Friday, January 7, 2011

Helicopters Over The Homefront

My taxi couldn't get me all the way home today, thanks to the police.

Pulling up to my intersection, the taxi driver helpfully pointed out the helicopter circling low overhead, cameras focused. Cop cars filled the streets, and uniformed patrolmen were milling about filling out forms, doing interviews, and up the block, loading something into a truck.

I paid my fare somewhat nervously and hustled it up the block, where I could see the entire staff of the copy shop that's on the first floor of my building huddled on the corner. Those girls are sharp about watching what's up, so after some hey, how are you's we cut right to the chase: Why is there a helicopter and half the Cuenca police force here?

They didn't know. We stood collectively for a minute weighing our options, and then a pair ran across the street toward the action in a swift move of bravery. Not about to get shown up by chicas half my weight, I followed.

More cops, lots of rubberneckers. This something a little different about Ecuador. In the States, we have rubberneckers, but we're a little more subtle about it. Little old ladies flick back their curtains or motorists drop it down about 5 mph. In Ecuador, people stop what they're doing and walk right up to the action. Motorists park and get out for a better view. There is no shame in staring, pointing, or openly gossiping about what's happening at a volume audible for 50 feet in every direction.

The cook from the restaurant across the street eventually gave me the scoop. Apparently all the action had to do with car part. Banned car parts, probably (I was missing a word in there) and lots of car parts for which this particular shop owner ***gasp*** had no receipts.

Y'all, I didn't even know there was an auto shop in this particular building, and I walk by there an average of four times a day. The catch is that what faces the street is just a wall with a big door and not really much of a sign. I've never really seen much for in and out on any of the shops on that block, even, so I thought the interior was empty.

Or pack floor to ceiling with hot car parts. You know, whatever fits in a building that looks like it was rescued from Spain circa 1750. Apparently the locals knew there was some kind of car place in there, but not that there were ***gasp*** no receipts!!!! for any of those parts.

The receipts are a big deal here, because the local SRI (our IRS) doesn't mess around. They will shut your business down until you are straight with them, and they'd sent their SWAT team folks down with the cops. It was kind of fun to watch them do their thing, actually, because they seemed a lot more active than any IRS folks I've ever seen (okay, imagined. I've never seen one and don't want to).

I went back in the house when the second wave came in along with the press because it was lunchtime. It was also much more comfortable for me to watch the whole thing from my windows. I may be getting more Ecuadorian every day, but I'm still not a dyed-in-the-wool rubbernecker. Maybe next year ....


  1. Sounds like fun. I just hope you have receipts for any and all car parts you're storing...

  2. And everything else ... have a lovely 2010 receipt book to sort through between now and tax season!