We like nothing more than a holiday – defined by most here ‘as a day off from work’. The reason doesn’t matter: National Holiday or Holy Day, we don’t care — even if caused by a state of national emergency. Or a hurricane alert.
It’s a national routine. Following the weather forecast for bad weather, all eyes and ears remain open for the official ‘Alert’ from the disaster preparedness agency, NEMO. And then for the long-awaited Official Government Advisory to ‘Stay At Home’.
From Monday, with storm clouds competing with hot sun while the charts showed its path heading over the entire Eastern Caribbean island chain, the first ‘stay home’ news came for Tropical Storm Dorian, effective 6 p.m.
Overnight nothing grave was reported and Castries was largely a ghost town from very early Tuesday, even if the bad weather never came.
An interesting panel discussion on the future of policing due for the Castries City Council’s auditorium mid-morning was duly canceled and indefinitely postponed, but uniformed city police officers were on the beat; a few Jeremie Street rum shops offered some highly spirited temperature gauges and adjustments (through the back doors, of course…), a few brave vendors were eking-out their daily living where the old fire station once stood – and some of the ‘vulnerable vagrants’ about whom so much concern was expressed in the media as the tropical storm approached were still in their still-vulnerable comfort zones.
Dorian didn’t come like we’d been warned, not because the forecasts were inaccurate, but because the system changed track along the way, as if to prove the forecasters wrong all along. It spared all the small islands affected by big hurricanes lately, and spared those expecting their first hit.
Puerto Rico, still trying to recover from its last blast, was also miraculously spared. With President Trump seriously joking to offer to exchange Puerto Rico for Greenland, Mother Nature might have decided not to further devalue the island, so Dorian gathered all its saved Caribbean force, packed its gale winds — and headed straight to Florida and the US mainland.
But even before making landfall in the US, Dorian had left Saint Lucia in the usual post-hurricane parley of talks, discussions, arguments, debates, quarrels — and near-fights — over whether it was all worth the wait and the fuss, as, ‘Yet again, nothing happened’ and ‘We prepared for nothing…’
As always, the Chamber of Commerce had protected itself from unfair criticism by members and left the matter of the ‘Stay Home’ advisory to the Office of the Prime Minister to avoid being accused by members of having forced them ‘to send staff home and pay them for nothing.’
Unable to ‘blame’ the Government for having to pay (or lose as some see it) ‘a day’s wage to each staff’ who might have exercised the preferable option to stay home and care for family and property, some instead (over)work staff to ‘complete tomorrow’s work today’.
The nation’s health crisis also remained a hot topic before, during and after the tropical storm decided to give us a break.
It got worse, though, after a news item surfaced quoting the Health Minister recounting an experience she had six years ago, as a citizen, akin to what others now face under her watch.
And here again, I’m unable to settle on whether Saint Lucians have become the smoothest political cynics or just the smartest at getting smart solutions to any problem that arises.
Two conversational friends got into a rum shop brawl over what they interpreted from what they’d heard the minister had said.
Having spent six hours in a wheelchair at Casualty one recent Saturday morning, I know what everybody is complaining about as relates to the state of national health today, but the way the young nurses and the also-young Cuba-trained doctor looked after me catered for the shortcomings arising from shortages of everything they needed but didn’t have.
But even more fruitful and rewarding was the experience I had of taking usual mental notes about how the effects of regime change always affect most the people by whom and in whose names regimes are changed.
Having arrived around 6 a.m. and left just around midday with my youngest son wheeling me around (to the toilet and back twice too), I also got to exchange with several of the other ‘customers’ patiently and impatiently awaiting their turn for service.
I was by no means inconspicuous, but as soon as a handicraft lady from Choiseul from whom I normally buy Christmas goodies saw me and called me by name, all eyes turned my way.
For a moment, I thought I was about to become the eye of a storm, until another lady (who obviously knows me from TV but whom I don’t know) looked straight at me and said: ‘Earl At Large, you dat dere? A man like you… Why you din’ go to Tapion I want to hear what you will say on your program tomorrow. I will be watching…’
At which point the Choiseul lady interjected: ‘Don’t give him no pressure. His party not in power… And why you din’ go Tapion yourself?’
Lady Unknown replied: ‘Because it too expensive… Take All Pay In-front Or Nothing!’
Then, looking me again in the eye, Miss Lady straight-jabbed me right onto the ropes: ‘At least, Mr Bousquet, even though we not equal, some things does make us equal, right?’
I’ve gone and been sent down that road so many times before, that I simply smiled, shut my eyes and let my ears work, while strolling down Memory Lane to the last time I was in Casualty — on a much-earlier Saturday afternoon (many, many years ago) when I was ambulanced and stretchered onto an emergency operating-room table after falling off my motorcycle on a Castries highway.
Both my legs were sealed in Plaster of Paris, from top to bottom — and the Victoria doctor then recommended that I be sent instead to Tapion, where it was discovered none of my legs was broken and I only needed half-a-cast on one – and while I would need a wheelchair, there was no need to choose a casket.
But back to the beginning…
Between the ‘Hurricane Holiday’ talk, the actual widespread vexation over the tropical storm’s evasion and all the healthy talk and (equally-healthy) admission about the sad state of our health affairs, I was glad to reaffirm that Saint Lucians have advanced beyond realm or copy in their (our) ability to be both critical and cynical without leaving any doubt about what they (we) really want to say, but just won’t.
So much so, that even if you know the answer to the question you ask, the one you’ll get will simply amaze you!
So-Lucian we are, about solutions!