Sunday, May 15, 2011

I do not know where this is going, so bear with me. ….

This is a collection of disturbing things that I have experienced over many years, things that sometimes come up in certain political, social and economic conversation with friends.  

  • I remember my first job on leaving school, I was working for the Government and my neighbor was kind enough to offer me a ride to work in the mornings since she also worked in the same location. Each morning I would stand by my gate waiting for her since she lived just two gates down from my house.  I remember her early morning rituals between leaving her front door and driving away from her gate, each morning her helper would open the gates for her to back out of her driveway at which point she would immediately start to issue orders to the helper like a drill sergeant to a private at the top of her voice and I remember feeling so embarrassed for the helper because such things should really be said in private.
  • On a recent visit to café Blue at sovereign plaza one morning, trying to enjoy my morning cup of Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee (The best in the World) and reading the morning paper I was disturbed by an upper St. Andrew gentleman, talking at the top of his voice for all to hear about his Range Rover Sport in the car park, totaling up its cost and informing the people around his table and in the cafe that he has one more on the wharf to clear. Some of the other customers who were not a part of his group were visibly impressed… I was not one of them.   
  •  Before cell phones, Jamaicans discovered two way radios, one day while in the plaza, a friend constantly used his radio to call his wife “ Smith I to Smith II, come in Smith II, I am approaching Tropical Plaza, over” he did this continuously for all to hear.
    • A female friend of mine came down to Jamaica and was invited to a garden party up Jacks Hill where she met a young man, thinking she had struck gold only to be disappointed 10 minutes into the conversation, it seemed home boy got a new car that he could start remotely from the keys in his hand, he spent the first 10 minutes starting and stopping the automobile and explaining to her the various features of the car, such was the depth of his conversation, she said “instant turnoff”.
    • A person whom I have not seen since high school immediately started to tell me that he was going bird hunting with the Minister, I had to wonder how we got from “hello, how are you, long time no see” to his weekend plans and why.
    • While waiting to checkout of a hotel in Port Antonio, we had the misfortune of over hearing a “upper class” Jamaican couple's conversation with the hotel clerk. The bill that was given to them was incorrect but instead of having a polite and civil conversation to correct the issue they decided that the best way to deal with this situation was to talk down to the clerk, as if they were on a plantation and she was their slave. “Are you an Idiot?” the man shouted at the clerk, “Don’t you see this Bill is incorrect, did they not teach you simple Math in school?” the clerk apologized for her mistake and took the bill to correct it. The couple then turned around to an English gentleman also waiting in the office, with a look on their face as if to say…  look at how well we are carrying on the grand tradition in your absents. This English gentleman expressed to me how disgusted he was at their behavior towards the clerk, he felt really bad for her as she did not deserve to be embarrassed in that manner. 
    Everything comes down to how we elect to deal with certain situations. Too many Jamaicans take the aggressive approach as their first resort instead of their last. I think as a society we would accomplish so much more if we just take the time to think out a solution to some of our problems instead of flying off the handle. What is the point of higher education and class if we deal with problem/solutions the same as others who do not know any better?

    It seems for some the Perception of Success means everything and in almost all cases the sole measurement of success is the accumulation of material things regardless of cost, happiness is no longer being content with life regardless of financial standing or position within the class structure and as such Jamaicans could do well with a bit of Buddhism injected into daily life. For these people MTV cribs is not just a show, it is a way of life, as they parade their earthly possessions for all to see,  trying to influence the way people think about them. I thought it was considered bad manners and vulgar for one to brag and boast about ones wealth, a sure sign of being low class, “hurry come up”,” neva see, come see”. I am sure this high profiling by some Jamaicans is the reason why some small businesses fail, the desire to be seen as making it or in another class destroys any common sense approach to business development, they are consumed by their own self importance.

    Made In Jamaica
    A public relation company came to Jamaica back in the late 70’s and performed an experiment, they invited some ladies to look at two sets of brassieres, one set marked made in Jamaica and the other set marked made in the United States.  All the individuals taking part came to the same unanimous decision that the Bras marked made in the United States was of better quality, hands down, they went into details, showing superior stitching work, the professional quality of the bras that was made in the United States as oppose to those made in Jamaica, which they said was poor workmanship and lower quality, not good value for money and will not last long. At the end of the showing when all votes were cast, they were then told that the labels on the brassieres had been switched and that the ones marked made in the United States was in fact made in Jamaica and those labeled made in Jamaica were actually made in the United States, to their shock and awe. 

