Once the gods had exhausted all other means of thwarting our efforts to get our furnishings to the island, they turned to the Puerto Rican customs office for assistance. It was an effective move. Several of our purchases languished in a San Juan shipyard for at least two months.
There was no rhyme or reason to it. Some items whizzed through customs in a flash. Our kitchen, for instance, complete with busted cabinet, shot through without a problem…
…while other items got semi-permanently stuck in the labyrinth of Puerto Rican bureaucracy.
Particularly puzzling was the fact that one of these detained pieces was a vanity for the downstairs bathroom…
…which logically shouldn’t have presented any more or less of a challenge than the kitchen cabinets.
Did I say “logically”? Please accept my sincere apologies.
Another piece taken hostage by the customs office was a kitchen island with a butcher-block top we’d bought in D.C. for the downstairs kitchen.
For some reason, this thoroughly innocuous item seemed to throw up all sorts of red flags.
And so it sat, along with the bathroom vanity and a couple of other items, gathering dust in the shipyard in San Juan for weeks and weeks while Michael valiantly tried to get them released from their pointless incarceration.
As with our Home Depot kitchen saga, Michael and the lady at the customs office became fast friends, chatting almost every day for two months.
Carla seemed to want to help, although there was more than a whiff of “what can I do?” in the way she presented the situation. “Yes, yes, this happens all the time,” she reported, and although there was a measure of comfort in this information, it was of the distinctly chilly variety. “I’ll see what I can do.”
Michael heard this refrain week in and week out.
Strangely, Carla never seemed to mind Michael’s calls. If someone contacted me every day to complain about an issue over which I had little or no control, I would try my best to fob him off on someone else—anyone else. But ineffectual as Carla appeared to be, she was also infinitely patient.
In the meantime, we got so desperate we considered praying for the release of our furniture, though our baser instincts told us we might get better results offering the gods something slightly more tangible than simple words. After all, they were withholding material goods—maybe something equally concrete would appease them.
We toyed with the idea of torching a side table we no longer liked, but it’s problematic incinerating furniture when you live in a condo. The neighbors get surprisingly cranky about that sort of thing.
Instead, we threw out a duvet I’d spilled cereal on and donated some cheesy novels and a Spanish dictionary (in case the gods were monolingual) to the local library.
And guess what?
Two days later Carla called Michael to congratulate him. “Your items are on the boat to Vieques as I speak.”
Thank you, gods of small things.
We love our vanity.
We hope you enjoy our cereal-encrusted duvet.