Where Are Your Papers?

My driver picked me up at 7:30 from my Antigua hotel. Before he put the van into gear he handed me my envelope containing my important vehicle documents — the same documents that the BMW dealer insisted they have prior to working on my bike. And with a solid plan to pick up my bike and make for the Honduras border my cheerful early Saturday morning spirit dipped into a heart sinking feel of anxiety and depression. Suddenly the coffee started burning in my stomach. Or was it anxiety from my fear that my bike would still be sitting their with bad sprocket and chain and my nemesis, the rear tire still hanging from the bike of my bike? Getting out of Mexico was bad enough. Now perhaps I wouldn’t be able to leave Guatemala — yet.

We took off for Guatemala City. Lack of traffic on Saturday morning meant we were at Bavaria Motors, the BMW dealer in Guatemala City, in just over 30 minutes. All the way I kept asking my driver about the documents. Apparently Gustavo tried to drop them off and all I could get out of the fast-paced Spanish he yapped is that nobody was there to take the documents. When I asked him if Gustavo called the dealer, he said yes. And the string of words that he spit out after that fell on ears deaf to the vocabulary he was using.

By the time I arrived at the dealer, I already resigned to the fact my bike hadn’t been touched, and I’d spend an undesirable night in Guatemala City.

When I arrived I handed the envelope packed with the important papers, including the Guatemalan Temporary Vehicle Import documentation to my cute Guatemalan service writer. She hastily grabbed the documents and then led me to their upstairs lounge, offering me a cold Pepsi complete with a napkin neatly wrapped around the glass and told me that my bike would be ready at 10:30 AM. I breathed heavily and let out a sign of immense relief. All that anxiety for nothing. I guess they didn’t really need those papers. Huh?

Sometime after 11am I heard the gentle clicks of her high heels as she climbed the stairs and like a Guatemalan goddess appeared at my feet as I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and moved from my prone position on the lounge sofa. With a handful of papers clenched in her delicate hand asked me to go to the “caja” — the cashier. I grabbed the papers and reviewed the documents. It was all in Spanish, of course. And the service and parts description were void of words in my limited Spanish vocabulary. But one word appeared twice and caught my eye: transmission. Surrounded by other words I didn’t understand I questioned this item.

You see in my earlier conversation over the phone with Jose, the service manager, I asked him to check out a nagging problem I’ve had with my bike since I bought it last April. Many times when starting up the bike and putting it into first gear from neutral, with clutch pulled I feel the gears move into place, but they immediately pop out. Sometimes to my chagrin when in a hurry and letting go of the clutch leaves me sitting there like a dummy. Sometimes it takes three of four good kicks of the gear shifter to get Doc into first gear. On very few occasions at low speeds it has popped out of gear. My last two or three service stops I neglected to report this problem. But here in Guatemala City, Jose and their staff were familiar with this problem but indicated it would take an extra two days to inspect and repair. I just couldn’t afford the time and they agreed to call the dealer in Costa Rica and let them know I’d be coming through and would like to address the problem when I arrive in San Jose later in the month.

Guat City Bmw

So when I spotted the word transmission, I wondered if they addressed the problem. And if so, were they charging me for it? Seems to me this clearly would be covered under the BMW warranty. She couldn’t answer my questions. So we went back to cat and mouse on the phone. But even this failed. Within a few minutes a young man appears, dressed in blue overalls complete with BMW logo and Bavaria Motors embroidered, he’s in his mid 20’s with dark skin, an easy demeanor and disarming smile. It’s Marco Antonio Barikas, one of the motorcycle service technicians. Using an effective combination of Spanish, hand sign language and pointing to a new BMW boxer cruiser bike parked outside the service bay, he tries to explain the list of parts and service completed on my bike. Some things just don’t translate. So he leads me across the street and down another side street, up a steep ramp, past an armed guard and into another service bay, complete with motorcycle lifts, the BMW computer, more technicians and two assistants cleaning my bike.

He pulls a bag of used parts from the workbench. It’s my old chain and sprockets. He points to the sprockets. These are the items listed as “transmission” on my work order invoice. We go through each other item. When he gets to the mirror I realize that they replaced the entire mirror when all I asked was to have the old pulled from the handle bar where it was sheered during my casual fall at the lake and waterfall in Mexico. I forgot to bring the mirror to the dealer when I dropped the bike off a couple days before. But I explained to Jose over the phone that I did have the mirror and I’d bring it when I picked up the bike. The cost of the mirror added up to more than $40 US. This seemed to be a big problem and more phone calls were made, trips across the street until they finally pulled off the new mirror, replaced it with mine and re-issued the invoice. Phew!

It took three of the beautiful service writers to review maps of Guatemala City looking for the best way to get me on the road toward Zacapa and Puerto Barrios. As they scribbled over my map and waved their arms in the direction of one of the soccer stadiums, argued amongst each other on the turns, I realized that this wasn’t going to be easy. And with the dealer shutting its doors and the clock ticking painfully close to 1pm, the plan of an early start to Honduras faded as work orders were reviewed, the bike was washed and the cashier dealt with my credit card payment. I asked how much a taxi would cost to guide me out of the city. The girls liked this idea and were quick to the phone. For about $8 I’d be out of the city. If that saved me an hour in running around, I’d gladly pay.

Soon I was reloaded and hopped on my freshly cleaned bike and following the taxi, headed toward the road to Honduras. After about 20 minutes and no less than 12 turns, of which I’d surely missed a few, the taxi pulled over, I handed him the cash and sped my way out of Guatemala City.

2 replies
  1. RABK
    RABK says:

    what a tense story… I had the feeling you were in a whole heap of trouble several times reading this blogline.. Glad you made it through. Are you traveling alone once again?


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