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?”

Island with an Identity Crisis

Island with an Identity Crisis

Driving around the US Virgin Islands, you’re likely to see a cheerful catchphrase on most license plates: “United States Virgin Islands, America’s Caribbean!” You’ll see the same slogan splashed across the main tourism website for the territory, which entices US travelers by proudly proclaiming, “No Passport Required for US Citizens!” You might imagine a move to the USVI would be similar to relocating to a beachy mainland locale like the Jersey Shore or Cape Cod. You would be wrong.

While it is technically true that one can hop off their plane or boat in the USVI without handing over their passport for a stamp, those who live here know the truth: we’re not in America anymore, Toto. Sure, the dominant language is English and we use the dollar for currency, but don’t be fooled. Island life often feels distinctly foreign from anything you’d experience on the mainland.

You may get your first inkling of these differences while preparing for your journey to the USVI, as the airline representative explains that you cannot  check a box when traveling to St Thomas because it is an international  flight; boxes are only permitted on domestic  flights. As this is your first brush with your new island’s somewhat ambiguous status in relation to the mainland, you’ll be passed through four different customer service representatives, none of whom have a satisfactory explanation for why this flight is considered international. “You don’t even need a passport,” you explain, helpfully. You will be put on hold for a very long time.

The most obvious difference you’ll notice as you disembark on island (gleefully skipping past Immigration, unburdened by that pesky passport!), is that we “keep left” here in the VI, the only US territory with the distinction of driving on the left side of the road. This will be a particular challenge, as they were handing out shots of rum as you departed the airport. Careening towards your new apartment – driving on the left, in a car built for the right – you’ll be baffled as to why the road signs say “gade” where you’d expect them to say “street”. No matter – you’ll eventually arrive at your new apartment, miraculously unscathed – time to enjoy some celebratory rum!

You will quickly realize that the Tourism Department’s “No Passport Required for US Citizens!” announcement should really include the caveat, “…unless you plan to live here.” You will be turned away at both the bank and the post office as punishment for arriving in the USVI without that little blue book. You will return to the post office the next day and find a less grumpy employee who kindly sets you up with a PO Box after you hand over your lease, a paystub, and a blood sample.

Similar persistence with the bank will not pay off. Resign yourself to the fact that all of your banking will be done in your husband’s name; he will need to sign every check you write until you can get your hands on that passport you were convinced you did not need. It is very expensive to live here – he will be signing a lot of checks. Luckily, the passport office will expedite your passport processing for a fee. Less luckily, you will call six weeks later to ask where your passport is and be told it was not processed as expedited. (It should go without saying that the US Passport Office will be unable to help you recover your passport expediting fee.)

As you realize traversing the mountainous roads of your new island exposes you to near-death situations on a daily basis, you’ll try procuring yourself some life insurance from a mainland company and endure the barrage of additional questions they ask of those applicants who “reside internationally”. Patiently explain that you live in an unincorporated territory of the United States, for goodness sake! The company will tell you that this does not count. Completing the telephonic questionnaire for “international applicants” will take three hours, as your phone keeps picking up on the cell tower from the nearby British Virgin Islands and dropping your call.

As you arrange to have the rest of your belongings shipped down, you’ll quickly discover that the confusion over the USVI’s status relationship with the USA is nearly universal. The US Post Office will – thank the heavens – operate much the same as the mainland USPS (other than necessitating the rental of a PO Box, as home delivery is impossible without a standardized street address system). But when trying to arrange overnight shipping for an envelope containing a single sheet of paper, you’ll nearly faint as the FedEx representative tells you it will cost over $80. “It’s international shipping,” you’ll be told. Attempts to order a few other necessary items from the internet will similarly fail, as you’ll find many websites lack “VI” as an option in their drop-down menus for shipping locales. You briefly consider calling some of these vendors to inform them of this issue, but elect to dejectedly drink rum instead.

