Two Sundays ago would have been a disaster of sorts if not for a good Samaritan named Henzert Mullings, better known as 'Mallit'. He and his sparring partner Powell, Rupert Spence (a welder), and Ian, known as 'Fathead' (a minivan operator) really helped me out of a sticky situation. They reminded me of the good people of Jamaica.
I exchanged cars with my son (without telling him) and departed Kingston at 7.45 that Sunday morning, with a co-worker called Lando. My intention was to "kill three birds with one stone" by visiting Duncans in Trelawny, Llandilo Housing Scheme in Sav-la-Mar, and Water Lane in Clarendon. After accomplishing my business in Duncans and Llandilo, I set out to return to Kingston, having decided that only if time permitted would we venture to visit Water Lane.
Anyway, it started to rain - country rain. I, not finding driving in rain particularly enjoyable, hooked up on a car that seemed to 'know' the road and decided to follow it even though it was travelling a bit faster than what I am accustomed to. I followed it but soon noted in my mind that "cho de car tun off" by turning right. In fact, on reflection, in the driving rain, I didn't realise that I was at the roundabout at Middle Quarters and it had really proceeded the right way to Kingston, while I must have veered left and was, in effect, on my way back to MoBay via Newmarket, New Roads, Leamington, etc.
The road was so relatively good that I didn't recognise this until I was a little past Newmarket. I turned back. On passing through Newmarket again, I hit a water-filled pothole and its sharp edge cut the right front tyre. I had a flat. I stopped immediately - in front of what appeared to be the last house on the way back to Middle Quarters. We opened the trunk and, to our dismay, there was no jack. Someone must have borrowed it and not put it back. We were in a quandary as to our next move. And cussing wouldn't help.
This was a Sunday and it was raining. This was Newmarket and no one was walking on the road to ask for assistance. This was around 2.45 in the afternoon.
Within a few minutes, a taxi slowed down. I thought to myself, "It have passengers, so him can't really stop to help." But it did. With a minimum of explanation, the driver quickly started to jack up my car to remove the wheel. He loosened three of the lugs but, to our alarm, found that removing the fourth was impossible as it had seized up. No amount of pressure on the lug tool would make it budge.
He contemplated my situation for a moment and then stated my alternatives. "Mr Chin, either you call a wrecker to tek you to Sav or to Santa. It will cost you 25-30 grand. I know a wrecker you can call. Or mi can check for a welder mi kno and him can try to heat it to take it off. Mi no kno if him deh-deh or if him will come.
"Mr Chin," he continued, alternating between proper English and Patois, "I have a lady that I pick up from the airport and mi haffi drop her first, then mi haffi check for the welder. But it far, you kno, and I won't return for a hour." We agreed to the latter alternative. We exchanged names and cell numbers and he left.
After, a little over an hour, I called his number, once, twice, and started to really panic when I called a third time and he didn't answer. After another five minutes, relief. Mallit called and said, "Mi jus drop off the lady and mi a go look for the welder." He called back (thanks for the technology called cell phones) after a short time to say he had found the welder and he had already put the welding plant in the back of his taxi, "but the welder don't ready yet". Another 10 minutes elapsed. Mallit called once more saying he was on his way and he should be with me in 30 minutes.
HOUSE ON A HILL
In fact, he showed up in what seemed to be just 20 minutes. The welder (Spence) proceeded to set up the welding plant, only to realise that there was no source of electricity. The house I had parked in front of only had 110 volts, while the plant needed 220. The occupant did say the house behind him had 220 power and we should just go around the back and ask.
There being no alternative, Mallit said, "Come, Mr Chin, mek you and I go." We went around the corner only to confront a steep driveway with more than a 30-degree gradient with the said house being 100 yards up this hill. Undaunted, my 'good Samaritan friend' set off with me in tow, all the time Mallit muttering, "And him sey it just behind the house."
After stopping to catch our breath a couple of times, we reached the house. I stated my problem and the occupant kindly agreed. Spence connected his plant and in 'two twos' the lug was off. Remember, all this time it continued to rain, the intensity varying between light and heavy. And we didn't have anything to cover us. Yet, not a cuss word. Mallit, Powell and Spence were true Samaritans. How could they curse?
Worse was to come, however. We discovered that the spare did not have enough air in it. Virtually unfazed, Mallit said he would use his spare which, although not fitting exactly, we could drive slowly down to Middle Quarters and then see what our options would be from there.
Almost in a jiffy, Mallit had put on his spare. Off we went. Slowly driving behind his taxi at 20-30 mph, it took us what seemed to be an inordinate time to reach.
On reaching Middle Quarters, where the rain eased temporarily, there were more taxi men and busmen to suggest what could be our next move.
"De tyre can fix. De tyre can't fix. Yes, man, mi sey de tyre can fix man. De tyre buss too much. No, man, mi kno a tyre man who can vulcanise it. But it will have a big bulge. You could continue to drive slowly to Santa. No, that would further damage the threading because the spare tyre no fit on right. Anybody have a old spare that can fit the rim? What's the rim size again? Mi wonder if any tyre man open, though (6.15 p.m.), sah?" were just a few of the comments/questions/suggestions.
Mallit, not being a man to 'linga', made the decision to head off to Santa (Cruz) to repair the tyre. He, with Powell, Spence and myself as passengers, started to move off when there was a commotion and a lot of shouting from behind us. Someone had found a used tyre. He threw it in the back.
We reached Santa in 25 minutes. Mallit appeared to know exactly where he was going. The tyre man looked at the tyre and said it would cost $2,500 to fix and would take one and a half hours to vulcanise. I had only limited funds, and told him to fit on the used, almost bald one, more because I wanted to reach home, and the thought of waiting one and a half hours was daunting. We were wary about this entire ordeal and I just wanted it to end.
With the used tyre fitted, we headed back to Middle Quarters. In no time, Mallit had replaced his spare with my 'new' used tyre. I found out that a bus driver had provided the used tyre and I went and thanked him. He said that his name was Ian, but everyone calls him 'Fathead'. Staring him in the face, I could see why. He said he drives a minivan and plies the MoBay/Sav route. I subsequently discovered that Fathead had provided the used tyre free of cost.
I thanked all these good people for their unselfish deeds and departed at 7:50 p.m.
Mallit was so thoughtful that he had the courtesy to call at around 8:30 p.m., when we had just passed Pepper heading to Spur Tree, to say he had reached home and was just checking if we were OK.
He even called again the following morning to check if we had reached safely.
Thanks again and big up to Henzert Mullings who plies the Treasure Beach to Black River route. Based on his actions, I am sure that he is beloved on his route and is truly 'a big man in town'.
Egerton Chang is a businessman. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.