    Tourist Harassment of Locals

    • Once after a long stretch of hard working I decided to treat myself to a very nice vacation, so we booked into the Cibony all-inclusive resort, after a couple days the tension began to melt away. One night after dinner we decided to have a nice relaxing drink in the lounge. While having a conversion I was interrupted by an American tourist who rudely tapped me on the shoulder, I turned around to see who it was and he said to me “there is no paper in the bathroom”. Now here I thought I had left all this behind in North America and I was safe at home enjoying my wonderful country. The Crazy thing is at the time all Cibony staff wore uniforms with a very big name tag so why then was I being confused for a member of staff, I knew exactly where this person was coming from and I was not afraid to let him know where to take it. A simple “excuse do you work here” would have changed the situation a bit but not even that was offered.
    • We hear a lot about Tourist Harassment by locals but we never hear anything about Local Harassment from the Tourist. On another occasion, here I am on my vacation in my own country with friends sitting at the bar having a drink and a nice relaxing conversation when along came a tourist asking for drugs, I politely said I do not have any drugs, he left only to send his female companion over to ask where they could score some drugs. I firmly said I do not have any drugs, I do not use drugs and I do not know where to get drugs from.  About 45 minutes later another tourist came up and asked the same exact question this time my response was very abrupt with words I care not to write.  This ruined my evening it was then that I vowed never again to vacation in tourist country (Negril, Montego Bay or Ocho Rios). It seems regardless of what you have accomplish or how good you live your life, to some people you will only be seen a certain way.
    • Long ago, I met some Black Americas after their visit to Jamaica, they complained that they never get the same treatment as white tourist, well after further discussion I realized what they were really saying, which is that Jamaicans do not make the same “initial” assumption about Black American tourist as they do about white American tourist. The determination as to whether they are tourist or not is only made after speech, they are assumed to be Jamaicans until they say something in an American accent, after which for the most part they are treated like an American tourist but the “initial assumption” can make or break an entire experience. Companies need to develop and implement a sterile, standardize way of dealing with everyone regardless of colour, gender etc. Only when this is done will we avoid making stupid ridiculous superficial assumptions.    
    • A friend of a friend who lives in North America decided to treat his white girlfriend to a vacation in Jamaica, he booked both flight and hotel then decided to surprise her with the grand vacation. They arrived in Jamaica and checked into their hotel, all was well until the next morning when the happy couple went out to enjoy what tourist country had to offer. On their return to the hotel his girlfriend walked pass the guard at the gate and she was greeted warmly, followed by her Jamaican boyfriend bringing up the rear with the days shopping. He was promptly stopped at the gate by the guard who refused him access, the guard called back his girlfriend to ask her if this man was in fact with her. The basic assumption by the guard is that this man is not vacationing at the resort and was a rent-a-dread of some sort, his assumption also was that the girlfriend was in fact a valid guess just because she was white.This caused the mother of all confrontation as he was not having any of it. Companies need to develop and implement a sterile, standardize way of dealing with everyone regardless of colour, gender etc. Only when this is done will we avoid making stupid ridiculous superficial assumptions.  
    • On my first visit to New York City my cousin took me to West 4th park, I was very excited, looking at the sights and having a wonderful time with friends and family I had not seen in a while, I was a tourist in another country and loving every minute of it.  I was walking across the park when a white girl ran from the grassy area toward me, thinking my good looks and magnetic personality was working its magic, I stopped to find out what she wanted. She stopped in front of me and asked me if I had any drugs to sell her, WTF! If I wanted to be bothered about drugs I would have visited tourist country in Jamaica but it did not matter where I was, it did not matter which country I was in or on which continent. I am a Blackman and by definition I must be either be a drug dealer or a drug user or intimate with the knowledge of where to score drugs. Well I am sorry both my cousin and I pointed out to her the error of her ways.
    Assumption is the Mother of all Fk-ups
    Customer No Service
    • At JFK I gave the man two dollars American to carry my bags to the check-in counter, he said thank you and put the money in his pocket. At Norman Manley airport I gave the man five dollars American to take my bags out to the curb, he took one look at the $5.00 and gave it back to me, saying that it cannot buy anything and if that was all I was going to give him. I gladly took back my money, put it in my pocket and told him thanks for helping me with my bags. The man at JFK understand the concept of one one cocoa fill basket much more than the man at Norman Manley who wants an already filled basket from each person.
    • I had a wedding to attend one Saturday morning and realized that I needed to buy a pair of socks, so at 9AM I drove down to the plaza near manor Park to see if I could get a pair. When I got to the store it was closed and because the wedding was at 12:00 noon, I decided to wait.  At around 10:45 a lady came to open the store but I decided to wait another 10 minutes to give her a chance to settle in before I enter.  I went in and look around but could not find any socks, by this time she was on the phone, I said “excuse me, do you have any socks” with the phone still pressed to her face she said “Ova deh so!” with a motion of her head, so I went “Ova Deh so” to see if I could find it but still no socks. After a while I said “excuse me, sorry to bother you, but I could not find any” and with an annoyed look on her face, she told the person on the phone to hold on, then said “So hold on, is want, you want me to go ova Deh So and show you?.. “.  With more detail instructions and searching I was able to find the socks but it was not “Ova Deh So” as she first instructed.  I really should have walked out of the store and go elsewhere but it was almost time for the event.  Most businesses would do a lot better if the right customer service practice was in place but most Jamaicans feel that their employers do not pay them enough to turn up, much less to care.
    • I was talking to a friend about customer service and good business practices at which point a certain food place came up. I stated that it takes the entire lunch time just to get to the counter to place your order.  In this particular place the manager behaves like the cashier or the cooks, happy go lucky, Jokes and fun to be had. The cashiers spend most of their time talking to each other and playing around with the back room staff than taking and placing orders. In most cases they almost always get your order wrong and at times you end up at work with someone else’s order. One would think that the manager would put in place a better system to deal with the lunch time crowd. My Friend then declares that sometimes it is the customers who are slow.  Here he outlines the following conversation between the customer in front of him and the cashier:
    Customer: "How much for di oxtail?”
    Cashier: “Large or small?”
    Customer: -"Large"
    Cashier:  $8
    Customer: "Dat come with rice and peas?”
    Cashier: -Yes
    Customer: “How much for the small one ?"
    Cashier: -$6
    Customer: "Ya have stew chicken?"
    Cashier: -mm hmm
    Customer: "What di small plate look like?”