As you make your way back to the airport, sunburned and quite possibly hungover, you may be startled to find yourself being directed to the line for Customs. Your confusion is understandable, as you didn’t go through Customs upon arrival to the USVI – back in the good old days when you still thought you were in the United States. Someone will tell you that this is because the USVI is “outside the Customs’ territory of the United States” and these words will make even less sense to you than “unincorporated territory”. The Customs agent will scowl at you for your lack of passport. “But this is America’s Caribbean!” you’ll say, weakly now, as you make your way to your plane and your adventure on the island with an identity crisis comes to a close.

Wax On, Wax Off

Wax On, Wax Off

Caveat: For those of you who read the title above and found yourself hoping to attain some sort of Mr. Miyagi-esque sagacity from this post, I feel compelled to provide full disclosure – the aforementioned wax is not the karate skill-inspiring car polishing variety, but rather, this post is about bikini wax.

~

Many of the basic services people take for granted out there in the real world are the little things I often long for. From dry cleaning, to a good tailor, to a cobbler (both the kind made of peaches and the man who fixes your shoes), to food delivery options (seriously – nothing fancy – I would dance in the streets if I could get a pizza delivered) are all on the list. But no matter how much I yearn for a proper bakery and the like, I would stop whining about it all if only I could have a good bikini waxer.

Once upon a time in my past life in The Land of Convenience, I used to get fantastic bikini waxes on a regular basis. And while I realize “fantastic” may seem like a bizarre word choice to describe the procedure of having scalding hot liquid poured on your lady parts and ripped off whilst attached to your hairs by the root, I now know just how fantastic  my experience truly was. Each month, I would visit my favorite chamomile-scented day spa and see an efficient French woman named Françoise. Not only was she quick, she skillfully minimized the pain in what can be a torturous enterprise and I left there with skin so smooth and hair-free, if I wasn’t 5’3″ (and, you know, womanly) you’d think I’d just been born.

Having lived in the islands now for close to 8 years, I am disappointed to report that I still do not have a waxologist who I can trust. It is a cruel injustice to live in a place where you wear bikinis year-round and not be able to get a good bikini wax. In my fruitless search for The One, I have been burned, ripped, and pulled in ways that still make me shudder. Commiserating with my fellow women on rocks, the tales of disappointment in waxdom abound – one friend even had the top layer of her skin inadvertently pulled off. Down there. It bled for days. I wish I was exaggerating this in some way, but I am not.

And it’s not just that these so-called estheticians lack an aptitude for depilatory treatments, but I have yet to even find one that actually uses the appropriate type of wax. Why is it me telling them, the “professionals”, that they’re using the wrong wax? They look at me with the same feigned patience I would give some random patron telling me they could do my job better, but really – I could do their job better. It’s my sensitive lady skin that is being punished here and I feel like this is not one of those situations where you can just grin and bear it. Let me just tell you – there is NOTHING like a bad bikini wax.

Life on a rock often motivates you to start taking matters into your own hands. I have become much more resourceful living down here; when something I desperately want is unavailable, I have been known to try to fill the void on my own. I have learned how to make all sorts of shit I would never have attempted if it were readily available – I make my own whole-grain bread, veggie burgers, sorbet…hell, I even made my own hair serum. I’m not quite sure why it has taken me so long to decide to start doing my own bikini waxes, but in a fit of frustration after my most recent waxing debacle, I finally made the decision to go at it on my own.

I decided that if I was going to do this, I was going to do it right. I researched and shipped in the right kind of wax and even got myself a salon-quality wax heater. I figured it was best to not complicate things by adding the microwave into the equation.

On the day of my waxing appointment with myself, I was already smug before I had heated the wax. I imagined that I would emerge from my first self-bikini wax with the same victory I experienced when I realized I could make my own almond butter. It’s so easy! And cheap! I can’t believe I’ve been paying $27 a jar for it all these years!  Spoiler alert: doing your own bikini wax is nothing like making almond butter.

Conducting a self-bikini wax is quite literally a sticky situation. Gravity is working against you and despite your best intentions, you end up dripping a considerable amount of wax on inopportune places – in between your toes, for example. And sadly, the “Wax Removing Lotion” you lavishly purchased along with your Easy Bake Waxer does not, in fact, remove wax. It is also safe to say that I am now in need of a new set of bath towels, as the ones I sagely used to protect the floor are crusted in what looks like a honey explosion.

