Friday, June 6, 2008

Traffic Down?

I finally managed to keep my mouth shut and not eat anything this morning, so we headed into David and Hospital Chiriquí to get my routine annual tests done, me with a crashing hunger headache, grouchier than usual.

However, what we noticed immediately was the lack of traffic on the carretera between Potrerillos and Dolega.  It's never really high, not like between Dolega and Boquete, but this morning there was no one.  Street traffic in David seemed down, too.  After getting all the tests done and turning the paperwork into the insurance office, we started our usual round of errands.  I was astounded when we approached the Global Bank parking lot--there were only 3 cars there!  I wondered if we'd missed the official announcements of the end of the world, because in the nearly 4 years in which we've banked at the David branch, never, ever has that parking lot had only 3 cars in it.  Lately, it's been waiting until someone leaves so we can get a spot, and there are usually cars parked in between the regular spots, creating something of a slalom approach to getting in and out of the lot.

Also, there seemed to be fewer people in the stores.

David can be a really odd place to visit, because there will be days when it's relatively easy to get around town, traffic seems less than usual, and we are not quite so white-knuckled at the wheel of the car, trying to dodge taxis and pedestrians alike.  I would have put it down to one of those days--except for the Global parking lot.

When we returned home, same thing on our stretch of the carretera--empty.  Kind of eerie.

Wednesday I had to go to Boquete, and ran into the same phenomenon there.  One of the major gripes about that place is the lack of parking.  Wednesday, I had no trouble finding a parking place, another first for the past two years.  Also, two of the stores were empty for the first time in my experience; I was the only customer during my admittedly brief visit to each.

Hardly scientific data collection, but it seems to me that high fuel prices may have taken their toll on Panamanian drivers.  I've been expecting that.  Mary and I were discussing whether the banks will start having a flood of repossessed cars pretty soon.

I don't know why, but I was NOT expecting fewer people in the stores, significantly fewer at least to my eye.  If true and not just some one-time lull that I happened to hit in both towns this week, then the Chiriquí economy is in real trouble.  Officially, the country's economy has  contracted, although there is still growth.  But I wonder about the province.

And of course, today was just ducky news, with oil reaching $138/barrel and predicted to hit $150 in a month.

Belt tightening time for everyone.


Don Ray said...

The days with the highest traffic will be right after the jubilado get paid. All lines will be long.

Joyce said...

When is that, Don? I'm pretty sure that Darío got paid this past Tuesday. I know that we see the lines periodically, and you're right--especially around Romero's, they stretch for a block or more. Do they get paid every month? Every two weeks? Are they staggered somehow, like American Social Security--part of the alphabet on one day, part on another? I never remember to ask Darío.