    (Cashier walks to stack of plates to point to the small plate
    The thing that bothers me is there are only two plates stacked up

    Customer: "It come with plantains?”
    Cashier:-Which one, the oxtail or the stew chicken?
    Customer: "Di Oxtail"
    Cashier: -Yes
    Customer: "All rite den, Make mi getta small oxtail, and a carrot juice"
    Cashier: - what size carrot juice? Small, medium or large ?
    Customer: - "How much for di small one

    (Now not to drag this one but we go through a question and answer session with the cups about price and size. Yes, there are THREE stacks of cups again, in size order.  Now homeboy’s cell phone rings ....... he answers.)

    Customer: "Yeah man whattagwan ?
    Customer: "Me here at Mckenzies gettin some food."
    Customer: "Hold on, lemme ask her ....

    Customer: Miss , how much fa di Jerk chicken ?
    Cashier: - What size?
    (At this point I’m ready to box the dude in his head!)

    Miserys West Indian Restaurant
    • Given the choice between bad customer service in Jamaica and raciest customer service I would take bad customer service any day, I remember entering clothing store on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and immediately picked up two tails, who followed me everywhere I went or entering the supermarket and being asked continuously where certain items were even though the staff wears a uniform, a situation that was to be repeated many time in the United States, again no "excuse do you work here" just the assumption that you must work here. 

