Out of the Mouths of Tourists

Out of the Mouths of Tourists

Disclaimer: My sincere apologies if this offends anyone but please, use some common sense.

Around 50% of the BVI’s economy is obtained from tourism. That’s right – half of this territory’s money comes from those newly-wed, over-fed, really-red, nearly-dead folks from overseas. Those four categories are typically used to describe cruise ship passengers, but we mustn’t forget the various corporate Vice-Presidents, CEOs, doctors, and other well-placed members of society who grace our shores and our offshores with their presence and put bread on the Government’s table. Those of us who have been here for a long time have taken to grouping all visitors of a certain genus into one subcategory of fauna that we call Tourons.

The word touron is a completely fictitious noun and serves to combine the words “tourist” and “moron” into a jovial juxtaposition of jargon. In terms of expression, it can be used with the same tone of disdain as when using “moron” when witnessing someone doing something idiotic from a distance. Hence, the definition of touron is: a tourist doing (or saying) something idiotic. Sadly, this is most often right under our noses, rather than from at a distance.

While we may still shake our heads, we have long ago forgiven them for their “Caribbean holiday outfits” that they have so carefully chosen for their trip. Hawaiian shirts, socks worn with sandals and pulled up to the knees, fanny packs, bee-keeper type hats, and a raging sunburn are no longer causes for surprise. They’ve given in to the various Caribbean stereotypes acquired subconsciously over time via television shows, advertisements, and movies, and show up looking like weatherman Joey Stevens. All that’s missing is the puppet parrot on their right arm. But it’s fine. They thought this was the Caribbean norm. They thought it was quirky and fun. They didn’t know any better.

Complete and utter ignorance as described above is laughable, and just about forgivable. It’s when some tourists arrive, decidedly devoid of common sense, that we tend to start muttering “touron” under our breath. It’s as though, when faced with the issue of overweight baggage, they decided that removing their brains and leaving them at home would allow more carry-on room for their jelly shoes and zinc. That’s about 8lbs right there, and besides, I won’t be needing this in the blissful waters of the BVI, right?  Wrong. Showing up here without your noggin is far from forgivable…it’s downright inexcusable.

Upon experiencing the words and actions of a touron, stunned silence, widened eyes, raised eyebrows, uncontrollable bursts of laughter, a face-palm or pursed lips (and schtupsing) usually ensue. In hindsight, however annoying they may be at the time, all of them are downright hilarious. I’ve compiled a few of these incidences below, which I have either experienced myself or which have been shared with me by friends and family.

 

THINGS THAT MAKE YOU GO… HUH?

 

  • Walking in the middle of the road.

Ok, not a huge deal, but…why? It’s clearly a road. There are two lanes, with cars going up and down it in either direction. Would you walk in the middle of the road at home? No. I rest my case.

  • Walking around town in a bikini/with their shirt off.

Again…why?! Surely not something that’s encouraged upon the shores of home. I can only assume that this stems from the stereotypical view of “No Shirt. No Shoes. No Problem.” Well, guess what: no shirt? No shoes? Big problem. Walking around half naked for all the world to see is considered culturally offensive in the BVI. You can’t blame the heat either…if I can survive in a work blouse and trousers, you can handle it. Put your Hawaiian shirt back on!

  •  Referring to the locals as “indigenous.”

?!?! Really, I have no words for this one.

  •  When asked to provide picture ID with their online credit card purchase: taking a selfie with their computer webcam and emailing it through.

Hmm looks like sometimes their brain is stored away before they even board the plane.

  •  Asking how long it’s going to take them to get back to the ship from where they are…when they can see the ship, big and bright as day from where they are.

You’d be surprised how often this happens.

SAY WHAT?

Yes, people really said or asked these things.

 

  •  “How do you keep the islands from floating away?”

Magic. We’re not quite sure but it has something to do with mermaids and giant anchors.

  •  “What do you do with the islands in hurricane season? Do you have to tie them down?”

See above. They work overtime.

  •  “How long do you think it would take me to swim under the island?” [Blank stare.] “I’m not stupid; I know I couldn’t do it all in one breath, but hypothetically, how long do you think it would take?”

Why don’t you give it a try and find out? We’ll give the mermaids a heads up on your arrival.

  •  A lady’s response when she was asked why she was carrying multiple small vials with her: “I want to collect the different shades of blue in the ocean.”

