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Penny

Patience -- the primary Panamanian virtue

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So I went to the social security clinic in Boquete this morning to get one of their inexpensive ($13) x-rays for a persistent cough I've been experiencing. It's always a grand cultural experience when a gringo does something like this. First of all the whole process is like a Chinese fire drill -- no offense to the Chinese intended. There is much scrutinizing of documents, much pencil tapping, much computer poking, and, of course, much stamping. This is before you take the bill to the caja to pay it. When you return the receipt, the whole process is started anew. Then you wait, and you wait, and you wait. The waiting room for the ultra sound and the x-ray seems to be a well-used shortcut for folks going back and forth in the clinic. I saw about six Panamanians I knew and all stopped to talk. Everybody who walks through gives the obligatory "buenos dias" and all the waiting folks chime in with their own "buenas dias". Many folks say that the primary characteristic of the Panamanian people is their friendliness . . . or their happiness. I am quite sure it's their patience. Now, I'm the first to admit that patience is a virtue . . . especially in Panama but one has to wonder if it perpetuates the same old inefficient system and nothing will ever change because nobody complains. Something to ponder on an overcast Monday morning.

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Penny

 

It is interesting the experience you have had at the CSS Clinic in Boquete.  I would say that Panamanians patience is like a balloon.  People has a capacity to bear a lot of things until it explodes.  When it does then people complaint why are people protesting in the streets and politicians went to TV News telling that people "...are goin' to heaven and they are going crying...".     

In the past government Martinelli promise to stop the excesive bureaucracy in Panama and a lot of paperworks.  Let;s give an example: only to pay, let say, $2.50  the amount of papers, ink, people filling the papers, the copies, etc. cost more than the $2.50 itself.  Why it that so, why it is working that way?  It is being suppossed for control.  To stop corruption.  Had it worked?? NO.  Even with all the paperwork and bureaucracy there were a lot scandals that  we have seen in every government.   The idea of Martinelli was to automatize the operations and have everything in computer systems.  Doing that way we will help to save some hundred trees by not using to much paper.  But it could eliminate some jobs.  It is terrible when you go to a government office and you have to deal with the secretary of the secretary.  One takes the clip of the papers, the other sort the paper, then another sign the papers, another one stamp the papers and then you have to go back in line to the first secretary to place the clip or the staple back again.

Now the government of president Varela wanted to be the most pure and decent and it is making everything worst.  They have to double check everything and the paperwork has increased.  That is why we, the panamanians and our legal residents, criticize this government.  We call it, TURTLECRACY.   Or the government of the turtles.  Everything is so slow that it is affecting the economy in general.  I may ask again.  It is working???  NO, and NO.  In this government there have been some beauties of corruptions even with all those stupid bureaucratic controls. 

May be you are right about Panamanians patience.  When I go to any government office because I had to, not because I wanted to, I usually go with my mind set up.  I know that I will loose the whole day.  I carry with me a book, or my tablet.  I used to carry my phone and listen music but I decided not to use it anymore because I could miss when I am called.   Finally I don't get mad.  I laugh aloud of all the stupids things that I see while in that office and write them down, as you did, to express my opinion later.  I usually do it in any social media available, specially Twitter.  They are not going to kill me with a heart attack, a stroke or ulcers in my stomach.  It is not worth.  So I take it easy.  But, hold on.  That doesn't means that if there is a need to complain and make myself heard I will not do it.  Thanks God my voice is deep and grave and don't need a loudspeaker.  I speak loud to everybody to hear me.  I know that all the people at the office start looking me in a strange way but I don't care.  I made my point heard.  

 

May be our "patience" could perpetuate this inefficient way to do things.  But I fear the extremes.  I have seen cases where people goes physical... and that is not good either.  But believe me... we are looking and will find the way to change it.  People are complaining more everyday.  People are making their voices to be heard.  A couple of days ago there were around in Twitter and Facebook a video that a lady upload that showed when she went to the Social Security in any place in Panama City and the lady at the counter answered her in a bad manner and shouted her.  Her supervisor came to tell the lady that taking a video was not allowed there but she didnt care and she kept taking the video and uploaded it.   So you can imagine the noise it did.  I dont know if that video had any consequence to the worker at the CSS but for sure something did.

.

I do agree with you.  We need to do something to eliminate some unnecessary process in the bureaucratic systems we have not only in public/government offices but also in some private companies or corporations.  At least changes are quicker on private entities than in the government agencies.  I am not becoming a grumpy old man but in a very conciliatory tone I do complaint.  "Iron fist, velvet glove"

 

 

 

Edited by Roger B

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Thinking about alternatives ..such as driving to David to go through the same drill and pay more for the same exam at one of the private hospitals ..generally helps me with patience and tolerance.

