Wed | Sep 20, 2017

Garth Rattray | The life and times of Perlita

Published:Monday | May 22, 2017 | 5:00 AM

It seems like a lot of people are in the habit of discussing Perlita. She was born somewhere around the early 1980s, so she should be in her mid-30s by now. From what I glean, when she was fairly young, it was easy to take care of her. We all know that youth don't require too much money to maintain them. Well, it seems as if Perlita was a vivacious young lady. People openly lament the good old days when picking her up and taking her out was a simple affair that didn't cost too much. If you needed to take her for a drive, you didn't need to break the bank.

The consensus is that taking Perlita out slowly became more and more costly over time and, as she moved from place to place, the cost of picking her up varied widely - perhaps it had something to do with the distance. In the early days, even people with limited resources could afford to pick up Perlita, no matter where in Jamaica she was located. However, as indispensable Perlita became more expensive, those seeking her company needed to increase their income.

Perlita was so sought after that she demanded more and more for her company. Self-employed folks hankering after her found it necessary to increase the cost of their goods and services. Those collecting pay cheques asked for salary increases or else they simply could not afford her. Currently, she enjoys wearing one of four styles of clothing. She has a refined outfit, one for regular wear, one for rough-and-tough situations (grungy outfit), and one top-grade outfit for working out hard.

Her top-grade outfit for working out hard is made of special material and is sometimes more expensive than the others. And, to add even more confusion, her grungy outfit is multi-purpose but nonetheless expensive, often rivalling the cost of her regular outfit.

Perlita always wears several layers of underclothes. Like any modest lady, no one in the public domain ever sees her in that state. She puts on layer after layer, depending on the demands of her guardians. It is they who decide how many layers of underclothes she must wear and how much they cost. They don't seem to have much say in the final cost of her outfits. Those appear to be left entirely up to her agents; they dictate how much it costs us to fetch her.

 

HIGH MAINTENANCE

 

She has become so costly that most people ration their contact with her and go to great lengths to adjust their lives in order to afford her. Additionally, with all those layers of undergarments and expensive (almost exorbitant) outfits, she has become one of those 'high-maintenance' women and taking her out can get very pricey. This is especially true if she happens to be out of town. Some agents inexplicably demand a whole lot more for all of the four outfits that she wears.

Perlita has become a celebrity; her name is in the print and electronic media every day. Her name is on everyone's lips and many billboards and signs all across the island. She is under constant observation and scrutiny because whatever she does and her availability affect the mood and plans of the entire country. The ripple effect of Perlita's actions on the economy is nothing short of remarkable.

Once, some people got so worked up over the plans that Perlita's guardians made for her future that they rioted and shut the country down for several days. At that time, her guardians were demanding that she wear exorbitant underclothes, which would cause her agents to perfunctorily advertise her services out of the reach of the common people.

Perlita (Per Litre) has indeed become extremely expensive. Her guardians (the powers that be), keep adding layer after layer of underclothes (ex-refinery tax, ad valorem taxes and several,

ever-increasing layers of special consumption taxes) before she gets out the door (the gates of the refinery) and into the hands of her agents (the petrol station managers), who advertise her services in her four outfits (E10 80, E10 90, diesel and ULSD).

I wonder how many of us will be able to continue taking Perlita out for a drive.

- Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and garthrattray@gmail.com.