    Blue Collar Beggars

    • Sometime ago I followed by sister to a Bank in Liguanea, she drove around the back and parked under a tree. I noticed three man having a conversation, one was very tall, fit and well dress, as soon as the car was parked I saw him telling the other men he was with to hold on, he will be back soon, he needs to do a little business, which obviously involved my sister and myself, he walked over to us and said “Hi lady, beg you something nuh?” (asking for a handout), my sister is about 5’, 4” so it took her a while to look up from his feet to his head, one of those long nasty look before walking off, at which point he said “boy a so dem people yah stay these days, nobody naw let off nothin” (no one is giving handout anymore). Here we have a big strong man capable of doing so much more with his life but instead prefer to hang out at the bank and beg money. A friend of mine said he would not be there if it was not successful and I wondered, who the hell would take their hard earn money and give it to this strong, completely worthless man. The streets of Jamaica are littered with worthless Jamaican male doing absolutely nothing, walking around looking for a handout they are an insult to the male species. Most women in Jamaica do not have that luxury, they are more likely to work for a living at every level of society because they are forced to be both fathers and mothers to the children of these worthless men.  
    • My sister hired a man to fix her windows which he did but then called her a couple days later with a long sad story that his mother was in hospital and he needed some money, he was recommended to her by a friend, the story was not true but since it must have worked in the pass he thought he would give it a try, no longer satisfied with just working for a living, he now tries to con people out of their money as well.

    Professional Beggars
    • I once saw the former Minister of Finance boasting in Parliament that with only a weekend trip to Washington he was able to borrow $50 Million US, so just imagine what he could do in a week … and with that Parliament went wild, banging of tables and shouts of great financier. Jamaicans don’t care anymore where the money is coming from to stock supermarkets shelves with over the top imports, French wines and Range Rover Sports, so long as it is stocked. Our finance Minister is both a juggler and a three card Monte trickster who practices Anansi economics. 

    Dixon of Dock Green
    • “There is nothing worse than a bent copper”… it is my view that the government turn a blind eye to police corruption as a way to supplement the salaries of the police.  It is far too easy to be stopped and given the choice between “drink money or ticket money”, this highway extortion must stop. A friend of mine kept an event and at 2:30 the police came by and asked for the music to be turned off, which they did, the officer then turned to the organizers and requested $16, 0000.00 Jamaican if they wanted to continue with the merriment, they paid and was able to continue partying until about 6 am. While driving along with a friend one Christmas we were stopped by a police party, the officer came over and said “you have anything to give me” at which point my friend pop the trunk and told him to take a crate of beer, he then said that if we were stopped again we should tell the next officer that John already checked us.  I once stopped to ask a female Police Officer for directions, I was downtown and the last thing I wanted was to make the wrong turn and end up in a location I have no business being. I said “Good evening officer, can you tell me the best way to get to… ” and the response I got was disgusting, people skills zero, I get the impression that Jamaican police officers do not fully understand their role within our society. Each and every Jamaican is a foot-soldier in the nation building process but our Politicians, Police Officers and military forces are the gate keepers and leaders of our society. They play an even more important role in the process, they have been selected by us to not only keep the foundation of our society intact but to keep us focused on the task at hand and as such without these individuals our nation building initiative will fail.
    • Some Jamaican Police are equal opportunity extortionist they will stop anyone they feel they can make a buck from regardless of colour but not so in the United States of America where you are stopped simply because of your colour. The New Jersey turnpike is famous for stopping black people simply because they were driving while black. I remember once a group of us went to Pace University in Westchester County, NY for an event and was followed for most of the night after leaving the Event, eventually we were pulled over with lights flashing and told in no uncertain terms that we need to vacate the area,we told him after we drop our friend back to her dorm we could comply, he followed us there and then made sure we got on the highway back to NYC.

    Political Feasibility
    • My software group was commissioned to development an application for a particular government department, this software was design to add accountability and efficiency into the working of the department thus reducing corruption, fraud, overcharging and missing items. Before final roll-out and installation to the department’s computer system it was agreed that high level agents of the department must first preview the application, user buy-in is always a good thing, it enables us to fine tune the application before final release.  A conference room was prepared and a presentation made as to the ins and out of the application, then the high level agents was given hands on use of the system.  About an hour after using the application the head agent declared that this application cannot work (“boss dis caan work yu nuh”), which got all the software analysis and designers attention. We then proceeded to ask what was wrong with the application and how we could make it better, this was the type of user input we required but the agent only responded that this application cannot work at which point he and his fellow agents left the room and finally the building without giving us an answer.    The next morning we were paid a visit from a very high ranking government member, who declared that the project was cancelled because it was not “Politically Feasible” at this time and that the software would be shelved for future use… in any case the verbal sparring that took place after resulted in me being dismissed from the room.

