We awoke on Tuesday to a sinking feeling and a wifi signal. Actually, there was wifi. It was lovely.
We went to breakfast, and I had a final round of two fried eggs on toast over easy, a grilled sausage, and a boiled egg. And some fruit. And some cheese in between. Then it was back to the pool. I finished off the blog for the day before, and read it to Helen for her approval and suggestions, and then it was a swim to the tune of a stats podcast.
It was as hot as it had been since we arrived, and still as windy. The bartender made me a vodka cocktail, and Helen had a beer.
We were saying goodbye to some of the guys round the pool when I received one of the more unusual requests in my life. I was walking back to Helen, talking to this guy, when he asked for my shorts. It took a moment to register, and I had to check what I’d heard. He said that his shorts were wearing out, and he couldn’t afford new ones, and could he have mine when I left. I said to Helen, “This guy wants my shorts.” She looked up from her book, shrugged, and went back to her reading.
As I reflect back on it, chances are it was a way of asking for a tip, maybe. Or a donation to a worthy cause. It’s possible that the last thing he expected was to actually get a pair of shorts. But I went up to the room, got a spare pair, and presented them to him. “enjoy,” I said. “Yeah mon,” he said. That was it. Transaction done.
And then it was time for lunch. There was no sign of Storm, the girl (young lady) who had been the quizmaster on previous days, and there was to be no lunchtime quiz today. And we never did get our prize for winning the music quiz, after all that effort.
We went back to the room to finish packing, shower, and dress for the journey. With one last wistful glance at the view from the balcony, we went to check out.
At the front desk, I debated with the clerk how much I should pay for wifi. I said that since I’d asked for 7 days at $50, and it hadn’t worked for a lot of the time, I shouldn’t pay anything. She figured that I’d had three days of use, and therefore I should pay for it at the day rate of $10 a day. None of it added up, but when she said that if I didn’t pay, she would have to pay instead, I couldn’t argue any more. Presumably there is a real manager to whom an email can be sent, or it’ll just go in the Tripadvisor review. Or both.
The taxi turned up on time. It was indeed the same two Jeeps welded together, with a Toyota badge on it. I asked the driver if he’d been told about driving the smooth route. He assured me that he was an experienced driver, and would be able to take care of it. As we set off, he put his home-recorded CD into the player, and once again I was listening to someone else’s music. Fortunately, it was inoffensive, and I could tune it out, just until ‘Lady in Red’ by Chris de Burgh came on.
I have no idea whether we took a different route or not – certainly a lot of it was the same, and Helen thinks it was all the same, not that her sense of indirection is typically a reliable guide in such matters.
However, as the drive was in daylight, it wasn’t nearly so bad. It was fascinating to watch the landscape pass by. It was reminiscent of Antigua, but on a larger scale. Jamaica is a mountainous country, with associated twisting roads, blind corners, and fine views. We were struck in particular by the many small shacks by the roadside that could be bars, jerk centers, or purveyors of fruit or wood carvings. The impression was that it could be days between sales for some of them. I’d love to be one of those roving reporters, or even just have a local guide, and go and talk to some of those people and hear their stories.
I did reflect at one point as we rounded an especially sharp and blind bend in the middle of the road, that here I was, sitting in a tin can (Major Tom), on poor mountainous roads, with no seatbelt available, while the driver was on his mobile phone. It seemed quite a lot of risk factors to be dealing with all in one go.
At a junction near to Kingston, we suddenly had our windscreen cleaned, and the driver paid up with some small coin, as other drivers were also doing. I didn’t see anyone object. It’s a matter of speculation as to what would have happened to their vehicles had they done so.
The approaches to Kingston are unappealing. It’s an industrialised area, and I’d forgotten about traffic, so the partly congested roads were a rude reminder. But it was still an odd mixture, with goats wandering around, and close to the airport we saw a very large pig going for a stroll along the pavement.
We arrived at Kingston airport in what subjectively seemed like a much shorter time than the outbound journey, although it was in fact just a few minutes less. So much for the longer route needing an earlier pickup time! Maybe the driver needed to get to the airport to pick up his next passenger.
Check-in was painless, and we were given passes to the lounge. I hadn’t known what to expect, but once airside we bought some gifts in what was a very spacious, modern and clean shopping area. I didn’t see any electronics shops though, no doubt to Helen’s relief.
We went to the lounge, which was really nice, and had excellent wifi, so I could post off the last two days worth of blog. I did have to explain to the young lady behind the bar that a ‘vodka orange’ was a vodka and orange juice, and that I had also asked for a vodka and diet coke, and not a vodka and tonic. I took it anyway, but then she brought a vodka and diet coke to our seats, so I was well set up.
I’m reminded of a time, many years ago, when Helen and I were visitng Prague. We went to a small cafe, where I ordered a cappucino. After a while, the waitress brought along an espresso. When I pointed out her error, she insisted that I had ordered an espresso, which I don’t, and never have drunk. She showed me what she had written down to prove that I’d said what I hand’t. I had to pay for both an espresso and a cappucino.
When the flight started boarding, we were summoned with other passengers in the lounge to be escorted to the gate before most other passengers arrived. It was a good experience.
On the flight the beef was a bit tough, but tasty, and they didn’t have the duty free vodka that I wanted. It was also quite bumpy early on, with the seatbelt sign lit for long periods. There must have been a lot of people with their legs crossed including, at one point, Helen, who decided she could wait no longer. As she unbuckled her seatbelt, the steward pointed out that the seatbelt light was still on. He must have noticed the look on her face as his warning tailed off, and he finished, “…unless you’re desperate.” Helen merely nodded and made a dash for it.
The crew were pretty good overall, but I have to mention one stewardess who I thought of as the ice queen. Before take off, I was talking to Helen, when a washbag was thrust in front of my face. As pure reflex I took it before realising what was happening, and then had to pass it back. Whereas the other crew would engage eye contact with passengers before asking if they wanted an item, other items from this lady did periodically suddenly appear in front of me. It was a bit startling.
Immigration and baggage collection were straight forward, and then there was Patrick in my car to pick us up. We really did notice, given our recent experience, how smooth and quiet the journey home was. We could talk without having to shout, or simultaneously clench stomach and neck muscles to maintain our seats.
And so we arrived home. There by the main computer was the offending waterproof mp3 player, pretending that nothing had happened. I reflected that the only tech we hadn’t really used were the walkie talkies, as we’d never been far enough apart for long enough to need them. Then I went to bed for a good sleep, wondering where our next holiday would take us, and whether the mifi would work there.