Sunday, January 20, 2013

Been there Done that PART 3

Otis Redding was playing as I settled into my taxi ride that would take me to the other end of the island.

“You just come from the big casino mon?” the cabbie asked in a thick Caribbean dialect
“you know what?” I replied, “I just got done working on one of those big yachts and I don’t know about you, but I'm reconsidering whether I want one for myself.” I said with a chuckle
“Really, why da'ya' say 'dat mon?"

I continued “I guess I was thinking life was a little sweeter on those big boats, but now I'm not so sure. What about you? Would you want one of them” turning the topic back on him.
“Well, how big was it mon?”
“Not the biggest of the bunch - I guess somewhere in the middle”
“well, I wouldn’t turn the t'ing down, ya know”
We both laughed at the idea of someone just giving either of us a yacht.

He sped across the bridge that led back to Nassau, the sweet sound of Otis Redding's I've got dreams to remember was playing.
“Hey mon, do you mind if we make a stop off?”
“no, not at all, go for it” But I did make a mental note about how odd it was for the cabbie to be making a personal stop during my cab ride.

It was close to 1am. Paradise island disappeared behind an old one story house as we turned off into a part of town where the locals lived.  I sat and stared out the open window. The cabbie drove slowly down a narrow street, stray dogs ran along side the car, a few kids dashed in front of the car, the headlights beaming brightly as they passed. One had a basket full of dirty laundry on his head, the other two were too small to carry such a load. Then another left turn onto another side road.

The cab finally rolled to a stop. “Come on, I'll buy ya some’ting to drink”  he said looking over at me as the dry dust from the dirt road settled around the cab.
“Alright” I said, trusting in my new friend.

Stepping out under a flickering street lamp, two old men leaned against what looked to be an old warehouse. We made our way around the corner of the building across another small street and headed for a small sign that lit up the corner of a building. The sign “The New Pond” glowed in the darkness.  Walking up to the few stairs, the cabbie pushed the buzzer. The lock was released and we walked in.

Immediately we were greeted by a line of people crowded next to the door.  The line rapped around the back corner of the small store.  I followed behind my cab driver as we made our way to the large refrigerators.

In the back on the floor sat a large fish cooler, identical to the one on the yacht, opening the lid I was astonished to find Heineken nestled neatly in the ice.  A smile came to my face, we must have just missed the last bottle of Dom Perignon.  Pulling two from the ice like I had done only a few hours ago, I grabbed one for myself and one for my friend.  It was a surreal moment, my senses were jammed as I experienced these contrasting environments back-to-back.

Walking up to the register I set the two Heineken on the counter.  Suddenly I realized I had walked right into an argument. I stepped back from the counter as an exchange of words took place between a rather large man, who stood near the cashier insisting that he had waited long enough. Although I couldn't fully understand everything being said. Caribbean dialect can be difficult to understand even if it is english.
“Who’s are these” the cashier said with a sudden yell, trying to bypass an escalating argument.
“OH, their ours” I said gesturing to myself and the cab driver
“$4.17” she said in a quieter tone than she used with the large man.

Reaching into my pocket, I grabbed for my money when I felt the cabbie’s hand on my arm, he motioned that he was treat.  I thanked him and grabbed my beer.  The cashier began waving a small brown bag as if to get my attention. I quickly realized I was missing an important party favor. I snatched it from her hand, pretending it was just a lapse in memory, of course I knew I needed a brown bag for the beer if I planned on drinking it outside.

Slipping my beer into the brown bag I was then directed towards the bottle opener which was screwed to the wall, hanging on a thin chain near the door. It was clear, this whitey had no clue how to get his beer from the cooler to the curb.  Popping the cap off I stepped outside into a world so different from the one I saw earlier that evening. Life was using all the colors on its palette to paint this most unordinary day.

A few minutes passed. Then several more. I started to wonder if I was going to make it home. I had no idea what my friend was doing inside "The New Pond”.  Just as I seriously began to question his whereabouts he popped out of the liquor store, the buzzing of the door lock echoing in an otherwise quiet night.  Jogging over to the taxi, he apologized for the wait.

“sorry mon, I’m trying for the lottery and I had to get my tickets organized, you saw the line.”
I laughed out loud. “You're trying for the lottery” I said in a surprised manner, “You’re trying for the yacht I was just on!” each of us laughing together.
“that’s the truth mon”
Jamming his brown-bagged beer between his legs, he backed taxi out from our parking spot and sped off towards my final destination. 

Not much was said between us during the rest of the drive.  He mentioned how tired he was from the night before.  We talked briefly about what he would do with the money if he were to win the jackpot. He had given it some thought, saying he would “lock down” for a few days because of all the phone calls from his friends asking for money.  “A million dollars would be enough, no more no less” he said remarking if he won one million he would be "a happy man". During the breaks in conversation he would take a sip of his beer and I reflected on all that I had lived since waking up that morning.

Approaching my stop I felt an unexpected sadness.  After living a day like this what was I to do tomorrow? Or the next day?
“Take care of yourself” I said unsure how to end our unique roadtrip.
“You too mon”
I pulled a fifty from the citibank envelope and passed it to him.
Smiling I said “here, put this towards your yacht”
Taking the money he smiled back, the dark night accentuated the whites of his eyes.
 “God bless ya’ mon.”

I turned towards my room. It had been a full day. I had plenty to learn from this day. Walking barefoot into the night, my yachting shoes dangled off my shoulder. A half empty beer in my hand, I had only one thought. Been there done that.

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