I will not go into the specific details of my bikini wax endeavor, not because I am shy, mind you, but more due to the fact that my brother reads this. I will say it wasn’t a total fail, but the ease I had so arrogantly anticipated was illusory. An experience that typically takes around 20 minutes at the spa consumed 2 1/2 hours of my Saturday and it was nowhere near complete; it turns out, I am not as bend-y as I like to believe. Another unpleasant side effect was the unrelenting crick in my neck that lingered for 3 days following due to all of my below-the-navel gazing.

Alas, bikini waxing remains a service I still wish I could pay somebody else to do. I suspect I will improve as a self-waxer with time, but it’s a lot tougher than I presumed and there’s only so much you can do with one set of hands. Until I can work up the courage to try someone new again, I may just have to make it more of a festive affair by adding music and copious amounts of wine to my self-waxing Saturdays. But I would like to send out this S.O.S. – if you live in the big world and are an adept esthetician looking for an island adventure, pack your bags, friend, and head for the tropics. You can stay at my house. The wax is already warm.

The Customer is Always Disposable

The Customer is Always Disposable

(Or Three Things Not to Expect from your VI Taxi Drivers)

Prefer to avoid disappointment on vacation? Then might I suggest you do not expect VI taxi drivers to exhibit the following qualities. With this in mind, you may actually experience pleasant surprises when encountering the few cab drivers who meet your stateside standards.

1. They’ll take you wherever you’d like to go.

This is especially true on St. John. Want to take a taxi across the island from Cruz Bay to Coral Bay? Sorry, not gon’ do it. Need to get to your villa in Fish Bay? They’ll take you to the Westin, and you can hitch it from there. Even though taxi rates do exist for places all over the island, the likelihood that a driver will take you from the ferry dock to Skinny Legs— even if you’re willing to pay the premium— is slim. Most go as far as they deem convenient.

2. They will share the road with courtesy and professionalism.

A few weeks ago on the busiest day of the year, a taxi driver threw a tantrum outside the condos I manage. I was in my office, vainly trying to make progress on a growing pile of paperwork, when a guest entered and told me, “You have an angry taxi driver up there.”

“That’s nothing new,” I said, not bothering to look up from the computer. This was no day for bullshit.

Then his wife came in and said, “Is that your little silver car parked on the side of the road? Because that’s one of the things he’s complaining about.”

I let out a deep, dramatic sigh, rubbing my forehead in the universal gesture of managerial stress.

tooblessblogedit

Or not…

“I am not feeling diplomatic today,” I said flatly. It was one of those days when smiling, something usually quite natural to me, was impossible without valiant effort.

I walked up the stairs to the parking lot and found a safari bus stopped in the 1.5 lane road behind our buildings, thereby blocking traffic in both directions. I gathered that his vexation was due to my little Corolla, and a larger SUV parked on the side of the road. They kept him from passing, the driver claimed.

Of the many problems on my docket, this was certainly not one of them. My patience was running on fumes.

About a dozen guests who’d been on island to participate in a week-long meditation retreat were checking out that morning.  A couple of them were peacefully trying to reason with the taxi driver, who probably could have passed by pulling in his mirror. My car wasn’t the problem, this being my regular parking space. The SUV might have been in the way, but it wasn’t a rental car, judging from the dents, scratches, and Positive is How I Live bumper sticker. It didn’t belong to any of my guests and was therefore not my responsibility.

“I don’t know whose car that is. It looks local to me so it doesn’t belong to any of my guests,” I said to the taxi driver, “Can you just go the other way around the loop?” I’ve taken this four minute detour on several occasions when the road had been blocked.

“I ain’t movin’. My home up da hill, jus right d’eh. I no move.” He shook his head violently.

“Okay. Well, then… Can I get you something to drink while you wait?” I asked in the fake pleasant tone that comes out when I’m seething inside. It generally fools no one, the rage in my eyes belying the exaggerated smile.