    Crazy Diehard Supporters
    • I get the impression that people who support the PNP wants the JLP to fail and people who support the JLP wants the PNP to fail, giving that the party support is almost 50/50 I think we are heading nowhere very fast.  I can understand opposing bad thing regardless of party and supporting good things regardless of party, it is amazing to find people with bad things to say about some good things that have been implemented by both parties. We will not get anywhere if we are so entrenched and lacks objectivity, nothing can come of this but ignorance and stagnation.  (

    A Question of Leadership
    Leadership has been described as the process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task, it is ultimately about creating a way for people to contribute to making something extraordinary happen”.  

    Jamaica is lacking leadership, our politicians are not leading from the front they are as confused as the people who elected them. They are too worried about their political future, so much so that they refuse to take any stand on anything fearing that they might upset the people. They govern by pondering to peoples wants while ignoring the needs of the country. Just recently the Minister of Security decided that he will change Jamaica’s noise laws to allow people to keep more parties/dance for longer hours, he proclaimed that people need to enjoy themselves, as far as I am concern the last thing Jamaica need is more merriment but since we are coming up to an election year, common sense is no longer required.  It is this leadership vacuum that gives rise to the DJ’s, Dons and warlords as leaders in the poor sections of Jamaica. There is saying that “water finds its own level” and it seems that our politicians have found theirs, the only thing worse than a bent copper is a corrupt politician.

    Politicians over the years have failed to speak out against things that have a negative effect on our society simply because these things have become popular and may affect them at the polls. I am not a conservative person, well I am conservative about some things and I am very liberal about others but I do believe that Jamaica lacks a conservative movement, an organization or group not afraid to speak out against certain behavior that is harmful to our society and hurts the Nation Building Process. I have yet to hear a politician take the platform at any event such as a Party convention and deliver a speech on morality, outlining social responsibility and how to be good citizens of this country, asking men to take responsibility and be good fathers, outlining to men and women that the things they do in the dancehall is not acceptable but disgusting and not how young men and woman should behave in a civilized society.   I think the politicians are afraid to demand better from the people because the people may start demanding better from them. I also think the people are afraid to demand better from our politicians, it could well backfire as the politicians would start to demand better from the people.  

    We are not going to change anything until we get a government that cares more about the “upliftment” of the Jamaican society and nation building and less about re-election.  When a politician can stand up and say “this is what I am going to do, because I believe it is the right thing to do, for our country, our society and the future of our people, this is my vision of Jamaica and I am going to do everything in my powers to implement it within the next five years, regardless of the political consequences” then we will truly be on our way to Building a Nation State future generations of Jamaicans and the world will be proud of.

    The Myth of British Politeness
    I started going to school at the tail end of “Colonial Britishness” after independence, this was the period when our Ministry of Education was determine to beat the Britishness into us, that period lasted until the end of the 70s. We were told that we should be more like the British, to be as polite as the British and they were not afraid to use the cane or the leather belt to beat that into you. My school was created by British Missionaries who was also in charge of discipline, I remember passing one teacher on in the passageway but I was preoccupied and forgot to tell her good morning, it was detention for me. Saying your Please, Thank you, Excuse me, Miss and Sirs was compulsory because that was the British way.

    Just imagine my shock and horror when I first arrived in England, expecting all that Britishness that was beaten into me from the British and did not find it, no good mornings, no sirs, no miss, no excuse me, I found few polite people on the streets of London and things did not improve when I visited the English countryside, there I got the “I see you, but I do not want to see you” look, the Martian effect, wrong planet, you are not suppose to be here. British Politeness is a Myth, it does not exist well certainly not how it was told to us, I get warmer greetings on the Streets of New York than I do on the Streets of London.

    Unless… the problem is interracial politeness ….. I wonder…

    Here is an article from the Guardian that disagrees with my findings/experience
    Rude Britannia is a myth - we are among the world's most polite people A new survey shows that all people in sections of society value politeness in others and try to show it themselves

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