Fan

Longtime blog readers may recall that in the first year we came, I had difficulty with the Cuban couple from whom I was renting. After someone employed here in Buenaventura reported on my “undesirable guests” I got an email from Miami threatening to throw me out. I finessed the problem with the landlord, and over the years have made my Panamanian family more acceptable to the resort by spending a lot of money. There are never very many people here, even in high season, and fourteen for lunch poolside means a big bill plus a nice tip for the server. Now, the hotel employees are thrilled when we arrive for the day and compete to be our server.

I haven’t had any more trouble until this year. Punta Arena is the newest area to be developed, and I decided to try a condo here instead of my usual villa rental. It’s been a mistake. The kids have been challenged by security at the pool — each part of the development has its own pool complex — which simply means that we’ve elected to go over to the hotel pool where they are more welcome. After the handyman came to fix the circuit board after a temporary power outage, I got an email from the landlord demanding to know who was sleeping here — which meant the handyman had observed my guests here for lunch and fired off a report. Yesterday, I dropped Minga  and Josue off in front of the condo office to wait for me while I parked the car — the walk from the parking lot is simply too much for Minga. Within seconds of our arriving upstairs, I had yet another text from the landlord demanding to know again who is sleeping here. I concluded that the women working in the office — local people who have graduated from high school and are one social class rung above my guests — had seen Minga and Josue and sounded the alarm.

Enough. We had a nice lunch, and then as we went downstairs, I asked everyone to wait for me. I went into the office, where two workers were sitting behind a desk. “How can we help you, Senora?”

Directness is not part of the culture here. I chose to be direct — not rude, but direct. “You have reported on my guests to the landlord, who is now pestering me with texts. This is very rude. If you had an issue, you could have asked me who they are and why they are here. But to send notice to the landlord is gossipy and offensive and I do not like this behavior.”

The young woman blanched and went to get her supervisor, who proceeded to argue with me that indeed it is their role to watch and report. I think this is called “the petty tyranny of minor bureaucrats”. I said that at my age and at this price point I have no need for “minders”, that my guests from the village are entitled to respect and I expect them to be treated that way, and that as I’m leaving on Saturday morning they will do me the courtesy of not bothering me again.

I had one final text from the landlord, who claimed all of this is a matter of security. I told him nonsense. Jack the Ripper could arrive, and as long as he looked white and affluent, no one would say a word. I gave him the same message: don’t care to hear from you again.

Lily’s eyes were like saucers; she’s never seen me so angry or heard me speak so sharply. Gloria was still upstairs and missed the whole thing. When she rejoined us she was chagrined and said she would have LOVED to hear me rising to their defense. Then she and Lily both giggled.

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