I don’t know if it’s like this on every rock, but in the Virgin Islands, WTF Moments abound.
Here are three favorites from when I lived on St. Thomas. (Before moving to St. John where life is rather dull and ordinary. Ha!)
I was running late for work at the coffee shop. This was typical. Although I left a full thirty minutes before my shift started, I was still running desperately late. I forgot that traffic is much heavier at 8am than at 6:30am when I usually commuted. Also, it was Tuesday and the gargantuan Oasis of the Seas was in port, along with four other ships, so pretty much everyone who worked downtown in the tourist industry was swarming to Charlotte Amalie that morning.
Free parking was gone. Oh well. I expected that. When I chose to sleep an extra thirty minutes, I opted to pay $5 for parking. What can I say? Sleep is precious in my world.
With the volume of traffic in town, it almost felt like driving in a major city again, and I was pleasantly surprised when the LOT FULL sign was missing from the entryway to the Fort Christian parking lot.
Walking out of the lot, I passed a bum of sorts sitting next to a small gap in the fence that serves as an exit. Absorbed in my thoughts, I offered no salutation. But before I could walk completely past, he said,
“Good Morning to you too,” sounding miffed.
“Morning,” I responded absently, without breaking pace.
While still in earshot, I heard him comment snidely to his crony on my pairing black shorts with a brown purse.
A Caribbean bum dissing me for not following an age-old fashion rule?
The funny thing is, only since I’ve lived in the VI would I even dream of ignoring this fashion maxim. I used to run late for work specifically because I couldn’t find my brown belt when sporting an earth-toned ensemble.
I must tell you, I was far more amused than insulted.
The Importance of Staying Left
It was a radiantly sunny and glorious morning, so I decided to take the scenic route to my old apartment where I was to spend a rare Saturday off inside cleaning. This route is one of my favorites because it reminds me of my happy college years in Northeast Iowa with its rolling hills and farm animals. Except that looking up and out, I cannot help but notice the vast ocean before me, instead of the familiar cornfields of my homeland. Parts of this lovely road are, however, even narrower and windier than St. Thomas’ main thoroughfares.
It occurred to me that perhaps I was driving a bit too close to center, especially when I noticed that the car approaching me might’ve been doing the same. Unfortunately, before I could alter course, a noise informed me that, without a doubt, this car and I had engaged in a minor sideswipe.
We both stopped in the middle of the road, per island custom. I got out of the car and the female passenger in the other car did the same. Everyone was fine, except for my side mirror, which was lying in the road.
Meanwhile, cars were backing up behind our vehicles. We were blocking traffic, and I wanted to get on my way. The man in the driver’s seat peered out the passenger window at me and said,
“Well, we were a bit surprised, but at least we’re both listening to NPR.”
I was unable to respond with anything witty. Only a surprised giggle.
Then the woman and I picked up my mirror, got back in our respective cars, and we were gone.
Sans the passenger mirror and with a window that no longer rolled, my Corolla was now officially an island vehicle.
Enjoying the Health Card Process
People who work in the food service industry in the VI (and there are many) must annually renew their health card in order to stay legally employed. To do this, one must carry a personal poo sample to a lab where it is tested for worms. They don’t test for anything else— Hepatitis, cholera, bird flu, VD…just intestinal worms. Don’t ask me to explain. Then one must take the results to the community clinic at the hospital where, after 1pm on weekdays, they issue health cards to food handlers and others who need it.
Having had to do this twice now, I’d gotten over the initial shock of having to scoop a piece of my poo into a sample jar and later hand it to a lab technician. (I learned after the first time to write my name on the sample jar BEFORE the sample was collected.) The whole process is sort of a pain in the ass (pun not intended) like any bureaucratic process in the VI. But at least the waiting room experience is far more entertaining than it would be in the Midwest.
I couldn’t have been more pleased with the company I kept during the short elevator ride to the 2nd floor. The woman I rode with wore the type of vibrant Caribbean outfit I most enjoy. A fuchsia business suit with bright orange accents and fuchsia heels to match. Her hair was done up in thick braids, and at the crown of her head the braids were multicolored. They reminded me of the consistency of rag rugs, but with the hues of those sweet, rainbow candy canes (as opposed to the peppermint ones). I’m telling you, I couldn’t be more turned on by the color of these islands, both nature-made and human-displayed.
My other source of delight came from another local woman wearing a shade of pink. This one in hot magenta scrubs, who also seemed to be waiting for a health card. She apparently knew the people working in the community health clinic because she maintained a loud conversation with them while eating her lunch in the waiting room. Clearly, she had no problem being the center of attention. For dessert, she pulled out a banana (pronounced locally as bah-nah-nah). Upon noticing this, the man sitting in front of me asked her something I had trouble making out, but I’m pretty sure it was,
“Wh’eh ya get ya banana?”
To which she replied, “It not ya business wh’eh I get my banana.”
This back and forth continued for a couple minutes. And I’m confident that I was not imagining the sexual innuendo. She finally ended the exchange by declaring,
“Dat da problem wit black people. Dey see too much and hea’h too much and say too much. Black people is too nosy.”
I found this statement rather entertaining since the young lady’s skin was the color of milk chocolate.
Patience and a sense of humor. That’s what it takes to live happily in the VI, folks.
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