Good luck with that.

  •  When sitting on board a sailboat in BVI waters: “What’s the altitude here?”

Seriously? You’re sitting on a boat. On the ocean. You know, the sea?

  •  Having met a crew member on a cruise ship in the middle of a stairwell: “Excuse me, Miss, do these stairs go up or down?”

Erm…what?

  •  How many sunsets do you have?

Just the one. Everyday. About the same time. You see, the Earth revolves around the…oh, never mind.

  •  What are those weird dark patches moving over the mountains?

It’s that same deadly fog that’s in Lost. Yeah, we’re going to be stuck out here for a while. Or at least until the clouds move…

  • After using the head (toilet) on a sailboat: “The colour of the ocean is so blue you can even see it in the toilet bowl!”

It’s fucking Fabuloso.

And on and on it goes. It’s quite scary to think that these types of people are responsible for half of our economy.

Some of these questions are posed by more than one set of tourons (perhaps they go to conventions, or interbreed), but you can guarantee that by the end of the tourist season each year there are a slew of new touron-isms being relayed to us year-rounders for our audible pleasure.

Many of the stories make us laugh so much our bellies ache. All of them make us shake our heads and mutter: “tourons.”

Feel free to share your own experiences in the comments!

Me, My Radiator, and My Day Off

Me, My Radiator, and My Day Off

I was talking to someone recently about how frustrating it is that everything over here is constantly breaking. But then I began to wonder whether things actually did disproportionately break on this rock or whether the truth was that it simply took a disproportionately long time to repair anything, hence giving the impression that everything is constantly breaking.

It’s a double edged sword of gloom and doom.  When something breaks, your first hurdle is that everyone moves in slow motion and tradesmen tend to address most issues “in about a year”. The second hurdle is that “you need a part”.

My car has needed a new radiator for quite some time but I quite simply couldn’t be arsed to deal with it.  So I diligently drove around with a gallon jug of water in the car at all times for topping up.  Sadly, I eventually reached the point that I couldn’t actually complete my 5 minute slide down the hill to work without the radiator completely emptying. I was still in denial until the boys at the dock in the morning starting talking about gaskets blowing and $$$$$$ being spent.  They drove the point home – I had to buy a freaking radiator.

With car repairs here you have three options: they have it in BVI; they have it in the USVI (and will put it on the ferry – a truly exhausting experience); or you have to ship the part in from Miami (which takes so long you have lost the receipt by the time the shipping agent needs it).  Fortunately for me, I drive the car of the islands – a Suzuki – so parts can normally be found over here.  The Rastaman drives a Dodge, which might as well be a spaceship for the teeth sucking and head shaking that goes on when that thing needs a part.

So I got lucky. Not only did they have a radiator over on Tortola, but one of my boys volunteered to pick it up for me.  I felt like a princess.  Add to this the fact that my next-door neighbour is one of the best mechanics on the island and he volunteered to fit the bloody thing. For the first time in many months, I felt like a winner.

The radiator was duly delivered to my house by my boy.  The Rastaman duly opened it.  So near, yet so far…..  a beautiful radiator without a radiator cap – ergo, totally freaking useless.

How long could it possibly take to buy a radiator cap on a Saturday, you ask?  Nine hours, my friend. NINE HOURS for a $13 cap.

From previous experience, I decided that the safest thing to do was to take the radiator with me to ensure that by the end of the day I had the right cap.  So the radiator and I left home at about 9 am and spent about an hour on the corner trying to hitch a ride.  We made it to the car parts shop at the other end of the island, only to discover that it is closed on Saturdays. The helpful man that I hitched a ride with told me that he assumed I knew that the shop was closed on Saturdays and that I had other reasons for carrying a car radiator to this destination.  Arsehole!  This detour meant that I missed the ferry to Tortola.  So, at 10:15 am, I cracked my first Heineken.  Bring it on.  If this is the way this day is going, I’m going through it half-cut.

By 12:15 pm (only three and a quarter hours since I left home), I arrived at the car shop on the next island that had sold my boy the radiator.

Me: “My boy bought this radiator yesterday but it doesn’t have a cap.”

Salesman: “Of course it doesn’t have a cap. New radiators never come with caps.”

Sweet baby Jesus.  I am not sure if I was more annoyed with radiator maunfacturers for selling their products without the only vital part or with this charming assistant who had failed to share his in-house knowledge when we bought the radiator in the first place. Would it not be helpful to have a large sign on the box like “batteries not included”, as they do for kids toys? Men/Kids, Cars/Toys, you get me?!

Approximately one minute later, I am the proud owner of a natty cap for my radiator.

Now, because I am a self-confessed idiot, I thought I should try to make this pointless morning more worthwhile by squeezing in a much needed haircut.  I figured the next ferry was at 2:30 pm, so I had enough time. Sadly, the hairdresser was fully booked – it was Saturday afterall.  So I mooched off to the nearest bar and hit the liquor to drown the sorrows of my pointless day off.  I drank another Heineken, a couple glasses of wine, a piña colada, and a shot of cinnamon whiskey. I felt a bit ill.

Suddenly alarmed by the time, I staggered/ran to the ferry dock, clutching my now very cumbersome radiator and was delighted to find that I had arrived ahead of time. Yet 2:30 pm came and went with no ferry in sight. I had an overwhelming desire to sleep now or simply lie down and possibly pass out.  I mustered the energy to enquire as to the whereabouts of the 2:30 pm ferry.  It transpires that the 2:30 pm ferry is a figment of my imagination. I was now looking down the barrel of a two hour wait for the 4:30 pm boat.

I sat under the pathetic shade of a dying tree and felt the sun burning my pasty white skin with the knowledge that my lunchtime hangover was in the post, guaranteed delivery before nightfall.

When I finally made it back to my island, some poor blind man who couldn’t swim managed to step off the ferry into the gap between the ferry and dock.  The ferry workers reacted as if someone had dropped a piece a paper. The next man to disembark reacted like a normal human and dove into the water after him.  I, on the other hand, could only focus on one thing – HOME. I was half-cut, sweaty, dirty, sunburnt, and clutching an uncomfortably large box.

I hiked up the road and waited at the prime hitch-hiking corner. The wind blew my radiator into the road.  I left it there.  I figured I would pick it up when I got a ride.  I finally arrived at home after 6:00 pm.

The Rastaman was sinking a cold one on the porch.

“Hello, Princess.  Have you had a nice day off?”

Aerosol Sunscreen aka The Devil’s Mist

Aerosol Sunscreen aka The Devil’s Mist

Hey you. You with the aluminum spray can of sunscreen. Yes, you. Stop right there. Just stop. Please. Can we talk about this?

sunscreen-spray

You’re killing me softly with your prolific use of The Mist. And by you, I definitely mean the collective “you”; I’m starting to worry that I’m edging towards the minority, as more and more people adopt The Can each year. Now is the time to act people – we must join forces to stop the madness. Can’t we all just agree that aerosol sunscreen is the WORST? I hate it more than I hate the sound of people eating bananas, which is to say, a lot.

Believe me, I realize the spray option is super convenient. I venture there’s not a soul in the world who actually enjoys slathering on the thick white shellac that is regular sunscreen. It doesn’t blend well, it leaves you with greasy palms, and it makes you crave diet-destroying piña coladas (No? Just me?) I get that. I hate sunscreen, specifically and in general. I prefer to never have to wear it, but I realize I am lucky, having dark skin and all. I sympathize with those of you with pale porcelain doll skin that burns to a crisp when you visit our islands, dangerously close to the Equator as they are. I know sunscreen is your cross to bear, but might I beseech you – use it if you must, but just say NO to the spray version.

I despise aerosol sunscreen with every fiber of my being and you should too. In my personal quest to send this concoction to the same place the noodle guard lies in rot, I’d like to share with you some compelling facts that may aide you in escaping its abominable seduction.

AEROSOL SUNSCREEN IS SOCIALLY OBNOXIOUS

Every time I see someone pressing down the nozzle and releasing a blast of sunscreen, I feel as though I’m transported into one of those cold medicine commercials depicting a germ-filled sneeze polluting the air in freeze frame. Except in this case, it’s not just snot bacteria mucking up the atmosphere, but suspicious, unpronounceable chemicals that I’d rather not have on my person, let alone ingest. While the goal is to mist your individual body (or that of your child’s – God help him), the actuality is a fogging of a roughly 20ft circumference around you, depending on wind conditions. Your sunscreen particles have now managed to create a film on my sunglasses, find their way into my drink, and yes, they have now entered my breathing orifices. The artificial plastic aroma now perfuming the air is an added olfactory offense. Sunscreen in lotion form is an unobtrusive individual affair. By taking things to the spray level, you have now managed to turn your sunscreen application into a group activity, involving a beach of strangers who had no intention of playing as a team in the first place.

