Jamaica Magazine

Everything takes time by American Retiree in Jamaica

One of the first things I learned, once I moved to Jamaica, was everything takes time. The former owner of my house was nice enough to help me through, what could have been, a very stressful and time consuming process. He agreed to help get all the utilities changed from his name to mine. Sounds like an easy thing to do, right? Maybe not so easy after all. I thought we would get to each of the utility offices, switch the names and it would be over in a few hours.

The purpose for his help is that if he had the water, electric, and phone disconnected, it make take weeks or months to get the service turned back on. The other big item was getting insurance and registering his car in my name. With that in mind, we went to the Jamaica Public Service Co. to transfer the electric account. Their business office is located in a major shopping mall in downtown Mobay. By the time we got there, the lines for each department were very long. We waited over an hour before we spoke with a customer service agent. Perhaps another hour passed while the clerk filled out the required form asking untold questions along the way. He was also interrupted numerous times by phone calls from other agents asking procedural questions. The papers were finally signed and the deposit paid. I now had my own electricity!

Next step was the National Water Commission, which at that time, was located in another part of the city. Once again, the wait was very long, but the process was a lot easier and faster than at the electric company. By now it was early afternoon and time for lunch. The former owner, my wife, and I went back to our “home away from home” at Sandals Inn for a quick bite.

The next and last stop for the day was at the Cable & Wireless office to change the phone. Their office is more modern than either of the other two offices. Instead of a receptionist there was a large board with buttons on the left side and appropriate departments you wish to see on the right side. Once you have decided and pushed the corresponding department, a number pops up, similar to taking a number at the deli department of a large supermarket in the states. Then the wait begins, again. We can see the customer service booths from our vantage point in the waiting room. At the end of the room and high on the wall is a flashing electric sign that displays the number being served. In case you can’t see the sign, a computer generated voice repeats several times, “Now serving customer 123 at counter number 9.” This announcement continues until the person arrives at the counter or the representative realizes that customer couldn’t or wouldn’t wait that long for their number to be called. Finally, it was our turn! It must have been a long hard day for our representative. It took a considerable amount of time to make him understand I wanted to keep the former owner’s phone number. To complicate matters further, the former owner asked that the account change be made several days later as he wanted to make more international calls. The representative approved it as long as the outstanding bill was paid on that date. Everyone agreed. However, over a month later, we still hadn’t received our first phone bill. Knowing the post office is slow in receiving mail, we didn’t think much about it. Then one day I tried to make a phone call only to find the service had been disconnected. Back to Cable & Wireless to go through the same rigmarole as before. “Now serving customer……….” One thing that made the wait easier was tea and instant coffee were available to the customers. Here I am in Jamaica, land of the world famous Blue Mountain coffee, and they offer me instant coffee! No problem! It still helped pass the time away.

My turn had come! The customer service representative said the problem was the former owner never came in to pay the final bill and that my service couldn’t begin until then. By now, this guy had been in the UK for over a month. Who knows how long it would have taken to find him in all of England. My choice was to pay his bill or wait for him to do it. Remembering he wanted to call “across the pond”, I had visions of a bill in the hundreds of US dollars. I was prepared for the worst. To my surprise, the bill was only about $6.00 US. Now I had electricity, water, and a phone. An interesting thing about disconnected landline phones is you can’t call out but anyone can call in.

The next morning we went to the bank to get car insurance. Why the bank? The bank of Nova Scotia has some sort of partnership with one of the larger insurance companies. One thing I needed was a referral from my insurance company in Boston as to my driving record. Once I got it, they would lower my rate. What they didn’t tell me was, it would be the following year, not the present one. I paid the premium, signed the documents, and headed to the Inland Revenue department. This government building is where you pay your taxes and everything to do with a motor vehicle. First stop was to the motor vehicle department, and then to the cashier, and back to the motor vehicle department. With over ten cashiers, only one could take my registration fee. Do I need to tell you which line was the longest? At this point in time, the stress of the past few days seemed trivial to the same thing happening in Boston. I had nothing but time on my hands for the rest of my life. I had a house that was paid for, all my furnishings from back in Boston, my utilities and car were all taken care of, but best of all, I had the love of my life to share it.

About the author

John Casey