Written by: ROXANE BOONSTRA
I have writer’s block.
Or, at least this is what I’m telling myself. Because the alternative is admitting that I’ve completely accepted the oddities of island life. In turn, this means that I no longer think of things like cannibalistic chickens eating KFC or handsome, disappointingly gay Norwegians wandering the supermarket in Speedos as “huh, that’s strange”.
I wasn’t even jolted back to this realization the other day, didn’t even think twice, by a sight that would typically have made me stop in my tracks:
I was peacefully making a racket filling SCUBA tanks when I saw a forklift driving full kilt up the wrong side of the street. Backwards. Turned completely around in his seat, driving with one hand on the wheel, the driver was, technically I guess, driving the correct way on the left hand side, like we’re supposed to. Just in reverse. And I didn’t really question it.
Until now, several months later. I woke up on my day off, sat down with a cup of coffee, and leisurely thought about making myself an egg for breakfast. I had just about decided how delicious a nice sunny-side up egg would be with maybe a piece of toast and cheese on the side and a second cup of fresh coffee, maybe even with an ice cube or two in the blender in vain hopes of making an “ice coffee”, when the power went out.
Ok, fine. I’ll distract my stomach.
I will… do laundry! Oh wait, no – that requires electricity.
I will… research online sunscreen products for a report I need to turn in. No power, no wifi. Face-slap.
I will… sit here on the sofa and stare at my toes. Which could maybe use a new coat of paint.
But I should thank the noisy power truck outside, really. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have begun to consider my island-blindness. The image of the reverse tractor returned to me, inspiring me to write away my hunger and growling stomach. Maybe, I mused over my un-iced and unblended coffee, the driver couldn’t see through his curtain of dreadlocks. Maybe all gears except reverse were stuck, a debilitating transmission disorder that many local cars suffer from. Or maybe he just felt like honing his forklift reversing skills, all the way down the street, at full speed. I don’t really care why. I just wish I had hopped in my car and followed him to see what the hurry was. (Assuming my car could have hit the speed he was going at of course; while reverse works, my car has a severe case of the “shakes” at speeds over 29.3 mph.)
This incident makes me wonder what else I’ve become island-blind to. So I’ve recently made an effort to pay closer attention to the glaring subtleties that I encounter every day on my rock, good and bad. Some are at the expense of others not wise enough to listen to an island veteran, and some are beautiful moments of “wow, we’re bored”:
- Realizing the true danger of frigate birds. Don’t look up with your mouth open, we tell people. You’re standing in the danger zone, we warn them. Do they listen? No.
- Non-human island inhabitants. My hiatus is partially due to some bossy lettuce and tomato plants, which require attention all day long for caterpillar removal, curly tail relocation programs, and picking off stray leaves for a friend’s chicken. More problematic are the rare mentions that our lettuces have come with inhabitants – frogs, specifically. And the thought of a frog jumping out at someone from their seemingly appetizing salad dinner is either raucously funny or terrible for business. You decide.
- Lobbying that the mosquito truck hasn’t been doing its full route properly. Imagine an entire BBQ scene, complete with food and blankets, a football or two, and a stunning sunset. But no one is there – it’s a ghost BBQ. Because everyone has retreated to their cars for the 30 minutes the mosquitoes are out, and woe be the people (like my fiancé and I) who have open jeeps. Remember to bring your cocktail with you to continue the party inside the car (keep games inside just in case); however, it’s imperative that you remember to pee just prior to the mosquito curfew, since if you leave the car, you won’t be let back in.
- The deafening roar three times a week of the departing jet across the street doesn’t wake me up anymore; but the mere tinkle of a glass in the kitchen sink keeps me awake for hours worrying there’s a rat that’s climbed up the kitchen pipe again and is wandering amok in my home, possibly staring at my neglected toes with the chipping polish.
- I recently spent a solid 15 minutes watching a local with a forklift nudging cinder blocks around in circles, eventually landing them in a pond. Rather than questioning this (if you knew said local you wouldn’t question this either), I idly wondered what was going to happen in summertime when the pond dried up? Will they nudge the blocks back out and recycle them elsewhere on the island?
- The local Department of Environment held a town meeting to announce their plans for establishing the new marine park. As expected, there was a complete uproar from the locals, regardless of whether or not the marine park would affect them personally. The best, however, was one of the older members of the community (who I’m not sure can even hold a fishing rod anymore) who spent 20 minutes rambling about turtle bans and something about blood pressure pills. Neither of which hold any importance for marine parks; but that’s irrelevant.
In the end, it was something very simple that reminded me that I live on a remote, tiny island, barely a mile wide.
While I was cooking dinner, my old neighbor from Little Cayman called up. He was visiting Grand Cayman on an iguana project, and had visited the local hardware store to get some supplies. When checking out, the cashier asked for his phone number, so he gave it. His number has the same first 6 digits as mine; in fact, his old roommate’s number was also the same first 6 digits. If that doesn’t indicate that you live on a tiny island, I’m not sure what else possibly could.
So the cashier stopped midway through the number, glanced at him, and asked, “Roxane?”
To make things even better, apparently the hardware store has saved my name as “Roxanne, Roxanne”. Which I’m sure gets people singing all the time. And keeps my old neighbor laughing all the way home.