A piece of the action

You never know what life will throw your way. Yesterday, I took my car to be serviced–a new expierience in Jamaica. I arrived an hour early for my appointment (8.30am), and was glad that I did: it meant my car was early in line. “Half a day,” I was told was the amount of time that would be needed. Would that be half a work day or twelve hours? Either way, I had plans.

I’d arranged with a friend to meet her at a little ‘breakfast club’. The car dealer took me to another part of New Kingston and I settled into my healthy breakfast (herb and fruit tea, aloe drink and shake). It was hard to feel anything but virtuous. I decided to settle into the lounge room and do my daily writing. It was going to be a challenge. The conversation going on around me seemed innocent enough, at first. Then I detected a little touch of innuendo creeping in. People were talking about sex and sexual relations and sexual needs. I tried to focus on the intriguing topic of the PM and the media. Like a child caught between tidying its room or going to play with friends, my mind wandered.

I wont betray anyone by going into too much detail, but the conversations that were going on were really amusing. The double-entendres started to flow–aided and abetted by a writer not directly involved in the chatter 🙂 One of the ladies mentioned that this was supposed to be ‘no panties day’ and wondered who else had remembered. “I didn’t get that memo!” another lady said, with a clear tone of disappointment. “Is it every Friday?” I held back a snigger. In a room of six women and three men, I wondered if this was being too risqué. The other men didn’t seem to be bothered. The ladies joked about how young men needed to “do their thing”, and how it was better to send them out well-protected, so that they didn’t get themselves into too much trouble. “Send him off with a three months supply, sister!” I held my head and tried to focus on the image of security men pushing young reporters.

One of the women noted that I was dangerous and how I was “looking with his ears”. One, younger man, became the focus of the ladies, as they teased him about how he was being so quiet. The ladies started to joke about who was really his favourite. I wondered what this place was going to turn into. Suddenly, one of the women jumped up and plonked herself onto the young man’s lap. “You think he like you better now?” The man smiled. The other women laughed. “Cedric, can I have lunch on you today?” another asked. I suggested that she think again about the preposition she used, or whether she meant it to have the proposition implied. She smiled back knowingly. “‘On him’ is fine!” We all understood that all was understood. By, with, or alongside, were not going to replace ‘on’.

I let the rest of the group get on with their tales of relationships and who needed to be less insecure about their men. I should have had a tape recorder running. I tried to keep writing.

A Jamaican friend of mine had shared with me once his theory about the problem of the Jamaican economy and its low productivity: it’s all because people were too busy having sexual encounters or arranging them.

Fast forward…

I eventually got my car at about 2pm and was due to head home. I decided to try to find an organization, with whom I’d been trying to register for weeks but had been stymied because I could not complete a form online and I did not have opportunity to print it and send it in. Their office was now on my route. I turned into the street and looked for a sign. I forgot. In Jamaica, many businesses don’t have signs. You know the street number or location and then have to look. I got to the gate of a commercial compound, that looked like it housed a restaurant, too. The guard told me to “go round the back”. I drove on slowly and saw men rebuilding the compound and relaying tarmac. I was uneasy and backed out. A man told me that I was in the right place, though. “Just go to the back and up the stairs.” I looked through some small trees and saw another building ahead. I strolled on warily and up the stairs. No sign on the building. I saw four doors in front of me, when I got inside the building. No signs on any of them. I peered through a glass door, behind which I saw a lady working. “Is this the JGA?” I asked. “Next door,” she told me. I went through the adjacent wooden door and found the ‘staff’ hard at work–two ladies, surrounded by paper and cards, and a computer on each desk. They were the JGA. I asked them about a sign. I got a look. I dropped the topic. In no time, I had completed my form and was ready to head out.

I dallied a little in the courtyard, where a picturesque array of buildings made up a little ‘village’ of bars and eating places. I asked whether the place was open and was told that it had been refurbished and reopened a few nights ago. “It’s an adult night spot. We open at 4pm.” I thought back to my friend’s hypothesis. Partying from 4? Well, not everyone works 9-to-5, I thought. I logged the place in my mind to think about exploring sometime. I then headed back to the car and drove out of the compound. My eyes stopped on something I’d noticed before but not really registered.

I’d noticed a few women standing on the street. Not really that odd, except that the area was semi-industrial looking and they were dressed as if they were headed to a night club. The light bulb came on in my head. A few weeks ago, I’d gone to the theatre to see a play–Patrick Brown’s Ladies of the night.

I was now seeing ‘ladies of the day’. One lady, dressed is a very short skirt, then stepped to the kerbside as a car pulled up. I really should have had my video recorder on. I could see her lean down toward the passenger side window and start to talk. She nodded, then shook her head. She then stepped back on the kerb, like a sentry back to position. The car pulled off. No panky for Hanky, today, I thought. My eyes then took in a couple of other ladies, each dressed in neon colours–one wearing several shades of pink, even her hair. The heels were very high; the skirts very tight.  Shades of grey would need to be Shades of pink, if a Jamaican adaptation were written.

Sexual activity is also affected by economic conditions. The Economist produced a piece some months ago, on how sex doesn’t sell in recessionary times. Was Jamaica any different, given that it has been in near permanent recession for decades? A comical article about ‘the trade’ appeared in one of the local papers a few weeks ago, which had me laughing. But, I couldn’t help but wonder if people were really ‘transacting’ for as little as J$50 (that 50 US cents!). Supply and demand working in unison.t-rob-sun-20-oct Some local businessmen in the western part of Jamaica recently proposed that prostitution be legalised and regulated. Was that going to help reduce the government’s financial deficit? Did I want to do a scholarly study on how this particular economic activity had survived in a stagnant economy? People talk about economic conditions remaining soft. Were the ‘value’ shoppers finding things harder to come by? Were the sellers having to come up with bargain offers–buy one, get one free? Some big issues to ponder.

My mind went back a few hours. Those who wanted or needed to ‘pay to play’ are often intriguing when you think that there is plenty of action available for free.

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