Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer
I have been driving through Liguanea, St Andrew, regularly for about a decade. Over the past three months there has been a very worrying development which, if not nipped in the bud, has the potential to escalate into a consistent headache for motorists.
The windscreen wipers have arrived at the intersection of Hope and Barbican roads, and they are at it in earnest.
They do not come at once. this bunch of boys is of varying height, and there is at least one who appears to be under seven years old. And in this case, it was an adult who led them, a man (in his early- to mid-20s) who stationed himself at the intersection where traffic going towards Half-Way Tree from Papine or filtering left onto Barbican Road stops.
He was not alone for long - in this juicy four-way stoplight in the heart of 'uptown', with a guaranteed volume of cars - not only because of the commercial district but also the tertiary and secondary-level institutions as far as Heart/NTA on Gordon Town Road and the nearby Campion College. The youngsters came after, the major concentration being at the Barbican/Old Hope roads intersection beside the Total Service Station.
That is where I had an encounter (of sorts) with a boy of about 14 years old last Thursday. He came to the window and delivered his piece, about being from downtown Kingston and attending a particular high school, but coming to ask for help as his parents have no money to give him. Then he stuck out his right hand, palm open, expectant.
He remained expectant for a couple seconds and then walked away, leaving me with what I think was a blessing.
A day or two before that, I watched as two boys fought for wiping rights at the opposite intersection, in the vicinity of the Texaco Service Station. The more aggressive of the two chased his competitor across the road, asserting that this was his spot.
And good spots they are too - not only because of the volume of traffic, but also because chances are there will be a high concentration of generally docile, relatively high-disposable-income uptowners. If this assumption is correct, then the pickings should be easy and 'nuff'. However, this will, inevitably, lead to more windscreen wipers - and more aggression towards hapless motorists. I have seen signs of it already.
I suggest that this windscreen wiping in Liguanea be curtailed before it escalates further. The Matilda's Corner Police Station is nearby and, if social intervention is the way to go, I am sure that persons who work at the University Hospital of the West Indies, University of the West Indies, Mona, and University of Technology, use the Liguanea thoroughfare as part of their daily commute. As do I; if there is an organised programme, it would only be appropriate that if I am bothered by the boys' presence, I should also be bothered by their condition.
One of my definitions of extortion is the uninvited provision of an unnecessary service with the expectation of reward and, failing that, the possibility of repercussions. While I do not know if there have been outright threats so far, I do know that the other conditions have been satisfied.
It is only a matter of time before the latter is added on.