The bus can swim
I'm convinced. Jamaicans are the most industrious and resourceful people on earth (until we play football against the USA, then we're just dazed and confused). Where else can a tyre be patched two dozen times and still be roadworthy? Only in Jamaica are mudguards for shoes (plastic bags) and 'reggae beds' (flattened cardboard boxes) widely marketed and sold during stage shows. Verandas have been known to become full-service salons and jerk centres. I've even seen car parts made from a knife and fork. I'm sure the fictional 1980s improviser, MacGyver, is either half-Jamaican, or Jamaicans are half-MacGyver.
We are among the most hilarious people on earth, too. I'll be the first to admit that beyond the desire to stay informed, I watch Jamaican news because, well, it's funny. Don't get me wrong; I am deeply disturbed by the perpetual plight of countless Jamaicans, which is by no means cause for comedy. But there's a reason - beyond mere acquisition of information - why news programmes are the most watched on Jamaican television.
I've viewed an intriguing account of a "simple little cow" stunning a community by becoming a raging monster. I saw a primary-school principal eloquently describe how her school was "ramsacked" (sic) by intruders. I've watched a woman candidly recounting her encounter with a 'duppy' that boxed her - not once but twice - as she walked through May Pen Cemetery. I also recall the tantalising tale of a Spanish Town boy's many ordeals with another (or perhaps the same) ghost.
Last week, though, I saw our industriousness and hilarity converge in one spectacular mass of unadulterated entertainment.
After the devastating rains that recently gripped the island, a TVJ news team ventured to rural St Andrew where, along a section of the Robertsfield main road, they encountered Mr Clifton Brown (or 'Clif-twang Brown', as he has been aptly dubbed). The road was rendered impassable by the flooded Yallahs River, which streamed violently across it. Mr Brown, in his apparent role of community entrepreneur and spokesperson, promoted a new venture - transportation across the waterlogged road by truck or piggyback at a price of $250 to $500.
In a skilful demonstration of salesmanship and twanging, Clifton conscientiously explained to TVJ the severe risk inherent in attempting to cross the engulfed roadway without his expert knowledge or that of other seasoned professionals, including fishermen, "fisher-hu-men" (fisherwomen) and others capable of "monijin the wautah" (managing the water). He cautioned that "nobody canna cross it" without this skilled assistance.
He described how a bus from Kingston attempted to cross it and was nearly washed away to "St Tamas Pan" (the fabled St Thomas pond). Only the mercy of God prevented certain calamity (or, as we later learned in Clifton's subsequent hit song, it was because "the bus can swim"). I do Clifton's sales pitch no justice, though, as printed words cannot adequately capture his exhibition of linguistic workmanship in delivering an intonation that seamlessly fused the accents of Bruce Golding, Queen Elizabeth, Barack Obama, and Bounty Killer.
An inventive young Jamaican, Kevin-Sean Hamilton (aka 'DJ Powa'), created a hysterical musical adaptation of Clifton's interview. The video has gone viral on popular video-sharing website YouTube - garnering more than 200,000 views in less than a week. Hamilton, a marketing student at the University of Technology who has no formal training in audio engineering or video editing, produced what is surely the track of the year. It is now available for purchase on iTunes - Apple's online music store. He is also selling 'Nobody Canna Cross It' T-shirts.
The entrepreneurial and creative spirit is alive and well in Jamaica. Instead of having our many hustlers and casual entrepreneurs pursuing their livelihoods within the underground economy, we should seek to transform them into legitimate small business operators. An integrated package consisting of microcredit, enterprise development (including skills and management training) and social services would go a long way towards bringing these ambitious, oft-marginalised Jamaicans into the formal economy.
This could substantially expand our economic base and, by extension, our national coffers. With the innovation that ensues, we might - believe it or not - see a Jamaican business manufacture Clifton's ultimate dream - a bus that can swim. Let us act now lest we, as a nation, are swept away to St Thomas pond.
Din Duggan is an attorney working as a consultant with a global legal search firm. Email him at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him or read his past columns at facebook.com/dinduggan and twitter.com/YoungDuggan.