As I walk by, sometimes I catch two Jamaicans looking at each other, “Where’s the fire?” I see in their exchange of glances. They’re wondering why someone might be in such a rush. From my perspective, as I walk around town, I constantly run into fellow pedestrians doing a slow, slow, shuffle. I’m a brisk walker and an energetic pace feels natural to me. And I have a learned, deliberate walk that comes from years of being in places where a single, expat woman is the target of every panhandler and cat caller in my path, so I walk fast to avoid their advances. The problem is that when others amble along in front, walk three abreast, stop to check their phone with no warning, light their cigarette, or just stop to smell the friggin’ roses– in the mIDDLe of the sidewalk – it can be a tad frustrating.
But, unfortunately, that’s no excuse. I know that I can’t be that foreigner who barges past and demands that everyone get out of my way. It’s rude, tacky, and after all, I’m in their space. So in addition to the uneven surface, crazy driver, dog poo and pothole radars, I need to add “slow walking person” to my calculations, so I can slow down a little before I approach the ambler, so as to not scare the bejesus out of them. They are, in turn, supposed to notice that someone is coming up behind them and step out of the way. But they often remain blithely unaware and I need to pull out technique two: “Good morning, ladies,” I say cheerily. “How are you?” “Good morning,” they say back, coming to a complete halt to search for something at the bottom of their bag. So, when that fails, there’s technique three: a hop, skip and jump up and down the curb (or between a gap in the fence) where I use my speed advantage to quickly nip around them. The problem here is that the aforementioned dog poo, pot hole or uneven road surface sits lurking at just the point where I need to do that little jig, just like a little unexploded bomb.
Is it worth it you ask? After all, island time is the call of all visitors to Jamaica who long for their famous “no worries” laid back vibe. It’s hot, take it slow, go with the flow. Why not stop and smell the Jamaican roses? Because there are no roses. Because the traffic light is about to change and that bus is going to blow toxic diesel smoke in my face. Because the corner panhandler has already spotted me, and I know the guy leaning up against the wall is planning on making me his next taxi fare. Ugh, no thanks. Gotta go!