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Category: Trinidad Society Date: 28 Aug 05


With the tropical sun beating down over the deserted pool and dry bush outside the glass lobby of the hotel, the dark suited Englishman looked out of place. Before we shook hands he fussily mopped a shiny film of sweat with his perfumed hanky. Above the clang of the workman’s tools outside he explained that his visit to Trinidad was part of a three-week trip to promote the profile of a well reputed bank in London. He was meeting journalists, business people, artists. He wanted to get a profile of Trinidad for his reputable bank in England.


He looked apologetically at his watch alternating with a brusque manner which made me think of rush hour in London. Rustling newspapers, men in black, umbrellas, solid timeless edifices. He could have stepped off a tube stop this second.


He had another meeting in half an hour. Could we start the meeting? “Sure,” I said and headed for a chair in the lobby. “No,” he said decisively. We’d better go to his office. He had stories to tell me. His eyes darted about as we made our way to his suite, the poshest in the hotel. He had set up a very professional office with a table and a sideboard on which he propped up various brochures indicating an orderly and clerical personality dressed up in middle management clothes.


“I’ve had a terrible time,” he said lowering his voice. “First of all, I wasn’t met at the airport as indicated.” I wanted to laugh at his indignant face. No one in Trinidad expects anyone to keep their word or time. Didn’t he know that?


He continued: “I got a cab driver who offered to take me to my hotel on the scenic route. Anyway, I asked him if he’d ever been to London and he said no and he asked if this was my first time in Trinidad and I said yes.


“Then he asked me what I thought about the bombings. “Terrible. So many people got hurt,” I replied.


Then he said, “I was lucky it didn’t hit me because I was right near the first Bin Bomb. I replied “I thought you’d never been to London. I didn’t know there was a Bin Tube stop.”


“The taxi driver looked at me as if I was crazy and said ‘No, I’m talking about the regular bombs going off downtown in Trinidad. In the bins.’ He told me not to go downtown where the garbage was mounting as evidence. When we got to the hills, he told me that he didn’t want to go closer because men get murdered there every day. I couldn’t wait to get to the hotel.


“Next morning when I get up I read headlines that say that this country is in on the brink of collapse. Next day, it was about guns. The third about gang murders. I asked one of my clients about it and she said the murders weren’t so bad. It was the kidnappings that people were scared about.”


He mopped more sweat off his brow as he continued.


“By this time I told people I wasn’t meeting them anywhere. They had to come here. The only thing I’ve seen of this country is that lobby downstairs. I’ve had room service the whole time. I mentioned my fears of murders and kidnappings to yet another client and she laughed and said that the thing to really worry about was a mafia type Islamic group that controlled the central government.


“I’m leaving earlier than planned,” he said, pushing off. “I called head office and told them this country is in the middle of civil war. There’s nothing here for us.”


There was nothing I could say, about calypso, chutney, cricket, Carnival or Maracas to make him change his mind. He was an Englishman who’d got off on the wrong stop and couldn’t wait to get out of here.


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur