Seeing the news this morning about the power plant in Puerto Rico reminded me of the business trips I took there years ago. I don’t want to bore anyone, but there is actually a point to this story.
For those who have been there, all the effort goes into maintaining the tourist areas (or so it always seemed to me) which makes a good deal of sense when it brings in so much money to the island. My job covered random air conditioning equipment in malls concerning contract breaches and problems. The island people are warm and welcoming, always eager to help and kind to strangers. However, off the beaten path in the local residential areas it could get rough. Non-tourist areas were not maintained at all and could be dangerous. Some malls had armed guards in the parking lots. Flying into San Juan was always depressing since there were beautiful resort hotels and there were destroyed half-hotel resort remnants from the last hurricane to come through. There were always destroyed neighborhoods and partially rebuilt ones. I once told my boss that it was as close as I ever wanted to get to mass destruction. It was just sad to see. Once there, it is worth noting that business was conducted a little differently and there were expenses built in to the contracts for bribes and “greasing palms”. It is not official, and it is fair because everyone does it, but it is wrong and it is illegal. This is common knowledge there, you cannot do business in Puerto Rico successfully unless you play by their rules. I have heard that it is still true.
Our reason for so many trips to the beautiful island over such a short time in the nineties was a panicked call from the cooling tower manufacturer. They claimed that the contractor in PR did not know what they were doing. I will never forget what they said, “We’ve never seen anything like it! It looks more like the Tin Man from Oz than a cooling tower!” Of course, we hopped a plane and flew straight down, the problem was….they were right. It did look a lot like the Tin Man. It turned out that every mechanical contractor on the island had the same last name. To shorten the story, we had to import a Florida contractor at an exorbitant sum to straighten out the mess.
Although I had many more occasions to go down to PR before and after “the Tin Man incident”, none of the trips or problems were ever as memorable, as funny or as much trouble as this one.
Moral of story: There is surely much more going on in Puerto Rico than the media is telling us!