Annie Paul | Meandering Matthew
As I write this column on Monday evening, Jamaicans are exhaling in relief after a very tense weekend of manic preparations for a hurricane that never came.
In the interim, hurricane humour ruled social media, starting with the response to my fearful question on Friday when Matthew briefly intensified to a Category Five hurricane. "What did we do to deserve this?!" I tweeted plaintively. Bam came the response from @maxizwho: "2 words ... Lotto scam!"
The tweet that summed the wayward hurricane up best was from Allison Charmaine/@allyisroaming: "#HurricaneMatthew is that ex that parks at the end of your road for hours waiting for you to get home, then drives slowly past your house."
"A wah time the storm a keep?" was a favourite refrain as Sunday moved into Monday without a huff or a puff from Matthew.
"I swear Matthew getting directions to Jamaica from a Jamaican because all now him cyaa reach ... . Jamaica is up the road, make a right after the big breadfruit tree, pass Maas Birdie shop then make a left a di gungo tree, walk likkle bit pass di cemetery and then you see a piece of red bush cross di road don't walk pass because it a crosses and keep straight til yuh a see a Miss Meg a pick ackee, dont beg har none shi mean like di star apple tree weh shi siddung unda, memba fi keep straight den mek a lef right deh suh a Jamaica." Who the wits are who invent these jokes remains a mystery, but the lack of copyright protection certainly doesn't inhibit their creativity.
The following letter to Hurricane Matthew was doing the rounds early in the day: "Dear Matthew, I know you want to come to Jamaica to conduct business and see how the prosperity a work. I know you are hesitating because of all the recent violence and you don't want the gunmen shoot out yuh one eye. I realise that you are trying to walk in the footsteps of your grandfather Gilbert, your uncle Ivan and your father Felix. But your daddy didn't come n torment us, so it would be nice if you did the same. Your mother Katrina did a lot to other countries but she went past Jamaica. I hope they taught you well and you will bypass Jamaica too."
Well, the hurricane from hell did just that. Jeff Masters of Weather Underground noted Jamaica's remarkable history of dodging hurricanes:
"Hurricanes have a funny way of taking 11th-hour course changes that spare the island a direct hit. Category 5 Hurricane Allen took an odd wobble around the island. Category 4 Hurricane Dean of 2007 was headed straight for the island, but also wobbled just to the south, keeping the dangerous northern eyewall just south of Jamaica. Dean caused plenty of damage, though, bringing sustained Category 2 hurricane winds to the coast. Damage was estimated at $350 million, and three people died.
"Perhaps the most remarkable turn of an approaching hurricane was by Hurricane Ivan 2004, as it headed directly for the island with 145mph Category Four winds. Ivan took a sudden turn 35 miles from the island, traced out an exact outline of the island's coast 35 miles offshore, then resumed its previous track."
The prayer warriors firmly believe it is they who are single-mindedly turning hurricanes away from Jamaica. But then, why aren't they also able to liberate the country from the scourge of lotto scammers, hunger and poverty? Why don't they pray us into First-World status and prosperity?
Meanwhile, the jokes continue. Someone even started a Twitter account in Matthew's name: "Doe worry Jamaica, me still a come," said @Mattdihurricane. "Waiting for me is like waiting for a customer care rep when Flow Jamaica has u on hold."
Finally, the round-up wouldn't be complete without a touch of political humour. @ThisisPreki wanted to know why MP Lisa Hanna seemed to be missing in action from social media in an impending crisis like Matthew after having been so hyperactive on it in the weeks leading up to the PNP's vice-presidential election which she lost. "How me nah see Lisa a post nutn bout preparing her constituency for the storm? She stop work from the VP loss or Corve stop post?"
Corve da Costa was Ms Hanna's social-media point person, tweeting on her behalf frequently, pre-election. Ah, well, to quote Bob Dylan, the answer, my friends, is blowing in the wind, the answer is blowing in the wind.
- Annie Paul is a writer and critic based at the University of the West Indies and author of the blog, Active Voice (anniepaul.net). Email feedback to email@example.com or tweet @anniepaul.