Sunday, August 28, 2011

Things In The Road


Today I treat you to a blast from the past, a story of life in the islands, from 2006,  when I was living and working in the British Virgin Islands. In the islands we say "tings" rather than "things".  "Mash up" is a car wreck. 
British Virgin Islands


T'ings in the road...

The roads are rough, not as rough as they used to be, but still, we have pot holes and lumps and bumps in the worst places. Cars take a beating here and sometimes car parts fly off the moving cars. Everyday I drive by an old radiator on the side of the road. I wonder how far that car got before they noticed they had lost their radiator.

Almost everyday, I see one or two hub caps on the side of the road. Sometimes someone has taken time to prop it up, in hopes the driver might see it and retrieve it.

I once saw a jeep a few cars ahead of me, go around a curve and his red  tail light cover flew off in the road. I needed a  red tail light cover for my old rusty hunk of a jeep, so I was going to stop and retrieve his. But the car in front of me, seemed to take great glee in aiming for it, and grinding it to a million pieces right before my very eyes.

Another time I narrowly avoided a wreck, when the car in front of me lost his entire bumper.  It loudly clanged into the middle of the road.   I swerved sharply and managed to miss it without rolling my jeep over. The car that lost it, just kept going 90 mph like he never noticed.  


Bet he was a tad surprised when he parked and saw his rear bumper was gone.

Yesterday there was another mash up, just west of Nanny Cay.  The people looked pretty angry and the cops were there with their measuring tapes, measuring everything. No one was directing traffic, which had been reduced to one lane. I crawled by at a snail's pace like everyone else, so I could get a good look at the wreck.

But one reader, who has recently acquired a home in the BVI, has topped the list of t'ings in the road.  She had always let her husband do the driving on Tortola even though she drove at home, in the USA,  all the time. Finally on one of their trips to Tortola, she announced to her husband that she was ready to tackle driving here in the Virgin Islands.

She made it down the steep curvy hill from their new home and turned on to the main road and headed for Road Town. She goes around a curve and there in the middle of the road is a queen sized mattress!  The mattress isn't moving. It's just laying there in the middle of the road. Finally she manages to negotiate around the mattress, goes up the next hill and starts down, when she realizes the truck in front of her, is backing UP the hill towards her.  (Perhaps he realized he lost the mattress?)

I bet her husband was having a good laugh by now...

Which let me point out, it's in the rules of the road here locally, that if you are backing up on a public road, you are supposed to change lanes, so that you are backing up, with the flow of the traffic.

Like the guy near here who backs up the road to his home every evening. He lives at the top of a hill. First gear has gone out of his little car. He can't make it up the hill to his home in 2nd gear, so every evening when he comes home, we see him backing up the road to his house. I don't know why he doesn't just fix first gear. 


Maybe he's waiting for someone's transmission to fall off in the middle of the road...

Then there is the real tear jerker. This happened on St John. At the time, the road between Cruz Bay and Coral Bay was a donkey trail full of pot holes with the occasional patch of pavement. It was a rough road to negotiate, and folks openly cursed the government because it took a long time to traverse the mountainous road in the horrible condition it was in at the time. 


A new carpenter was so excited to get a job there, he packed up and moved everything from New York to St John  including his beloved tool box.

The first few days he settled into his apartment and searched for a vehicle to buy. He was ecstatic to find a rusty little jeep with a tough engine.  He called his new boss and announced he was ready to report for work the next day.

I saw him at breakfast, as he gulped down his eggs and told me about his great find of the rusty island jeep and his new job near Coral Bay. He pays his tab and leaves Cruz Bay to negotiate his way over the mountains.

On the way there, he discovers that his jeep is quite prolific in bangs, rattles and clunks as he bounces down the awful road.  The rattles, bangs, clicks and thuds were so loud, he had to turn the radio volume up to full blast just to be able to hear the songs.

Arriving in Coral Bay, he hops out of his jeep at the job sight and reaches around back to grab his tool box. There, where his tool box used to sit was a nice neat rectangular rusty HOLE. 

He spent the next two to three  hours combing that awful road, looking for his tool box.  He checked all the deep ruts, looked over the steep cliffs, rustled through the wild bushes and never found so much as a screw driver.

I saw him at lunch at the bar, he was downing his 5th or 6th beer as he told me his story. While some folks are honest and will try to find the owner of found items, this was not to be in his case. Beer after beer, he told me about his tools and how old they were and how long it took him to acquire them.

We were sitting in a garden bar, his newly acquired jeep was parked out front. Meanwhile his buddies are checking out his jeep,  laughing hysterically and poking fun at the nice neat rectangular rusty hole in the back of his jeep.


One day when I was working as a private chef, my job for many years, I had to go down an awful patch of dirt road to reach a zillion dollar home on the cliffs over the ocean. I had my trusty rusty heap of a jeep loaded to the max with a week's worth of gourmet groceries and bar items for 8 guests on vacation. Per their request, I had numerous cases of assorted beers and sodas. 


It had rained a good bit recently, so the dirt patch of road was full of big muddy potholes. It was such a rough patch of road, I had to slow down, creeping through the ruts, guts and pot holes with my heavy cargo. 


Finally I was back on smooth payment to do the last leg to the exotic villa. My next chore was to do the donkey work of unloading the jeep, carrying everything down a flight of erratic outdoor rock steps, then into the house and kitchen. I noticed a lot of mud was covering my groceries. Fortunately, the guests had not arrived yet, so I could clean things up in the kitchen. 


When I finally got down to the layer of cases of drinks, I noticed several cases were missing drinks!  How odd.  Everything was jumbled up, the jostling down the awful roads had really made a mess of my cargo.  I was sure the cases  were full when I bought them. Then I saw the problem. My own rusty jeep had developed a hole in the cargo area. See, I had removed the back seat (it was rotten anyhow) so I could use the back of the jeep for cargo. 


Somehow, drinks had managed to come out of the cases, then fall down in the new rusty hole. I grabbed some duct tape, I kept in the glove compartment, then taped up the hole.  At least mud wouldn't be flying up on my groceries anymore. Back in the kitchen, I unpacked the groceries, throwing out the muddy bags, washing things that were splattered in mud. 


The next morning, I was up at sunrise,  to drive back to the villa to start on the breakfast buffet for the vacationers. The dirt road had dried out completely overnight. There scattered down the road, were assorted cans of beer and sodas. Some were still full, others had been flattened out by passing vehicles, many were dented and all were very muddy. Not wanting to be a litter bug, I stopped every 100 feet or so, and cleaned up the muddy dented and deflated cans. 


My hands were caked in mud by the time I was done. It got all over the steering wheel. When I arrived at the villa, I tried to silently unlock the door and tiptoe inside to clean up. Then I went back outside to wash the mud off their door knob and the steering wheel, however, none of the muddy drinks were salvageable. 

Hurricanes and Hangovers and Other Tall Tales and Loose Lies from the Coconut Telegraph by Dear Miss Mermaid

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