Sun | Dec 16, 2018

George Davis | Half-Way Tree the capital of Pandemonium

Published:Wednesday | October 4, 2017 | 12:00 AM

A woman 'hawks' and spits on the pavement. She slaps her chest a couple times as if to loosen the congestion in the area before 'hawking' and spitting again, this time sending a gob of mucus crashing into the ground, landing right beside her makeshift stall laden with avocado pear, ripe banana, yam, breadfruit and a few lengths of sugar cane.

A few commuters, hustling to get to work and who saw her spit, make sure to avoid stepping into the phlegm by pulling closer to the outside wall of the National Commercial Bank building. Across the road on the Mandela Park side, a man with a knapsack and what appears to be a cutlass wrapped in newspaper breaks stride to pull on to the wall of the park, reel out his manhood, and cut a quick piss.

Despite the stoplight being on green, commuters march into the road to get from one side to the other, glaring at drivers and daring to be hit. Taxis do U-turns in the road, with the drivers having their tongues poised to send any objecting private car driver to search for sunlight beneath the dress of their mothers. Other taxis park in a line in one of the driving lanes, effectively commandeering the path, moving only when they have got a load of passengers.

Loader men and boys puff cigarettes and spliffs as they 'work', making it seem as if Dr Fenton Ferguson and the public-space smoking ban never happened. Near the bus stop, a man has anchored his handcart, heaving under the weight of local and foreign fruits in season, while his assistant peels papaya and oranges faster than the stick of Matterhorn wedged in the corner of his mouth can burn out.

This is not fiction. This is no scenario. This is Half-Way Tree, St Andrew, Jamaica on any weekday morning between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. All of this happens with seven or sometimes nine police personnel stationed on the stretch between the stop light at Brooklyn Supermarket and the traffic signal at the clock.

You can do a quick tally of the laws being broken and then wonder why the police do precious little about it. Yes, sometimes when boredom sets in, a policeman may get busy, citing a taxi man for a breach and proceed to take 20 minutes to write the ticket in his book, even as the vehicle he has stopped is parked in the road, blocking the passage of motorists going about their business.


The reason for traffic


So evening comes. You wonder why it's taking so long for the traffic to move up Molynes Road towards Half-Way Tree. You see a group of three cops ambling down Molynes Road. You then see an uncouth Coaster bus driver, doing as all Coaster bus drivers do, stop in the road, while the conductor beseeches a group of commuters to get on.

It happens in the eyeline of the police, but they do nothing. And because the driver and conductor know the police will not act, they think nothing of blocking the path of other motorists going about their business.

Inch forward past the tyre shop on the left-hand side of Molynes Road. You are almost at the intersection of Eastwood Park and Molynes roads. You get to the stop light at that intersection, from where you can see the Transport Centre on your left and you are held up not because the light is on red, but because a taxi has stopped in the road, letting off six occupants.

As this happens, the policeman standing near the stop light looks away from the screen of his phone to check out the backside of a shapely young miss who walks by him in a pair of jeans. She turns the corner and his eyes go back to his phone.

The journey through Half-Way Tree is not nearly over yet, as motorists have to navigate the police checkpoint on South Odeon Avenue where tax collection under the guise of vehicle inspection is proceeding at snail's pace. Daily, there are more police in Half-Way Tree than at any other time in the country's history. And more lawlessness and disorder.


- George Davis is a broadcast executive producer and talk-show host. Email feedback to .and