X Marks the Spot

X Marks the Spot

Islands Notes 51

I don’t often look at my license plates.  But the other morning while lashing down the kayak to the car roof rack for a day on the water at Lac Bay, I noticed that I was suddenly out of date.  The annual registration sticker that I had just applied to the rear plate in January now said 2008.  I went to the front plate—the same.  Was I in a Twilight Zone flashback?  No. After looking at the scrape marks by the now outdated sticker, it was apparent that I got ripped off.  The thief had taken the new 2010 sticker, and in the process, the 2009 one as well.  Welcome to 2008.

How, you may ask, could this criminal act happen on dushi Bonaire?  It is all about money.  Minimum wage here is just over $4/hour while costs like groceries rival what we paid when we were living in metro DC.  Gasoline here is 50% more than stateside.   Electricity is also costly, although once our windmill power comes on line, prices are expected to drop by 30%.  Add a high unemployment rate to the mix and it is of little wonder that someone in need of 2010 registration stickers promptly removed mine in the dead of night.

I went immediately to the Island Landsontvanger, the office where I had bought the 2010 stickers only two months ago.  I was told that I needed to file a police report first and then return to this office to pay 19 florins and get my new registration stickers.

After a half hour wait at the police station, I was ushered into a small, sparse room by Inspector Rosales.  It had the impersonal florescent glow of a holding tank.  Along one wall was a long table complete with chairs, a computer, and a printer.  A two-foot long billy club lay on the tabletop next to the Hewlett Packard.  Charming.

It took another half hour for Inspector Rosales to fill out the electronic form.  During the process, I quizzed the policeman about his past.  Rosales was born on Curacao in 1960.  When he was 18, he moved to the Netherlands for school, a journey that a number of young people from the islands do to advance themselves.  After graduation, he stayed on, joined the Rotterdam police department, and eventually attained the rank of inspector.  A dozen years later, he longed to return to his home, Curacao.  At that time, the Curacao Police Department was flush with inspectors and there were no openings for Rosales’s skills.  He moved to Bonaire instead and has been an inspector here for seven years.

Bonaire Police Headquarters

By the time Inspector Rosales completed his personal story, the report was ready to print.  He sent it three times to the Hewlett Packard with no response.  Rosales sent the form to other printers outside the room, but still no success.  The inspector began to fondle the billy club on the table, contemplating his next move.  I offered my limited computer troubleshooting advice as an alternative. We checked cable connections on the HP printer.  We rebooted the PC.  Finally, the four-page report dealing with my two stolen registration stickers came spewing out in duplicate.  We both signed each form and I was nearly on my way.

“I hope you catch the bastards that stole my stickers,” I said smiling.

“If we stop the car that has them, a computer cross-check will reveal the thieves,” responded Inspector Rosales optimistically.

“I plan to put the new stickers on with Super Glue and a clamp this time.”

“I have a better idea”, suggested Rosales.  “What we locals do is just put the sticker on normally.  Than we take a razor blade and cut the sticker diagonally twice, corner to corner making the shape of an “X”.  This makes it much more difficult for the thief to steal the sticker since he has to remove and reassemble four pieces.  They usually just go on to an easier target.”

After a trip back to the island’s DMV to purchase new stickers, I finally got home.  I followed Inspector Rosales’s advice and cut an “X” through each sticker.  For good measure, I added a horizontal and vertical slice to each as well.  Pieces of eight.  Ho, ho, ho and a bottle of rum.

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