germs_sneeze_webAEROSOL SUNSCREEN IS AN ENVIRONMENTAL BULLY

I’m no Al Gore, but this flagrant mist can’t be doing the environment any favors. Regular old sunscreen does enough damage underwater, bleaching our coral reefs, but the haze of the spray one ups it by spreading its toxic minions above the sea as well. Human, plant, animal – we’re all inhaling Octylacrylamide Copolymer. I have no actual facts here (isn’t my intuitive hypothesis enough?) but I’m sure we’ll all find out in a few years when palm trees start dying of sunscreen-related “treephoma” cancer. Mark my words.

AEROSOL SUNSCREEN IS WILDLY INEFFECTIVE

stupid spray sunscreen

It’s commonly ignored knowledge that spray sunscreen offers comically less protection than its creamy peer. I hate to be the one to break it to you (ok, I don’t actually hate it that much), but you’ve been duped. Remember those clear bra straps that were all the rage 6 summers ago? The ones that looked like women were walking around with Scotch tape holding up their B-cups? Well, in the same way that those did not act as a magical Harry Potter invisibility cloak bra, spray sunscreen is just another sham masquerading as a convenient solution to your greasy palm problem. No matter how much you spray, it’s never going to compare to the thorough application of lotion. Even a gentle breeze steals away 1/3 of your mist before it even hits your skin. I see more than my share of sunburnt tourists and the ones who use aerosol sunscreen are unmistakable. Jagged pink stripes covering their body and airbrush-esque puffs in uneven patterns are the no-fail tell. If you want full coverage protection, don’t get all spray-fancy – just go with the lotion.

AEROSOL SUNSCREEN WILL MAKE YOU EXPLODE INTO FLAMES

If none of the above makes any difference to you, know this – spray sunscreen will potentially cause you to explode into flames. Do you catch me? It is important that you do, so I will repeat myself – YOU COULD EXPLODE. INTO FLAMES. That’s pretty high up there on my list of things I’d like to avoid, how about you?

man on fire

Speaking from direct experience, Brett Sigworth describes the horror: “I went into complete panic mode and screamed,” Sigworth told ABC news. I’ve never experienced pain like that in my life.”

He was having your standard issue BBQ, decided to “protect” himself from the sun with his handy little aerosol sunscreen, and… BOOM. The “vapor trails” that were attached to his body, errant remains from the spray, set the man on fire. Don’t believe me? Read this.

burn victim

Look at those burns. From spray sunscreen. I rest my case.

~

If you insist on continuing your reckless use of the loathsome Devil’s Mist and either a) burst into flames or b) get punched in the face by someone because you lubed up his/her beer, don’t say I didn’t warn you. Aerosol sunscreen user/abuser, I will still love you, the world will still love you, but like a dad in tight, neon short shorts, don’t be surprised if people/me refuse to be seen in public with you. Please – join the fight against aerosol sunscreen. This stuff kills*.

*sometimes/probably hasn’t. Yet.

P.S. I’m having rally buttons made, just FYI, if anyone’s interested.

Privacy Please

Privacy Please

For the last 5 years, I’ve been living in a hotel. My boyfriend, David, manages the resort, which is why we’ve lived on-property in one of the rooms all these years. It’s a very small island resort with only 8 guest rooms, a restaurant/bar, and a marina downstairs. And while it’s a lovely spot and the two-bedroom villa we reside in is quite cozy, it’s not as flashy as it sounds.

SR rooms pic_WWLOR

Most people become visibly envious when they hear I live at a resort. I can see in their widening eyes exactly what they’re picturing – a never-ending, luxurious tropical vacation which is somehow fortuitously my everyday life. This assumption is not entirely untrue (I can get room service whenever I don’t want to cook, which is often), but there are plenty of undesirable quirks to deal with as well that people don’t really realize when they’ve never called a hotel “home”.

My main grievance is the lack of privacy. When we step outside our door, we are in a public space (even worse for David – he is at his work). I’m not a very social person, so this has been particularly challenging for me. Sometimes I just really need some peace and quiet, but when you’re surrounded by drunken vacationers and unsupervised, shrieking children, peace is rare to come by. We try to regard our villa as our small patch of privacy, but the tourists have other ideas.