 

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I pondered it for a minute.  It's SNAFU.  

Shouldn't there be a comma between the N and the A in that acronym, or are punctuation marks excluded from acronyms? Baffling, totally baffling.

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On 6/6/2016 at 2:08 PM, Penny said:

... patience is a virtue . . . especially in Panama but one has to wonder if it perpetuates the same old inefficient system and nothing will ever change because nobody complains. Something to ponder on an overcast Monday morning.

I, too, have learned how deficient in my quota of patience that I was after living in Panama full time. Every time I think I finally "got it", I get another dose of "calm down now, Bubba".

I believe you identify an important aspect of the Panamanian (perhaps more generally the Latin) culture that leads to the slow pace of change. I was raised to seek many goals, two of which are efficiency and effectiveness. Those two attributes are where I typically get another dose of indicators that I need more patience.

On 6/6/2016 at 6:30 PM, Woody said:

I pondered it for a minute.  It's SNAFU.  

Shouldn't there be a comma between the N and the A in that acronym, or are punctuation marks excluded from acronyms? Baffling, totally baffling.

Woody,  :o  you may have hit on one of the world's biggest dilemmas. Well, more properly the western societies' dilemmas, given that some [Eastern] languages do not have commas.  :o

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I had about 25 minutes to ponder this more the other day. My friend had paid her entire bill, had signed numerous insurance forms and was waiting for me to put her into my car in Hospital Chiriqui. Suddenly the admissions people discovered a $16 charge that hadn't been paid. They wrote up a small slip indicating the amount and gave it to me to take to the caja. Of course, there are 3 cajas on the main level of Hospital Chiriqui but I found the correct one and forked over the note and the $16. I swear to you it took 25 minutes of computer poking, head scratching, note writing, etc, etc, to process the $16 payment. Of course, in the meantime, my car was illegally parked in the emergency room drive because I was expecting to immediately load my friend into the car and drive home.

Sometimes I think these folks go to University to learn exactly how to consume the most time possible doing a simple task.

Be calm my soul and be low my blood pressure . . . . .

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4 hours ago, Penny said:

I had about 25 minutes to ponder this more the other day. My friend had paid her entire bill, had signed numerous insurance forms and was waiting for me to put her into my car in Hospital Chiriqui. Suddenly the admissions people discovered a $16 charge that hadn't been paid. They wrote up a small slip indicating the amount and gave it to me to take to the caja. Of course, there are 3 cajas on the main level of Hospital Chiriqui but I found the correct one and forked over the note and the $16. I swear to you it took 25 minutes of computer poking, head scratching, note writing, etc, etc, to process the $16 payment. Of course, in the meantime, my car was illegally parked in the emergency room drive because I was expecting to immediately load my friend into the car and drive home.

Sometimes I think these folks go to University to learn exactly how to consume the most time possible doing a simple task.

Be calm my soul and be low my blood pressure . . . . .

Penny:

To me the one to blame are the managers or the directors of those entities or organizations.  The efficiency of the processes in any institution are full tied to good systems and procedures, good training on the personnel, quality personnel and finally a service culture.  It is the Managers, Administrators, Directors job and responsibility.   No wonder why some workers also loose their patience when working in a place that give them not the right tools and procedures to work efficiently and they have to receive the complaint and insults of unsatisfied and angry customers.   Whatever thing is not working well in a company and/or institution is their Manager's fault and responsibility.

 

 

 

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On 6/6/2016 at 2:08 PM, Penny said:

So I went to the social security clinic in Boquete this morning to get one of their inexpensive ($13) x-rays for a persistent cough I've been experiencing. It's always a grand cultural experience when a gringo does something like this. First of all the whole process is like a Chinese fire drill -- no offense to the Chinese intended. There is much scrutinizing of documents, much pencil tapping, much computer poking, and, of course, much stamping. This is before you take the bill to the caja to pay it. When you return the receipt, the whole process is started anew. Then you wait, and you wait, and you wait. The waiting room for the ultra sound and the x-ray seems to be a well-used shortcut for folks going back and forth in the clinic. I saw about six Panamanians I knew and all stopped to talk. Everybody who walks through gives the obligatory "buenos dias" and all the waiting folks chime in with their own "buenas dias". Many folks say that the primary characteristic of the Panamanian people is their friendliness . . . or their happiness. I am quite sure it's their patience. Now, I'm the first to admit that patience is a virtue . . . especially in Panama but one has to wonder if it perpetuates the same old inefficient system and nothing will ever change because nobody complains. Something to ponder on an overcast Monday morning.

i went to the Social Security clinic in Boquete this morning. (Needed an x-ray of my foot.) My heart sank when I mentally estimated about 100 people waiting for attention! After the sign in procedure, and going to the Caja to pay the $13 fee, the technician completed his paperwork and showed us where to sit and wait. We noticed two emergencies—-one coming to the clinic via ambulance—receiving immediate medical attention.

