Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Friends, Fruit & Feet

It has been a crazy morning, and  another crazy trip to the grocery store (surprise, surprise). I know how the buses work; I know where the grocery stores are. Yet somehow, today, was again, a debacle. As a disclaimer, I will say that I don’t think is my fault. Rather, it happens because of the “laid back” bus system. You are probably thinking that a “laid back” bus system sounds bizarre… You are correct.

11:30 am. I grab my backpack and walk a few minutes to the bus stop, the same bus stop where the whole bus debacle began a few weeks ago. The bus stop where buses don’t really stop very often. In the city where buses don’t run on any sort of schedule and go more or less (today I discovered the less) wherever you/they (today it was they) want. Always a recipe for adventure.

So I wait for the bus for about 15 minutes. A crazy Bahamaian guy mumbling stuff walks by. I have no idea what he is saying so I smile and nod. No buses. A super-sketchy looking mini van with tinted windows and peeling paint (the type of a van a crew of hairy, bearded house painters would drive around in the U.S.) sees me, honks, does a crazy U-turn in the middle of the road, screeches to hault and pulls up next to me. The driver rolls down his window and yells “Where you going?” I tell him I am waiting for the bus to take me to the grocery store. He says he will take me for $2. I tell him I only have bus fare (not true), and that I will wait. He asks how I plan on getting my groceries if I only have $1.25. He thinks he has me, forgetting that I am American and that we love our credit cards. I tell him I will pay with credit card (also not true). Then he tells me that he will take me for the bus fare if I also buy him some groceries like apples and oranges. Because I would like to make it home alive and with my groceries I think him but tell him that I will wait for the bus. He persists, so I send him special signals with my ESP that I would like for him to drive away and eventually he does. Phew.

Meanwhile, the crazy young, mumbling Bahamian emerges from a bush and hollers something to me about why the guy stopped for me and not him. I think the answer is pretty obvious. He shouts some crazy stuff and walks over to talk to me. He is eating some sort of fruit that he has foraged off the bushes so I ask what it is because I am curious and clearly I am not going anywhere anytime soon. He tells, incomprehensibly, what it is, and digs back in the bushes to get me some. Out of boredom I began eating mystery fruits with my crazy friend.  The fruit looks like a shrunken crab apple.  I have no idea what it is.  Does it taste good?  Not particularly.  After a little snacking, my buddy tells me that buses don’t come here very often. Yes, I know. He asks if I know where the other bus stop is down the street and suggests we start walking. So we walk. Then he tells me you can also get there by the beach, which I already know, and starts to walk towards the beach. Thank you, crazy friend, but I will not be walking along secluded side streets and beaches with you today. But thank you for the strange fruits.

I walk alone in the direction of the busier bus stop down the main road. After about 10 minutes, a real public bus honks and does a crazy U-turn (these are popular today). I get in and am introduced to a lively Bahamian passenger named George. He welcomes me to the bus and tells me that he made the driver stop especially for me. Thank you, George. George asks where I’m from; I tell him Virginia. “Virginia! Newport News! Norfolk! Richmond! Where in Virginia?” I am impressed with George’s geography skills and tell him Richmond. “Richmond! 804!” Clearly I am also impressed with George’s area code skills. He asks what I am doing and how long I am here. I explain that Charlie is in school and that we will be here for 4 months. He asks about my job and I tell him I am an artist. He tells me that I’ll be fine because my doctor can take care of me. As he leaves the bus, he says, grinning “Enjoy the Bahamas and good luck to the #1 artist.” Why thank you, George!

I enjoy a few more minutes of icy AC until the bus driver drops me off at the bus stop and I walk to the store. I pass some men sitting on the side of the road who whistle at me and say “Hey Blondie!” which I find funny, rather than offensive, because I am clearly not blonde. I ignore them and continue walking and finally I arrive at Thompson’s, my favorite little grocery store, and get some fruit, fresh bread, chicken, and beef.

I leave the store with a full backpack. I cut through the gas station to avoid the whistling men and cross a major intersection to wait at the bus stop. Crossing the street is always a little daunting since the cars drive on the other side of the road here. I make it across and wait a little while for the bus. When the bus comes, I ask to go to Coral Beach and am denied because the driver is going downtown. This is the first time a driver has refused to take me anywhere. He tells me to cross the street and wait on the other side to catch the bus I need. So I cross the street again (always a challenge). I wait by the gas station for a few minutes. The gas station attendant (they are old school and people still pump your gas for you here) asks where I am going and I tell him. He tells me I probably have to wait on the other side of the street. I tell him that the driver told me to wait over here and I wait for a few minutes. Then another man walks by. He is bewildered by how I even got here from Coral Beach because he says buses never come and go in that direction. I wait some more. Finally the gas station attendant starts trying to get me a ride by asking everyone at the gas station if anyone is headed towards Coral Beach. No one is. I thank him for his efforts and decide to cross the street, yet again, to wait by the bus stop. I wait for a little while to no avail. Finally, another man waiting for the bus asks where I am going. He tells me that if I ever want to get home, I should probably walk because buses never go that way. This is funny to me because I have taken buses from this exact spot back to my condo a number of times, but apparently not today.

So I walk 2 miles down Coral Road back to my condo. Two hours later I am home and drenched in sweat. Time for a nap.

P.S. -- I just did some google-research and identified the fruit: cocoplum.  Good to know.  FYI: Pass on the cocoplum.

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