“No, Miss. I close to my home now. I live jus up da hill.” He said, his voice now bordering on plaintive.

By this time cars waited in both directions for him to move.

“Okay, enjoy your wait then!” I said, heading back down to the office.

Fortunately for the neighborhood, a couple of blissed-out meditators managed to convince him to back into the neighbor’s driveway so the waiting cars could pass. I guess he figured that after backing up, he was halfway to turning around, so he did, indeed, head the other direction, presumably the short detour that would take him home.

Of course, if he’d taken the detour in the first place, he’d have been there already.

A couple days later, I was at the bustling ferry dock picking up a massive collection of luggage from our most loyal guests. This was a two person job, and my friend had already filled his jeep. I needed to get my Corolla over to the loading space for the rest of their bags, which were far too heavy and numerous to roll and carry down the block to my car. There was little time to waste.

Except that there was.

Because a cab driver— the only one on island, in fact, who has his very own parking space in Cruz Bay— decided that before departing with his full load of passengers, he must wash his windshield.

His private parking spot is apparently not the windshield-washing place, because that place belonged to the bit of roadway directly behind my legally-parked car. Double-parking is common downtown. Most people usually come running when they see me waiting to get out. Not this guy.

He saw me walk briskly to my car, get in, turn on the engine, and swivel my head expectently, waiting for him to move so I could reverse. I could tell he knew I was there, but acknowledge me, he did not.

So I did something I rarely do. I honked.

He glanced briefly in my direction, holding up his hand to let me know I could wait. When the windshield was spotless, rather than taking the paper towels with him, he did something I rarely see locals do. He sauntered twenty paces over to the dumpster and threw them away. The walk back to his safari was a leisurely one.

It’s okay. It’s not like I was doing anything all that important, anyway.

3. They will transport you to your final destination, as agreed upon when entering the vehicle.

One unfortunate evening a couple years ago when living on St. Thomas, I managed to lose my keys at an outdoor restaurant. I had a spare car key at my home du jour about a 20 minute drive away. The loser accompanying me (the person who actually lost the keys) called a cab. Someone he’d used before. This, I suppose, should have been an indication that more trouble lie ahead.

A large van arrived. I told the driver where I was headed and we agreed to a fare of $15. On the way, he received a few phone calls. Allow me to remind you that talking on your phone while driving is expressly prohibited in the VI. You are, in fact, far more likely to get pulled over for talking on your phone behind the wheel than for taking a swig from your Heineken at a red light. No matter for this driver, he answered the phone each time, chatting briefly. This didn’t bother me so much.

What bothered me was that three quarters of the way to my destination, he decided to pick up his girlfriend from work, which required abandoning me. She, evidently, was the one calling. The matter was non-negotiable. He intended to drop me, the paying customer, at a location other than my final destination to keep his girlfriend from waiting.

And where did he choose to drop this white girl at 9pm on a Thursday evening? Why, at Market Square, of course! A historical plaza in the heart of downtown Charlotte Amalie, it used to be the site for slave auctions. It now serves as a gathering spot where even most grown (law-abiding) men make a point of avoiding after sundown.

He couldn’t have been in a bigger hurry to discard me. He’d actually started up Solberg hill, just minutes from my home, when he did a quick u-turn, and took me back downtown.

“Don’t worry,” he told me, “My frien’ take you res’ da way. I not gon charge you.”

“Oh, how kind, thank you,” I said.

He pointed at a guy leaning against a brown beater.

“Hey! Take de gyal up da hill fah me!”

The guy jumped into action, ushering me toward his obviously unlicensed gypsy cab.

Too bewildered and mildly amused to be frightened, I got into the backseat, told him where I was going, and up the hill we went. It took 5 minutes to get there, and he charged me the full $15 I’d negotiated with the first driver.

But I got home in one piece. And the first driver got his piece too.

If I’ve learned anything in the VI, it’s that the needs and desires of your taxi driver far outweigh your own. Paying customer or not.

Keep in touch with the tropics!

 

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