Totally we waited 35 minutes before being ushered into the x-ray room. Another five minutes for the technician to issue us a disk of results. This we took to doctor.

All personnel were friendly and helpful. No one was impatient or seemed to be rushed. I was favorably impressed with their professionalism and attention to a gringa.

There was an obvious but subtle, genuine caring about each patient, including me (as an extranjera).

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I've seen some inefficiencies that seem very cultural, rather than simply mismanagement.  I'm sure you've all noticed the same things.  For example, cars stopping on the road to chat to a pedestrian, or my favorite.....  at the cash registers in the grocery store when the clerk asks "how are you?" and the customer replies they can't find "x-product".  They stop everything and send someone off to look for the item...  and the stores are full of employees in the aisles who will help you find items if you don't see them.  Why ask at the cash register with 10 people behind you holding items in their arms?  Patience indeed!!!  I've decided to try to read the newspaper and decipher new Spanish words as a way to not go nuts.  Watching the procedure ahead of me is too painful.  I love living here, but one needs patience and a good sense of humor sometimes.  It also helps to be retired....

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Sometimes when I’m up against it, I try to remind myself that the person in between me and ‘efficiency’ is probably only earning about $2 or maybe $3 an hour.

At those wage levels, it’s difficult to  expect much employee incentive or enthusiasm to do a better job.

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2 hours ago, Keith Woolford said:

Sometimes when I’m up against it, I try to remind myself that the person in between me and ‘efficiency’ is probably only earning about $2 or maybe $3 an hour.

At those wage levels, it’s difficult to  expect much employee incentive or enthusiasm to do a better job.

Wise words Keith!

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18 hours ago, Palo Alto Jo said:

and the stores are full of employees in the aisles who will help you find items if you don't see them.  

Hahahahaha! Some stores, yes. But employees at some have no idea what they stock or where. They trot you all over the store looking for it only to report that they don't have the item. I imagine everyone has experienced that.

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Yes, I know the practice of asking where an item is located, being shown all around the store, then the employee just walking away. I’ve decided this is caused because the same product is stored in at least Six (pick a number) different places. The latest shipment seems placed anywhere there is space on a shelf.

This may even explain why a store has a certain product one week but not available during your next visit?  

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Here is another good story.

Last year I went into Franklin Jurado, which usually has good customer service, looking to get another can of paint. I bought the old can in with me and went to the paint counter. No one was behind the counter. There were a few employees nearby and I asked for assistance. Uno Momento one said. So I waited at the counter and a young man came over who spoke perfect English said that the gal that mixes the paint is at lunch and could I come back in an hour and a half? I said is there not another employee here that can mix the paint. No, he said. Only she can do it! 

Regarding Price Smart re-stocking system. It is rare that we can go there and get everything on our list. They are always out of something we buy on a regular basis. Especially Kirkland dog food, frozen blueberries, and greek non-fat yogurt.

 

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3 hours ago, TwoSailors said:

Here is another good story.

Last year I went into Franklin Jurado, which usually has good customer service, looking to get another can of paint. I bought the old can in with me and went to the paint counter. No one was behind the counter. There were a few employees nearby and I asked for assistance. Uno Momento one said. So I waited at the counter and a young man came over who spoke perfect English said that the gal that mixes the paint is at lunch and could I come back in an hour and a half? I said is there not another employee here that can mix the paint. No, he said. Only she can do it! 

Regarding Price Smart re-stocking system. It is rare that we can go there and get everything on our list. They are always out of something we buy on a regular basis. Especially Kirkland dog food, frozen blueberries, and greek non-fat yogurt.

 

I can top that one. Several years ago we were repainting our entire house, went to Glidden in David for their excellent ultra flex, and came away with several of the large, plastic drums of paint. When we got home, there was paint on the back floor of the SUV. Upon inspection, we found that one of the drums had a crack in the bottom which had been “repaired” with masking tape. What a mess.

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