Jamaica’s potholes

“Look out, Daddy! Pothole.” That’s become one of my daughter’s chants from the back seat of the car. She doesn’t yell for everyone she sees because there are lots, but she tries to warn about the biggest one.

“Uncle, Dennis, it wouldn’t be Jamaica if there were no potholes,” said one of my favourite children when I was driving in ripple fashion over the hills. I had to agree. Just minutes before, I’d made some twists and turns to avoid some deep potholes only to find they had been filled.

Life in Jamaica is all about potholes: every district I’ve visited has them. Some of the worst are in the highest of high class neighbourhoods. We learn to negotiate them. We miss some and feel the car sink and hear the thuds.

When heavy rain falls, or hail as we had yesterday, the holes get filled with water and hide from us. Bump! The car plunges into a hole. You should drive carefully on such days. It may not save your car but it’s smart.

Potholes get repaired and soon reappear. On some of my regular routes, I’ve seen this happen twice already in four months. Cynical folks see this as just a mascarade. Fill. Fill again. Fill again. Cha-ching!

But, the Jamaica of potholes is Jamaica. It mimics life in many ways. Fix, but not too well. Fix again. We twist and turn to avoid the worst bumps, but sometimes we just misjudge and then we hear the crunch.

Real road traffic problems come up again and again. Solutions come up, again and again. They get implemented for a while, then the flurry of action ends. The problems build up, again, and again. Look at the current brouhaha over so-called party buses. Been there. Didn’t do anything much about that. Been there again. Doing a little again, but for how long? Pull over some PSV and force the drivers to rip off the tinted glass. Show shock and awe that children will be unruly and get up to mischief if opportunities exist. Do little to curb the opportunities. Wash. Rinse. Reload. Wash…

20131010-112929.jpgYou could pick almost any aspect of life and find it’s riddled with potholes. A very Jamaican response, uttered with pride, would be “Ah so wi dweet!” (“That’s how we do it!”)

Water supply problems. Partial fix or no fix. Electricity supply problems. Want it and can’t get it legally? Get a hook up and steal it. Yes, there will be random checks and disconnections, but take a chance, man. Want cable and can’t afford it? Highjack it from someone. Just ‘do a thing’. Everyone’s doing it, man! Well, not everyone, but enough to make it seem like normal behaviour. If you never deal with it, it won’t go away.

Look at the economy. You really think the solution is hard? It is, if you choose to only take half of the measures needed. Don’t want to upset him, man: he’s a big man. Can’t upset her: she give us lots of money. Let them have exemptions. Let them not pay taxes. Don’t press too hard on late or nonpayers of taxes, utility bills, fees. Don’t follow procurement procedures. Don’t encourage people to buy fewer foreign goods. Worse still, give waivers for imports of a host of nonessentials. You have to buy that Porsche? The government debt became so high it could only be a burden. One big open sore, just festering and turning the whole body economic gangrenous. Financing it means little money left to provide services. The public sector can’t function: it costs more and earns less. The spiral turns. Jobs should go. Functions should be shed. Can’t do it. Won’t do it. Debt gets bigger. Interest gets higher. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Wash. Rinse…

You can develop ways to detect real potholes. You can even find and app. for it for your smartphone. You can take care to avoid them. Few of us can fix them, even though you can buy packs of repair material. Most are too large for individuals to mend. So, with the other metaphorical potholes.

People are left helpless, besides trying to avoid them. Part of the daily grind that reminds you where you are.