Still working on The Awing Project. It’s kind of a stop and go thing. Last week I thought I had neared the end and was ready for the grommets that would be used to tie the massive tarp to the lifelines.
I had installed grommets on the forward panel many months ago. Actually, we had opted to have Custom Sails and Canvas install spurred grommets for extra hold. Now that it was time to install the rest of the grommets, I had to cart the large awing to the east end of the island on yet another “day off”. Here’s the plan:
- Take EW to work.
- Clean the boat and write a grocery list.
- Dinghy to Crown Bay
- Walk to bus stop, carrying large awning and nearly empty backpack.
- Ride safari bus to east end for $2.00.
- Drop awning off with Evelyn to be picked up on my next “day off”.
- Shop at Budget Marine and the nearby grocery store.
- Take groceries back home on the bus.
Below, a rough approximation of bus route from red star to purple star.
Here’s what actually happened:
1. 1-5 above exactly as planned.
2. After I introduce myself as, “Hi. I’m the other Barbara Hart”, Evelyn, the owner of Custom Canvas remembered me and my canvas. She suggests that I simply install my own grommets right then.
3. I had imagined a fancy-dancy industrial grommet installing, finger eating machine. Nope. Big-a$$, spurred grommets are installed by professionals while sitting on a low stool using a large tree stump as a work bench. Yes. A tree stump. There is a special, large, heavy mallet which one uses to first, punch the holes, and second, to install the grommets. I’ve installed much smaller grommets on board, with smaller tools and no tree stump, so I was familiar with the drill. I installed 23 perfect grommets, paid for the parts and was delighted.
4. Logistics. There was no way I’d be able to take the awning and groceries back on the bus, and I hated to waste a “day off”, so I decided to use some of the money I saved by doing it myself to pay for a taxi back to Crown Bay. I left the awing with Evelyn while I walked to Budget and back, then toted the awning across the street to the grocery store.
5. Groceries. Groceries purchased and stored in my backpack and in large cold carry bag, I asked the customer service manager to please call a taxi for me.
“Where do you need to go?” she asked as she dialed.
“Oh girl! That’s going to cost you!”
“I know, but it would be rude to try to take all of this stuff onto a safari.” She was impressed that I knew that. Cruisers often break the unspoken bus rules in the Caribbean. These are private vehicles and the more people they can take and the faster then can get them boarded and off boarded, the more they can earn. If we take so much stuff that we take up more than a seat, or if it takes two other passengers to get us on or off the bus with our stuff, that’s just not fair or right. But, I’ve done it. We’ve all done it.
When she reached the taxi service, she asked what the cost would be for one woman and a “few packages” and found out it would only be $11.00. Both of us were pleasantly surprised.
I waited for a taxi. Soon, a battered van pulled in and parked and an eager young man walked briskly into the store. Immediately after that, a larger, newer van with a taxi sign on top pulled in next to me. A tall, slender, distinguished man stepped out and I walked up to him, just as the young man came up to me and said, “I think he’s going to turn you over to me.” I was nonplussed and continued making my way to the taxi, when indeed, the driver of the real taxi introduced me to Mikey, who would take me to Crown Bay Marina.
I get that. Mikey is a full-time gypsy taxi driver, and the real guy wants to wait and get a party of people who will pay him $11.00 per person to go to town. The taxi driver also know that I would probably never have gotten into Mikey’s taxi without an introduction from a legitimate driver. So OK. Mikey put my stuff in the back seat, I got in the front, buckled up and off we went.
6. The “adventure”. Mikey is a talker. Mikey left me speechless. (I know. I know! Many of you now want to meet Mikey.) Here are a few of the things I learned about Mikey. These are only the things I can remember as I thought it would be rude to take notes and I don’t have a smart phone to use to record the “conversation.” We started off with Mikey’s girlfriend calling him for a ride to work.
First, Mikey lied to her about where he was. We were still on the east end and he said he was downtown. Then he told me about her.
They’ve only been going out for a few months. She made him get tested. She got tested. He’s exclusively seeing her. She’s seeing other guys but not “doing it” with them – she says. He’s not sure. He doesn’t think she should always expect a ride to work. This is his job. He needs to work and pay his bills.
Having given me way to much information and a less than wonderful impression of his girlfriend, he asked whether I was “in a rush”. I didn’t actually tell him that it was a problem for me if he decided to take her to work. So he did. We had gotten as far as the mall when we headed back to the east end, over roads I’d never before traveled in St. Thomas. He didn’t call her to give her warning, just pulled into her driveway and told her to hurry up. Nice. She was fixing her hair. Five to ten minutes later she arrived at the van and was a bit surprised to see me in the front seat. Mikey made room for her in the back and we went back to Red Hook while I tried to make conversation with her, and Mikey pointed out a few landmarks to me.
Then, Mikey decided to take me back to Crown Bay the long way, past the golf course and Magen’s Bay. It was a nice tour, and my afternoon schedule had been shot when I stayed to grommet, so I was relaxed about it. Here are more things I learned about Mikey.
He has four kids. He doesn’t understand why people from the states who are on vacation aren’t happy. If we were on vacation he’d be happy. “This is the islands! You are on vacation! Enjoy it! Why don’t they enjoy it?” It’s expensive to live in St. Thomas. “Milk costs $20.00 a gallon here!” ( It doesn’t. It was on sale that week for $5.99) But yes, it is expensive to live in St. Thomas. He likes driving the taxi and being his own boss. He has very many brothers and sisters and half brothers and sisters. Dad evidently isn’t too faithful and Mom is happy to be in St. Lucia. Still, for eight years he’s been trying to get his folks back together. I can’t imagine why. He only pays $1000.00 a month in child support for four kids (two different mothers). He thinks marriage is for life – but hasn’t gotten married. He thinks everyone “from all fifty states” should all get along. This was a big topic for “discussion”. He expounded on the unhappiness of the Americans who live "in all the fifty states". I declined to express an opinion, even when he asked me. It didn’t matter, he was willing to fill in with more information and opinions. I remained nearly speechless.
The ride to Custom Canvas by safari bus took about a half hour – with stops for other passengers. The ride in a taxi home should have taken twenty minutes tops, but took about an hour and a half, cost Mikey a lot extra in gas and time lost in finding a new fare.
Still, I enjoyed it. I had already prepared $15.00 for the fare and a tip, and I didn’t give MIkey the chance to suggest a fee at the end of the ride. We both knew he’d been told $11.00 and I mentioned that just as he stared to say whatever it was he was going to say to justify asking for more.
I got an adventure and I completed my to-do list. For me, it was a good day.
I wish Mikey well, but he is no businessman.
Here’s a approximation of the most used taxi route to and from downtown and the east end:
Here’s an approximation of Mikey’s route:
Like I said, Mikey is no businessman. But I have his number if you are in St. Thomas, want an interesting taxi ride, and don't feel like talking much.