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.
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
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.
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?
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.
he asked me what I thought about the bombings. “Terrible. So many people
got hurt,” I replied.
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.”
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
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.”
mopped more sweat off his brow as he continued.
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.
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.”
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.