Who put the boy in ‘Boycott’?

Remember last November, a little furore in Jamaica about 13 Jamaicans being denied entry to Trinidad? No. Remember the idea of boycotting Trinidadian products? No. Shame on you. But, not really. I guess that Christmas got in the way. A reputable survey showed that only 4 in 10 Jamaicans were ready to put their money where their mouths seemed to be and support the boycott. Some people believe that its due to poverty and illiteracy that most Jamaicans have not jumped on this particular waggon. It could also be…shock, horror…common sense.

I tried looking carefully at things ‘Jamaican’ at the time of the suggested boycott. I noted that several prominent brands that we thought were ours, were theirs. When I was doing that I was just chomping on my bag of Excelsior Crackers. Well, Rahtid! They are owned by a Trini company.

Excelsior Water Crackers: Wonderful with anything or just alone
Excelsior Water Crackers: Wonderful with anything or just alone

The crackers flew out of my mouth so fast, my daughter thought I needed medical help. I gasped for air. She brought me a glass of water. I started to sweat profusely, and she went to get me a towel. I asked to lie down, and she guided me to the sofa, and held my hand as I calmed down, stopped babbling “Mi crackas! Mi crackas!” Her “It’s OK, Daddy,” just wasn’t helping, though. It was NOT OK.

The sense of sell-out was too bitter in my mouth. Could I find a truly Jamaican brand? I could, but they did not taste right. Would I have to live my life as a traitor, a quisling? Maybe, I would need to order them online and have them delivered to my home, rather than buying in the supermarket and have real Jamaicans point their fingers and hiss their teeth as I piled them into my cart. “Look at him!” I could hear them whispering. “I hope he chokes,” they would add.

I’m usually strong-principled, but this was a tipping point. I just had to stop eating those crackers.

But, the challenges were all around me. I wanted to go on holiday with my family over Christmas. My wife had booked the tickets and bought the presents for her family. We were packed and at the airport. Then I looked at her in an Epiphany moment. She had parked our luggage in front of the counter for Caribbean Airlines. What was the woman doing? She’s regionally savvy. Was she just being heartless? Was this another test? I’d failed so many. Why were we not flying American Airlines, even though their flights were not direct and would force us to have a four-hour layover in Miami, after enduring the long lines at Immigration, and the risk of not getting a connection because of the severe snow storms that were battering the US east coast? I could tolerate that in order to stay true to my cause. Was she selling us for the ‘thirty pieces of silver’ that was the promise of an tasty in-flight meal? She’s a good Christian, so it couldn’t be that. This was not the place to have ‘that talk’, so I did what good husbands should, I bowed my head and did not make eye contact with her for the rest of the day. But, the shame, I felt. The shame.

Caribbean Airlines: almost unique for giving passengers real food in-flight
Caribbean Airlines: almost unique for giving economy-class passengers real food in-flight

I let that pass during the festivities because she bought me such nice gifts. I had almost forgotten how she had acted until this week.

She had to travel for some serious work reasons, involving the region’s main financial decision-makers amongst the stakeholders who would be present. It would coincide with Valentine’s Day. (You know she cares enough to remember you at such times.) She suggested that our daughter (who had no school the following Monday and Tuesday) and me join her and spend a long weekend. She promised me the chance to play in a golf tournament with some of these financial high-rollers. Her previous trips had been either to exotic places, such as Brazil or Mexico, or to places in the US that offered new interests, such as Miami. I said “Yes, please.” Then the bombshell. She was headed to Port of Spain.

So, from almost needing the Heimlich maneuver a few months back, to being put into an embarrassing public position during the season of goodwill, I now had to suffer the indignity of going into Devil’s Lair.

Devil's Lair
Devil’s Lair

I took a deep breath. I saw my daughter’s eyes begin to well with tears as my brow started to frown. “Daddy?” Her voice quivered. “Daddy, say yes!” My head was spinning. All I could see was darkness in front of me. I thought about the notion that bad things happen in threes. Jesus and Peter; the cock crowing; denial. My mouth went into a pout. Was this her way of telling me something that she could not tell me? She’s not Jamaican, so her heart would not be broken like mine. Those fears about intercultural marriages raised themselves. I took a deep breath before I answered.

So, last night, close to midnight, I stepped off a jet plane. My daughter had slept most of the flight, drooling on my shirt as her head lay on my arm. We were met my ‘men from the Ministry’ as we cleared Immigration. We waited for our bags and were then taken to a large police force van. We were whisked from the airport to the hotel as fast as the driver could make it, with the aid of an accompanying jeep that helped us bypass every red light. Soca music was blaring from the bus’ sound system; the essence of Carnival was already in the air. We arrived at the hotel. “Good morning, Mr. Jones,” was the greeting from the small ‘committee’ there to welcome us: it was past midnight. My wife called to us as we were headed to the reception desk.

Talk is cheap; money buys land, goes the saying in the Caribbean. Add me to the 6 in 10.