Mon | Nov 29, 2021

Surviving the roads

Published:Sunday | June 8, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Daniel Thwaites

Daniel Thwaites

I read this morning that fines for speeding tickets are set to jump by up to 300%, but there is behaviour on the roads that probably should attract the death penalty. Just this week, I was travelling with guests from Kingston to Ocho Rios. We were coming up the narrow main thoroughfare of Ewarton when a kamikaze truck driver blasted through at about 100kmh coming directly towards our stopped vehicle. It veered away at the last moment, but not before causing a near cardiac arrest.

This must count as some kind of assault, for there was definitely the apprehension of cataclysmic contact resulting in emotional whiplash and psychic distress. It would have been appropriate for a policeman to remove this maniac from the road for that alone. The recklessness is astonishing.

By the way, I could be alone on this, but I want the authorities to know that I'm still very dependent on road signs. There are none at some critical junctures, I imagine because road construction is under way. But I noticed other ample signage, slightly morose, announcing the number of road fatalities for the last few years. Presumably, those signs will have to be updated annually to account for new road deaths, but please help me to avoid becoming one of those statistics.

The Bog Walk gorge road was a treat. Never mind how to explain why the 18th-century Flat Bridge remains the ford for such an important thoroughfare. Having grown up with it as the-bridge-to-not-fall-off, its terrors have receded somewhat, but are not entirely gone. Plus, every now and again someone still manages to steer a vehicle into the gaping Rio Cobre.

Anyhow, having survived that episode in Ewarton, the rest of the journey seemed relatively peaceful. Other 18-wheelers careening threateningly around the corners of Mount Rosser seemed less terrifying, going to show that once a man has become acclimatised to intense distress, threats of other grief have far less impact in a kind of PTJDSD (post-traumatic-jamaica-driving-stress-disorder). With the roads and the kind of driving out there, it's amazing we have as few road fatalities as we do.

INSPIRING SCENERY

I should say that a pleasant part of country travelling is seeing fathers and mothers walking their perfectly shiny children to and from school. After all the debate, it is the last word on why we must be optimistic about the country. But it's also scary to see the little children sometimes walking alone while cars whiz by, the driver talking on one phone and texting on another.

Then things got dicey in beautiful Fern Gully when a roaring discussion - I should say 'quarrel' - got going because of the Big Bamboo statues. You know the ones where the diminutive man is standing holding a massive light pole where ordinary men have smaller utensils.

One enemy of the people in my chariot (my law partner) felt that the statues are crude and offensive and oughtn't be on casual public display. The theory here, I suppose, is that there must be zero profanity, particularly wherever the young and the sensitive might come across nudity and sexuality.

If I try very hard, I can just glimpse this perspective. Presumably, the joyous virility symbolised by the statute is too graphic for those with tender constitutions and highly attuned moral antennae. It is, after all, a basic requirement of public order that we do not always and everywhere drop our trousers.

But on the wider point, I disagree. Correct opinion is that these celebrations of Jamaican manhood aren't disturbing at all, and are, if anything, just funny. Since ancient times, Priapus, symbolised by just such engorged figures, was a minor Greek god of fertility. In fact, the Tourist Board, or TPDCo, or whomever is responsible for such things, should probably assist the artists to have more and larger such displays.

It's how 'Stella Got Her Groove Back', or on, and even if that didn't exactly work out for Stella in the long run because her gentleman preferred gentlemen, there are millions of other frustrated American and European women who need inspiration to travel, sing, and write novels.

This disagreement will never be settled, though. I remember the passionate debates and predictions of doom regarding the buxom statues in Emancipation Park. Amazingly, the country survived, though I'm sure there are many who still consider them vulgar and immoral. For what is harmless in the eyes of one man is sometimes wickedness in other eyes, and what is a little comical artwork to one is inappropriate to another.

In fact, as a result of a dare, I may be obliged to put one of these sculptures in my law office in the USA, perhaps for use as a door-stopper, a hat-holder, or some other kind of office ornament. My challenge will be to avoid litigation on the theory that the Big Bamboo creates a hostile work environment. Being Jamaican is becoming, if not exactly illegal, a near-crime.

Speaking of which, if, as The Gleaner proposes, gay marriage becomes acceptable here, the statues may evolve into sword-fighting bamboos. However, if Jamaica remains a comfortable 50 years behind global trends, with any luck I'll be in the bosom of Abraham by then.

Finally, we arrived at Jamaica Inn, a really special place, beautiful and elegant. I am happy to be back. Manager Kyle Mais makes everyone welcome, while at the bar, the engaging Mr Seford Freebourne will concoct further cause for happiness. The grounds are impeccable, but it is the evident pride of the staff that ultimately gives it the charm.

All of which is to say that if you're lucky enough to physically survive the roads, emerge unscathed through the chaos of Ocho Rios, and are not so prudish that the graphic street art gives you a heart condition, you end up at the Jamaica Inn agreeing that this country is terrifying. And chaotic. And contradictory. And gorgeous.

Daniel Thwaites is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.