Tue | Jul 17, 2018

Brian-Paul Welsh | Braving our roads

Published:Wednesday | November 23, 2016 | 12:00 AM

Because of the varying calamities consequential to Third World suffering, I have spent the better part of the past few weeks as an unwilling pedestrian in our prosperous state. The daily adventures have revealed that the back seat of a taxi is the perfect place to ponder the mysteries of life, calculate the ground speed of a defective jalopy, as well as compose my last will and testament.

Punctuating the hopscotch across the wildlife tracks and river paths we call 'roads' were several brief trips aboard the teleportation devices known colloquially as 'robot taxis'. These primitive rockets were devised by the natives to help navigate the labyrinths and shanties that we refer to respectively, as 'cities' and 'towns'.

These forms of transportation exist in defiance of every law known to man but are allowed to operate as a necessary evil, though in light of the known consequences, it would seem this permission is evidence of the evil of the lawmakers themselves.

For rather than invest in sustaining the safety and security of our public transportation, through our collective inaction we have, instead, divested this responsibility to the greedy and uniquely unqualified - a disastrous combination of traits we can now see playing out before our eyes in some neighbouring territories.

For all their bravado, one isn't instantly convinced the drivers of these vehicles are truly piloting them as much as it seems they are just trying to strike an impressive profile while hanging on for dear life like the rest of us.

Luckily, the latest infectious vulgarities booming from the speakers offer somewhat of a distraction from the scenes of my short life flashing before my eyes.




Vybz Kartel's latest sonic attacks, supposedly musical premonitions and not active social commentary, have increased in volume and accuracy ever since rivals started rattling his cage. Now the system has put him in further detention hoping to mute his predictions, while the public, including my taxi driver, think the wicked Government is trying to 'box food' from the mouth of the murderer they convicted and incarcerated.

After all, like my taxi driver, Kartel has to 'eat a food', and the law is but an inconvenience in the grand scheme of such craven pursuits.

Hissing his teeth in seeming disgust with the injustice of it all, he turns up the volume, presses the accelerator, and swerves to avoid the slowpoke police officer in his valiant but futile attempt to prevent disaster.

A close call with the rear end of a luxury SUV that suddenly appeared out of thin air was eerily reminiscent of the circumstances surrounding the famous case that recently hexed the justice system; and given the penchant for taxi drivers like these to have sudden amnesia, the truth of my demise would surely be less fantastic than the tall tales that would be told in the newspapers.

So when you read of this week's terrible accident or bizarre incident of violence, don't believe any of the excuses that are likely to be introduced to soften your despair if I'm one of the poor unfortunate souls to perish. In this country, it's far easier to besmirch the character of dead people than get live ones to take responsibility for their actions.

One might ask, why not take Kartel's sage advice and simply tell the driver to let me off since he's driving too fast? That is easier imagined than achieved, and when strapped to a missile, the last thing you want to do is break the gunner's concentration.

So with hands clasped and eyes closed, I negotiated my salvation with the Creator while wondering if my salary was commensurate to the mortal risk of this daily daredevil routine.

After only a few hours of bubbling in Jamaica's public transport cauldron, one's expression becomes painfully unpleasant. With the hostility, lawlessness and reckless behaviour one must encounter first thing in the morning, and then on the way home, is it any wonder there are so many sour faces and miserable dispositions at the workplace and in our families?

Perhaps if more of the 'boasy' people, in whose names we dedicate these so-called roads, actually traversed them as the peasants must, instead of looking down from their elevated chariots and lamenting the conditions below, they might use their influence to help curb the negative culture that has evidently overtaken our common sense.

• Brian-Paul Welsh is a writer and public affairs commentator. He can be reached at brianpaul.welsh@gmail.com or on social media @islandcynic