We recently had to refill some of our fuel tanks that we use for cooking. This was our first Nicaraguan Propane-Filling Experience. "Firsts" here are always an adventure!
We drove to the refinery on the outskirt of the city. As I (Jeff) parked I noticed two things: 1) There was a prominent sign in the parking lot that seemed important, but it was in Spanish so I glossed over it and 2) The smell of natural gas hit me like a ton of bricks when I opened the car door. As soon as I had parked, a guard ran up to me and explained what the sign was trying to tell me. I was supposed to back the car into the parking space so that in the event of a catastrophic explosion, I would be able to exit more quickly. Now I have seen enough "guy" movies to know that if this refinery explodes, I will barely have enough time to kiss my wife goodbye, let alone exit the refinery in an orderly and efficient manner. I didn't have enough Spanish to argue my point, so I happily re-parked correctly... facing out in case of an explosion.
So, with my car safely parked, I was told to go to a desk to place my order (stop #1). I tell the man that I want to buy two tanks of propane. He writes out a slip of paper and tells me to take it the nearby window with a hole in it (not 2 feet from the first stop). I give this man the paper (stop #2) and he generates a print-out of my order, and tells me to take it to the neighboring window with a hole in it. I pass my paper through the hole in window number 2 (stop #3) and here I finally get the opportunity to pay someone...I feel like I have accomplished something! Without any direction from there, I wander back to stop #2 and he tells me to give the receipt from stop #3 to the man at stop #1, who is actually at my right elbow. Without taking a step, I turn 90 degrees to the right and give him my receipt (this is now stop #4...same as stop #1 if you are following). Now I have proof that I have paid and I can get the tanks filled (stop #5).
As I proudly walk back to the car with my full tanks, I see the man from stop #1 and #4 (one in the same) yelling and waving for my attention. He apologetically comes to me and says that a mistake was made between steps #1 and #2. He had written down that I had wanted 2 tanks, but the man who made the printed invoice (from stop #2) had only typed 'one' tank. So now I needed to pay for the other tank. With a smile on my face and a chuckle in my heart, I say with my Spanish mouth "no hay falla" (no problem) while I think in my English mind "you have got to be kidding me"! So back to stops 2-4...this time I had a free pass to skip #1 because he verbally told the guy in #2 what I wanted.
I hope you remeber this story the next time you fill a propane tank, and it makes you laugh. It made me laugh.
Vine, vi, vencí (I came, I saw, I conquered)