Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Something new: Home from the Cold

Hey, peoples. I'm introducing a new segment today: the adventures of a family member who has returned to live in Barbados after many years in Canada.

The name of the segment is Home from the Cold, and this particular series is entitled Almost locked up in Barbados. We hope you enjoy it.

Almost locked up in Barbados Pt. 1
By Kal-F

Thurs. Jan. 29/08

The city of Bridgetown in Barbados has never been my favourite destination.

Historically, it has been the most bustling spot on the island and though pretty in some areas , it has often filled me with apprehension: the teeming crowds, traffic that always seems to have a serious mission to get somewhere else quickly, the intimidating stores that seem to say , "Stay out unless you've got money and lots of it"; all of this often tends to overwhelm me.

When I was about five or six years old my mother took me into Cave Shepherd, a large department store on Broad Street, in the heart of Bridgetown and left me standing beside a counter for a few minutes while she checked out some nail polish that once made her fingers and toes so fascinating to me that I painted mine as well and consequently got my first lesson from those around me about the how the world views the differences between genders (she was female and I was male, I was told. She could paint her fingers and toes but I shouldn't mine.)

While I stood alone at that counter, a woman with hair pulled back in a tight bun, her fingers painted red and wearing a tight fitting wrinkle- free dress looked at me and said,

" Sign, please."

As there was no other person in my immediate vicinity, I concluded that the request was directed to me, so I said, "I don't have a pencil."

Her response was gales of laughter and when a man who was also wearing wrinkle-free clothes came over carrying a pen in his hand to scribble something on a writing pad, she related to him what I had said and more gales of laughter followed. Soon other people were looking at me and laughing, making me feel I was some kind of freakish wonder. All I could think of was getting out of that store where people were stupid enough to think you could sign something without a pencil. For the rest of my life I never went into Cave Shepherd or indeed anywhere in Bridgetown unless I absolutely had to.

But on January 8, 2007, I had little choice but to go into the city. Much older now, I had recently arrived from Toronto and discovered that while I was away, my aging Hyundai Galaxy had started leaking transmission fluid. Normally when I returned to Barbados from a trip anywhere, I suffered from the effects of jet lag and would often stay in bed for at least a week living on bread and water (mostly water) until I could convince my mind to venture out to a grocery store. But on this day in history I was met with an emergency and had few other options but to take my car to a repair shop on the western outskirts of Bridgetown.

Arriving just after dawn to ensure I was the first customer at the shop (in retrospect a mistake, since the workers insisted I buy them breakfast), my car was fixed by mid-afternoon. Relieved but tired after wondering around the city all morning in a jet-lagged malaise and carefully trying to avoid Cave Shepherd while waiting for the car, I cherished the thought of getting out of the city and heading north to St. Lucy, back to my bread and water.

The effects of jet lag proved to be far more serious than I had realized, however, because five minutes later I found myself in the heart of Bridgetown wondering why the devil I had driven in the direction I was going. A corrective manoeuvre to the left soon found me driving north from Lower Broad Street past Woolworth's where my mother had bought me my first pencil following the Cave Shepherd incident, past Central police station and ever progressing northward. It was 2:45 in the afternoon and traffic was surprisingly light. The traffic lights along the way showed a welcome sheen of green and it seemed that my escape from the city would be easy.

Ten yards from the second traffic lights at the Bank Hall intersection the green suddenly changed to amber but my split second decision was to proceed since I was planning to make a left turn ( driving is on the left on this sun-kissed isle that was once optimistically called Little England) and head westward towards the coast hugging Highway One. My reaction time, however, was slower than what I had anticipated and just as I got to the intersection the light was red. There was no traffic around and I continued into my turn hoping that my accidental violation would go unnoticed.

No such luck.

A hundred yards to the west of where I had made my left turn I heard the 'woop woop' signal of a motorcycle cop beckoning me to pull over.

More tomorrow....


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