Egerton Chang | Dirty diapers, fish farm and whorehouse
Particularly when I am down and on my face, or when I am seeking to make a little extra money, my mind wanders into businesses that might appear far out.
One of my first 'projects' that I put a good amount of thought into was a diaper service.
Remember, it was 1974 when I had finished my MBA and returned to Jamaica. Mothers were still using cloth diapers. Washing, ironing, and reusing them was the practice of the day. Pampers and other disposable diapers were just entering the Jamaican market.
The plan was to offer a service to pick up the soiled diapers in the mornings, wash, sanitise, and iron them, and return them in the afternoon-evening.
Profit-and-loss and cash-flow projections were done rather elaborately and in detail. Being young and having just finished my MBA, I pored over them many times, fine-tuning them.
It must be noted that personal computers weren't even thought of in the mid-1970s, and so every change required a complete set of reworks.
Fortunately, I didn't go into that business, for within a short time, disposable diapers soon became the norm for every mother, no matter their income or social status. Pampers and Huggies became the go-to products.
Another project I thought of chancing my hand at was fish farming. Interested to the point of actually looking at one of the existing fish farms, which was up for sale.
Again, the relevant profit-and-loss and cash-flow financials were done, which showed that on paper, the project was promising, indeed viable.
So, I met the seller out by Ferry and followed him to his farm in Hill Run. All the negatives, like the amount of praedial theft, the distance to regularly travel, and the amount of work involved, wasn't as great a deterrent as one of the smallest ones: mosquitoes. Those little nuisances became mountains in my mind so much so that being swarmed at Hill Run was enough to put fish farming to bed.
Around 1981-82, I was unemployed for a good period. During this time, I thought of a great venture guaranteed to make a lot of money.
Yes, I actually explored setting up a brothel! A higher-class one, but nevertheless a good ol' Jamaican whorehouse.
The plan was to actually have 'ladies' in residence whereby men would come and utilise their 'services'. These ladies would be tested twice per month by a doctor for any venereal diseases so that the service was guaranteed safe and definitely on the up and up.
The intended 'madam' was a girl named Dawn, who was a lady of the night.
I met her one Friday night on Trafalgar Road near the intersection with Hope Road. It was a little before 10 p.m. I was on my way to Road Runner - a fast food eatery located on Tobago Avenue in New Kingston that was very popular at the time - and I offered her a lift. She was in a nice purple outfit that was like a cocktail dress.
After she got in, I asked her where she was going, and she answered, "New Kingston." I said quizzically, "New Kingston?" She, in turn, asked, "Where are you going?" I told her I was going to Road Runner, and she said, "Let me off anywhere near there."
I, being very unsuspecting and having a little time on my hands, again insisted, "No, tell me where you are going. I can drop you there."
In 'raw cha' Patois, she blurted out, "Whahappn, yuh no know wah I am. Yuh buying?" On reflection, she probably thought I was mocking her because her tone and demeanour, which up to that point had been quite polite, changed completely. I truly had no clue to this, especially as she was standing where these ladies don't normally hang out, in a nice cocktail-like dress, at a time much earlier than when they usually plied their trade.
Anyway, during the course of the night, I had occasion to drop her at her home (not for sex). She lived in a small side of a house in Richmond Park and it was in darkness. There was no electricity, and she had to light candles to see.
On her dresser, through the flickering of the candle light, I saw a picture of a cute little girl. I asked who that was and she said that it was her daughter. I enquired where she was, and she said, "America".
The next day, for no reason other than that I felt it would be nice and she probably needed it, I bought her a box lunch.
DAWN OF A NEW PROJECT
We got to talking, and that's when the genesis of the brothel arose. (Incidentally, she told me that the purple outfit was her 'lucky' dress as the previous night when she wore it, she had picked up two clients).
And so one of the names I tossed around in my head for this establishment was 'Dawn's Delight'. It's funny, but she never told me her last name or even if she was actually named Dawn.
Of course, the required financial projections had to be, and rather gladly, done by yours truly who, I must admit, had dollars on his mind.
The ladies were to be paid per 'trick'. Being a novice to this business, I did my projections a little in the dark. One evening when I actually showed Dawn what I planned on paying the girls, she exclaimed in some amazement, "Yuh mussa mad. Yuh paying dem too much!"
During this time, my focus was to find a suitable location. After mulling over a few places, my interest was drawn to an old house at the corner of Upper Musgrave Avenue and Upper Braemar Avenue that a friend of mine, Paul, had recommended. This old house was rather large, with a porch surrounding it, which virtually doubled its size; was near New Kingston; and was upscale enough for this bordello.
The house was unoccupied save for a single tenant (a soon-to-be-reggae legend), who was occupying a small piece of the porch that was enclosed to make a livable space.
We had actually bought paint and started painting the rooms when a confluence of events took place.
I noticed that I was seeing Dawn less frequently, while, whenever I would see her, she was in the company of a seemingly well-to-do gentleman in a nice Volvo.
Then I stopped seeing her on the road completely. In my heart, I choose to believe that better had come to Dawn. In my imagination, I fancied that she had found her knight in shining armour who just whisked her off her feet.
Around the same time, I noticed that my painter/handyman, who grew up virtually in my family, had become reticent and not as enthused about the project. Many years later, he confessed that he had spilled the beans on the venture to my eldest sister (the one who was his 'mother'). She did not approve and told him, on the quiet, not to push it.
And third, I landed an honest-to-goodness J-O-B.
Anyway, the convergence of these three eventually put paid to this venture, which lasted less than five months.
Curiously, the house in question subsequently became a children's nursery and is now a fitness centre.
I have often wondered about Dawn. Wondered what became of her. I want to believe that she met her prince charming and is living happily ever after.