AFTERNOON WEDNESDAY. The rain is pelting down in that insistent, determined way it does when it has to compete with the wind which is more interested in chasing it away than anything else. The stream bordering our place, which has a habit of evolving into a roaring muddy river at the slightest provocation, is doing its best to drown out every competing sound. In the valley, hemmed in by the hills, the wind is blowing the rain eastwards, branches of trees are tossed in all directions. The rain, which looks like a mere drizzle but is actually a steady curtain, hasn't let up since morning. Today is waiting-for-Sandy day. The people who know all about the weather say that Sandy - misnamed Sadie by one of the cable channel forecasters - will make its presence really felt sometime in the afternoon. Sandy is supposed to become a real hurricane by then. Actually she is just a bad-minded late bloomer who has locked down the town. As I watch the drama of Nature being played out, I reflect on how many storms and hurricanes we've experienced in the years of our lives in the valley where we pay our property tax. There is something familiar about the stream morphing into a raging river. It does it all the time. I've seen wind-tossed trees more times than I can count. The birds have taken leave of absence. Not one is to be seen. A branch tears loose from a tree and comes crashing down. The wind rips off some leaves and sends them flying, reviving memories of Gilbert, the devil of 1988. Gilbert was sinister and "crumoochin". We recall then, standing on the back verandah, watching as the wind chopped leaves into small pieces and plastered them onto buildings, vehicles, any available surface.
In the valley, it gave the impression that it was "not so bad to dat". With electricity gone, communication was limited. It was not until the next day that we began to learn the extent of its savagery as an equal opportunity destroyer.
ON WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON, Sandy was the object of concern, we had no clue as to what legacy it would leave behind. What we did know was that we couldn't take another Gilbert now. I dared not imagine what it would do to the road where my shelter is located. Bad roads are known across all the island these days, but I am willing to contend that mine is one of the worst.
At the end of each work day, as I lurch home, usually after dark, hoping against hope that the little car will survive to emerge from the potholes one more time, I beat up myself imagining what it must be like to drive on a nice, well-built surface, gliding along in a chariot. Have we stopped saying "better mus' come"? The road belongs to nobody. When I first moved to the neighbourhood, it was acknowledged by the KSAC as part of its remit. With the passage of time and after more than one election, my road became a bastard child. No one will admit parentage. Once or twice, after much nagging, we received a courtesy call from a KSAC official. He was very courteous, but apart from that, nothing happened. When my neighbour's stone wall lost its way in the middle of one night, slid down the hillside, crossed the road, came to rest in my house and yard, and mashed up some of the road, it lost any little spirit it had.
Today, it is impassable for most of the way and what remains is a mess, to put it mildly.I still can't go through my front door, and the road, even more than me, has given up. Few if any vehicles dare travel beyond a certain point. I don't expect much anymore. If the storm which is prowling even as I write, decides to wipe the already broken road entirely off the map, what do I do? Why should I expect any attention from the so-called authorities?
A friend has suggested that I call "Miss Gloodan" the talk show host (RJR's Hotline) to ask her if she couldn't ask somebody to do something for her - and the other neighbours who, like her, are considering buying stock in any company which manufactures front-end parts or any entrepreneur who develops a ready-to-drive road which comes out of a spray can. While I'm considering this fantasy, I look out the window and the Sandy-inspired rain has suddenly stopped. Every tree branch is still. The river is now raging and foaming as it makes its way to the Water Commission's trap at a bend in the river where it is forced to disgorge whatever garbage it has picked up and continue towards the dam. Question: By the time this is published, what would Sandy have done?
THURSDAY - printing day. We know now that Sandy raged and carried on, targeting trees in particular... fruit trees, ornamental trees, historic trees. Don't know what it had against them, but it broke branches, snapped limbs, turned them over. Schools and businesses closed, rivers rose, waves at sea thundered into land. When it was all over, Sandy's most cruel target was electricity poles and water systems. Within hours, Sandy swept out to sea after beating on selected areas of the island. Kingston, St Andrew, St Thomas, Portland, St. Mary and some of St Ann had felt its hand. The western end was spared. Sandy left the afflicted parishes to get uptight about inconveniences. By mid-morning Thursday (yesterday), songs of thanksgiving for mercies given were replaced by angry calls to talk shows, decrying inefficiencies of JPSCo, the Water Commission, and the Works Agency for not returning things "to normalcy".
It would appear that we've all been watching too much TV - where problems arise at the start of the show and the solution is presented, signed, sealed and delivered within 30 minutes. Electricity off? Turn it back on and don't bother me with details about live wires which could electrocute. No water from the tap while the flood rages? No excuses about mud and washed-out pipelines. What is it about "I want water now" that you don't understand? As for the roads, so what if it takes cash to care? Don't confuse me with facts about IMF and all that stuff.
Thank you very much, Sandy, you category one hurricane you, who didn't know enough about JA people to realise that the real damage you would cause is to have us confused...again.
TWO-EDGED SWORD: Prime Minister Simpson-Miller cuts short an official visit to Canada to be on the bridge when the country deals with Hurricane Sandy. First comment: It is expected of her. Second comment: What has she come for? What can she do? ... Some people can't win.