The doghouse: Costa Rican employment bureaucracy

Finally, and for the first time ever, we have a full time maid, and a good one at that, and - gah, it's amazing!

But there are also downsides.

One is, well - it's even harder to get sympathy if I ever complain about anything to anyone. "Ah, life must be tough for you, with your house clean all the time..."

Another is that we now have to deal with the employment bureaucracy in Costa Rica. Specifically, the Social Security office, CCSS.

I hate having to deal with bureaucracy. Fortunately, there's an excellent law firm that I like to work with, and they were kindly willing to help me with the registration needed for the domestic employee.

Today, I get a phone call from the lawyer on my mobile. It went something like this:

- Hello Mr. Bider. How are you doing? I am at the Social Security office. They are asking if you have a land line in your house. (In Costa Rica, everything's a house. Our apartment is a house.)

- (Hoping in vain I can dodge the issue) Well, we have mobile phones. The number should be on the form.

- Unfortunately, they are asking specifically for a land line. They want to call a land line to talk to the maid.

- (Sighing deeply) Do I really have to set up a land line, just so they can call the maid?

- If you don't have a land line, the alternative is that she comes to the CCSS office tomorrow. They want to talk to her to give them a statement.

- (Sigh.) We do have a land line, we just don't use it. Give me 20 minutes to set it up.

I don't want her to have to spend 2-3 hours to go there, just because mobile phones aren't good enough for the CCSS.

So off I go, fumbling with the cables and adapters. Our internet and telephone are provided by ICE, which is a government company. (Obviously, by government mandate, they must be at least 5 years behind the times in the internet speeds they provide. But that's a separate story.) The way they chose to set up our land line is through a voice-over-IP connection. We had no choice in that. So, we don't simply have an outlet in the wall, and a phone to plug it in. The outlet is instead for the internet connection, which is hooked to a modem, which is hooked to a router, which is hooked to a VoIP box, which is hooked to the phone. I had recently moved the router, and I didn't bother also moving the VoIP box, because seriously, we never, ever have a need for this "land line".

Except now.

Twenty minutes later, I've set up the land line in the storage cabinet, back where its paired router is. I return the call:

- OK, I've set up the land line. The number is XXXX YYYY.

- Very well. I will tell them.

- Are they going to call right now?

- Oh, no no. I don't think they will call now. They're going to call you in about two weeks when they do the inspection.

You see, employing a domestic worker in Costa Rica is no trifle thing. There needs to be an inspector who comes to your house to make sure... umm... I'm not sure what. But it's super important.

Well, if they're not going to call right now, and I need to keep this land line for the long term, then I ought to set it up somewhere other than the far away storage cabinet. So I unplug the whole thing and take it to the living room. Try to set it up with the other router there. It doesn't work. Sigh. Seems like it's paired to the original router. I'm taking it back to the storage cabinet, when my mobile rings again.

- Hello, Mr. Bider? They said they tried to call the land line, but it didn't work.

- Oh. I was just trying to move it to another room. You said they weren't going to call right now. But no problem, I'm just about to plug it in again...

- Well, ah - they now say they want the maid to come in personally tomorrow.

- What? Why?

- They aren't happy that the land line didn't work when they tried to call. She has to come in for an interview in person.


Pura vida!


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