My best stories. Every middle class family had a problem when their daughter turned 18 and finished school. She would need a job. So they would call Uncle Juan who worked for the government and he would arrange for a job. My best experience with this was the car tag place...when I stepped into the office area, here were 2 older women (in 40s) and 15 younger women(all 18-19 years old). I was told that the tag office was authorized only 8 workers, some Uncle Juan had arranged for a huge overage and nobody in the government recognized what was going on. The interesting thing was that almost none of the 15 younger women could type. It took me 2 hours to get a simple form prepared and signed, in order to get a tag. All of these women were dressed to kill and I could tell the two older women were extremely stressed out with all of the idiots they had to work with. The whole office was a flirt zone.
Another good story....my Panamanian friend told me this one. A Uncle Juan-type arranged for a niece to get a job downtown with the government. As with most government jobs, it paid barely $400 a month, which is great for most Panamanians, but its dogfood for a 18 year old girl who want independence. So this girl talked to a boyfriend who arranged for her to have employment at a insurance company in town....but again at similar salary of $400 a month. She kept both jobs, showing up at 8AM at the government job, and disappearing by 11AM. She went down the street and went to the second job by noon and worked till 6PM. They both paid her for full-time jobs and neither noticed what she was doing.
Another good story. The same type problems carried on inside the Canal area as well. There was an engineer who worked for the canal, since the late 50s. He was an absolute alcoholic, driving up to the American shoppette each morning and filling up his ice cooler with three six-packs of beer and ice. He would drive around all day pretending to inspect the locks. He was married to a Zonie (Panamanian pretending to be an American), who was actually bi and had a girlfriend on the side, and she worked up at the Canal headquarters. The wife was a alocholic as well. Between the two of them, they produced a daughter who went off to Miami and got an engineering degree...and then dad arranged for her to get a job at the canal too. The daughter moved back into the grand house that they had. Between the three of them, and this was in 85...they were pulling in almost $200k in salary from the Canal Commission. The daughter was totally into cocaine and by the age of 28 was really starting to screw up in life. Yet the Canal never fired her.
I left Panam in 86 and I must admit I miss it. Everyday was an adventure and you could not believe how a little country like this could ever survive. Everybody was on the take. You could be the biggest idiot around and find a dozen beautiful women willing to become your wife today. What a place.
More like everybody YOU met was on the take.
If you go BEYOND the subculture of the car tag bureaucrat place, the Zonie affirmative action haven (kind of going to D.C. to "get to know America", and the usual places in Panama City and Colon where trailer-park trash hangs out, you will find Panamanians like Miguel Antonio Bernal that risk their skin on a regular basis to denounce and fight corruption.