Thursday, November 30, 2006

Yuh kinda quiet, eenh?

No, he wasn't quiet. Geritol spoke faster than any human I'd ever met.

He spoke at such a rapid speed it seemed his lips barely touched one another, the words bursting forth so fast that his own mouth could barely contain them.

We were taking my first of many bredren road trips, the rhythms of which I'd eventually come to understand and enjoy. But the very first time was like taking a test that I hadn't studied for, like landing on another planet without radio contact to Mission Control.

Houston, I've got a problem.

Peter decided he'd take me to Town. That sounds sweet, romantic even. Except that in Jamaica, when one goes to "town" it is universally understood to mean Kingston. Not exactly April in Paris. Still, I was excited about the prospect. I hadn't been anywhere in Jamaica except the seaside resort town of Negril. Well, that and the brief tour along the south coast that landed me in a rural hospital, so I was ready to get out and see more of the countryside.

First lesson: Never drive an empty unit (i.e. car)  to town

I thought it was just going to be the two of us, but as we headed out of Negril, we made several stops to pick up more passengers. According to the bredren code of ethics, one must always squeeze as many bredren as possible into The Unit. One never knows when a Unit will be available for the next mission, so share the experience. By the time we headed out of Negril, we were five in the rental car: Peter and myself in front, and Rough, Bigga Ford, and Jeremiah, aka Geritol, in the back seat.

Lesson Two: Don't ask what the plan is

I was the kinda control freak who liked to hit the road with a precise destination in mind, a map in the glove compartment, and perhaps some snacks on board. The only info I could glean from Peter was that we were heading toTown, and that I should "jess chill, relax, jess enjoy the drive."

Within minutes, the bredren had begun to talk loudly in the most rapid-fire, inscrutable language I'd ever heard. And Geritol was the fastest and the loudest, punctuating his comments with deep bellowing laughter. Minutes stretched into an hour, and I hadn't a clue what anyone was talking about.

I suddenly began to rethink my decision to agree to take this trip.

The patois was so thick, so indecipherable, they might as well have been speaking Greek. And even in Greek, I'd could at least have understood the occasional "souvlaki" or "ouzo", but this, well this was impossible. Even more frustrating, they were seemingly having the time of their lives. One would fire off an apparently pithy comment and the rest would bust out laughing; I never got the joke. I began to wonder if I WAS the joke. Paranoia set in.

Here I was, on the road to who-knew-where exactly? And to do what? Nobody would say exactly. Not that I would have understood even if they had told me. I started to get incredibly homesick, and felt horribly alone.

Peter must have sensed it because he finally tapped my shoulder and said, in English, "Yuh kinda quiet, eeeh? Yuh alright?"

"I can't understand a DAMN thing anyone is saying," I fumed. "Can't you guys just talk in English?"

Well that just made them all laugh even harder. And they lapsed right back into the patois. But Peter made sure I got food and drinks, pointed out sights to me (in English) and made certain to occasionally ask "yuh alright, Veek-toddya?"

So I made that journey as an observer, rather than an active participant. And I saw more on that 12-hour road trip than most visitors see in a week.

Lesson Three: For all control freaks, "jess sit back an' enjoy the ride"

Yuh Kinda Quiet, Eenh?
Ink and watercolor oen paper
Purchase a print of this painting here.

1 comment:

Auntie M said...

I will soon have to go to town. I am scared. This time for business, the last time for pleasure? Last time I was there, I was the silly girl who didn't know that in a stampede of drunken dancehall participants, rule #1 is, run.