I picture an accountant as hyper organized, all about details, perhaps with a shirt pocket full of pencils and a calculator in hand. I don’t picture someone who travels with a few folders in a plastic grocery bag, gives props when you see him, calls you “brudda”, listens to your business questions then asks to borrow a pen and scratch paper, writes a few notes, folds the scrap and adds it to the concerns of others in his wallet. The latter is who we, as well as just about everyone we know here, work with. He grew up in Limon, the biggest town on this afro caribbean coast, speaking English at home . This is crucial since you don’t want to have a language barrier between you and the ever confusing accounting principals of Costa Rica. He is an incredibly nice guy and from what we can tell he makes sure that you pay the right taxes at the right time. Other than that he’s more like a friend who stops by looking for a game of chess every now and then, hoping you have some tasty treat in the oven, rather than a trusty accountant.
The first time we talked he returned our call at 9:30pm. That actually seems to be the time that he sets aside to make business calls. He lives in San Jose but travels to Puerto Viejo about once every two weeks to meet with clients. He’ll often call on, say, Monday and leave a message that we should meet him, oh….around…… Tuesday at 9am at a restaurant in Puerto Viejo, which entails a twenty minute jaw crunchingly bumpy drive from Playa Chiquita. He knows that we serve breakfast here everyday making that pretty much the most difficult time to leave. That doesn’t stop him the same way that he’ll drop in unannounced at Jungle Love, the restaurant down the street, at 5:45pm knowing that they open at 5:30pm. All of his clients know the feeling of showing up to give him your receipts ready to tell him that if he doesn’t *&%$^%! call sooner next time you’re going to $%#%. But then he smiles, reaches out for that hand shake/hug, says “hey brudda, wha appenin” and you remember that this is part of what makes the Caribbean the Caribbean and one of the reasons you moved here.
A special moment was when he was helping us open a bank account. In Costa Rica they want letters of recommendation from your neighbors saying that you make a certain amount. They want an accountant to say that you make a certain amount and for you to have papers filled out from several hard to reach national agencies. We had tried various times on our own to get our ducks in a row, but we were always missing something. When we walked in with our numbers man we felt like there was no way we were walking out without an account. This is what he does. He knows all the tricks. He spends his time keeping up with the ins and outs of financial regulation. The interaction with the young female teller went something like this:
They greet each other. The accountant calls her by the wrong name. He’s always calling people by the wrong name. She corrects him. He compensates by commenting on her well put together uniform and then begins to cough uncontrollably. She gives him a home cold remedy. He asks if she’ll be his nurse. They start exchanging all the necessary papers for the new account. She’s naming them and he’s handing them over. It was great until she gets to the last one, a declaration of some sort from the ministry of finance. What? That’s new, they didn’t used to ask for that. He pleads. Just this once. She’s sorry but can’t set it up without it. We stand up, slightly amused and not surprised at all, but then the accountant seems to have a final card up his sleeve. Some pressure he can put on to get what he wants, maybe a little bribe. He leans back over to the window and whispers. “How about you give me your home number. I might forget that cold remedy.”