Driving & Surviving in Paradise
I saw some crazy car stuff while I was living in the Caribbean. One thing that was not a big deal, but extremely Caribbean was a lot of cars and vans and some trucks had huge stickers on the top third of the windshield that proclaims the driver’s nickname, or maybe the vehicle’s nickname. To be honest, I’m not sure which it was. Anyway, it was not unusual to see a van go past that had bright pink, ten inch tall letters that said, “Driftah” or “Kingboy” or any of a thousand other names that meant something to somebody. It’s a Caribbean thing.
I’ve already published a blog about when some white guy parked a truck ten feet up in the air in my neighbor’s tree. At 2:00 a.m. I got out of bed and walked out into the street and saw my neighbor standing there just looking up at the truck.
“Harley. There’s a truck in your tree.”
“Yah, Brian. Some drunk white guy put it up there. Said he’d be back tomorrow to fetch it down.” We chatted for a minute or two then went back to bed. It was mildly interesting, but not shocking by island standards.
Driving Completely 100% Sober
I worked with a guy from Canada when we were in Anguilla. He had a long, concocted, and not particularly believable story about how the company car that he was driving ended up in the salt pond down at Sandy Ground. When I went to my boss to explain what happened that would cause the car to be in the middle of a salt pond at 2:00 a.m. on a Saturday night, he just looked at me and asked if I thought that is what really happened. You know, being that the bars had closed fifteen minutes earlier.
“That’s the truth that we’re going with, Geoff,” was all I said. We didn’t talk about it anymore.
Driving in Circles
One of the funniest car related stories I saw was when I was living in Grand Cayman. There were two rather large and happy looking Jamaican women in the front seat of an old beat up Toyota Corolla, and they had apparently missed their exit in the roundabout. For those of you who have never driven in a roundabout, it’s a very simple process. You drive into the circle and when you reach the desired exit, you drive out of the circle. The really convenient part is that if you miss your exit, you’re still in a circle. Keep driving and within a few seconds you’ll be back at the same exit again. The Jamaican driver wasn’t familiar with how a circle worked, so when she missed her exit, she stopped in the middle of the road and started backing up in a busy roundabout. Cars were swerving and honking, but she was not deterred. She slowly inched her way back to the exit until she could continue to wherever she was heading. I don’t think it ever dawned on her that backing up in a roundabout is wrong.
I’m not sure how the taxi drivers are now but, back in the day, taking a taxi in Saint Martin was a bit like rolling the dice. Your driver might be a mild mannered island man or woman who simply drove a taxi to make a living, or…. he might be a crazy island taxi driver who may have been trying to get into the Guinness Book of World Records for getting from Marigot Bay to Great Bay in record breaking time. You really didn’t know which one you got until you reached the first open stretch of highway. That was when you could breathe a sigh of relief or say, “Oh, shit.”
My wife and I took a ride with an Israeli guy I worked with in Anguilla. He either took driving lessons from someone in Saint Martin, or maybe that’s just the way they drive in Tel Aviv. Either way, we were both thinking, “Oh, shit.”
I once asked a local friend of mine in St Kitts why the police didn’t give out tickets to the obviously insane drivers.
“Don’t pay them, Brian,” was his response.
“Then why don’t they take their licenses away, if they don’t pay their tickets?”
“Still drive,” he answered with a shrug, making it clear that there wasn’t really anything to be done about the racing fools in St Kitts.
A general rule for all the islands that I lived on was that cars are seemingly allowed to pass other cars at any time they so desire. A double yellow line or a long sharp curve really doesn’t deter drivers from whipping out to the opposite lane and passing another car, or even a long line of cars. The islands are truly driver beware locations.
We took a ride with a taxi, of sorts, when we were in Cuba. That’s a story that I’ll tell some other time. It will probably be included in a blog titled, “Stupid Things I Did In The Caribbean.”
In the end, it’s all part of the rum, sun, sand, fun, and Caribbean driving ambiance that we loved about the islands. If we wanted hum, drum, same ole same ole, we wouldn’t have gone to the Caribbean in the first place.
I highly recommend a trip to the islands, but I won’t vouch for the drivers.