Much like their stubborn, water-rejecting equine counterparts, you can post a sign for a tourist but you can’t make them obey it. The “Hotel Guests Only” plaques in front of our rooms seem to be interpreted as more of a suggestion rather than a rule. Tourists visiting our restaurant/bar frequently wander into our hotel rooms, usually whenever a door is open while the housekeeper is cleaning. I used to enjoy having my own door open to allow in some breeze while I worked, but after too many instances of intruding tourists on their own self-led tour, I’ve had to forgo the breeze.

This seems to be just another case of the Paradise Induced Mental Relapse I have referenced in earlier posts. Nowhere else in the world have I experienced random people strolling into my hotel room. But here, I’ll be sitting at my desk and in come three couples, cocktails in-hand, flinging open my door and marching into my living room, saying all sing-songy, “Don’t mind us, we just want to see what the rooms look like.” Actually you fools, I DO mind. Even if this was just my hotel room and not my private residence, I still don’t give a shit if you want to see what the rooms look like. Ask to see a VACANT room. This one is occupied.

After the most recent obnoxious invasion of my privacy just yesterday, I figured I’d share a couple of examples of the less-than-charming side of island hotel room living:

EXHIBIT A

I am working on the computer when I hear loud Spanish chattering and the banging of keys trying to be forced into my door’s keyhole. I get up to open the door and am faced with two 30-something Puerto Rican women who do not say, “Oops, excuse us” but rather, immediately become red with anger and shout, “What are you doing in OUR room?!”

I swallow my own rising aggravation and inform them as politely as I can muster that it is 100% impossible that this is their room. I ask which room they were assigned at Registration but instead of replying, the larger of the two ladies attempts to move past me, body-checking me with her over-sized bedazzled beach bag. Now they are storming into my home, telling me it is, in fact, their room (how could I be so stupid?). I have now officially moved past asking and demand to see their room key. Sure enough (I’m not that stupid!), it is for the room named “Bequia” and not my room, which is named “St. Barths”. I coerce them back out the door, point out the name discrepancy between the room placard and their engraved room key, speculate that perhaps this was why their key wasn’t fitting into my door’s lock, and point them in the direction of their (yes, THEIR) guest room. They mutter something in Spanish I am certain is not an apology.

EXHIBIT B

Our bedroom wall is shared with the guest room beside us. There is a group of 6 adults who have weaseled their way into sharing a room whose max occupancy is 4. It is 2 am and they have returned from the bar, sloppy drunk, and are playing loud country music and arguing with each other in slurred Southern drawls. While I am typically a deep sleeper, I am unable to ignore the ruckus and lay fuming in bed, making futile attempts to calm myself with breathing exercises.

Suddenly, the screaming and crying is on our patio and the sliding glass door to our bedroom is flung open. A naked woman is now entering our room, apparently thinking it is her room. This is where I lose it.

I am yelling (because it is the only way to reason with drunk people and it is 2 am), “This is not your room, GET OUT!” The buck-naked woman and her half-naked friend remain on our patio arguing. While this drunk ass woman somehow managed to crawl across the roof from her patio to ours, like a cat up a tree, she cannot get herself back where she belongs. We are forced to walk the nude women through our bedroom, across our living room and kitchen, out our front door, and lead them back to their room.

For some reason, David is not as upset about this as I am.

EXHIBIT C

Just yesterday, I am taking a midday nap on the couch and am awakened by crinkling sounds. I look up to find a woman in my room, rifling through my purse on the kitchen table. Still foggy from sleep, all I can muster is a stunned, “What the HELL are you doing?!”

She is old, leathery, and British. She looks at me, continues to fumble through my belongings, and says, “I’m just looking at the rooms.” I am forced to get up, physically remove her hands from my bag, and lead her out of my home. This bat-shit crazy woman had not only opened my closed door to enter my room, but had closed it behind her, presumably, for privacy. I explain to her that: a) my purse is not a part of “the room”; b) she better not have stolen anything and I’m calling the manager now; and c) if she ever wants to tour the rooms at ANY hotel in the future, she needs to do so with a hotel employee.

~

I have got to start locking my door. Or, you know, move.

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