In July 1993 I decided to attend my eldest son’s commencement ceremony in Barinas , Venezuela . My young high-school daughter and my seventy-three year old friend would be travelling with me to attend the ceremony. An acquaintance had warned me earlier about travelling to South America via Curacao on ALM. I did not ask the reason, but simply stated that I wanted to go via Curacao. I would soon find out why.
We arrived at The Norman Manley International Airport, checked in and was waiting for departure. When leaving the departure lounge you have to present your travel documents to two guards at the door. You then walk along the spine and at the exit door to the tarmac where there is another security checkpoint. I made a mental note that the majority of passengers were females.
The blast call for the flight’s departure rang over the intercom. Suddenly there was mayhem as the women jumped to their feet and ran in a throng to the first door, almost trampling the two guards, made Usain Bolt-type sprints right through the exit door, spread out on the tarmac and then zeroed in to the aircraft stairs, pushing, shoving and shouting as they herded themselves on to the aircraft.
I was aghast at the mob behaviour. At the same time the three of us who had proceeded in orderly fashion had to present our documents to the security team and were subjected to searches. The behaviour on the aircraft was as raucous as it had been upon boarding. I repented there and then of my decision to fly via Curacao.
But an amazing thing happened when we landed in Curacao . The women quietly deplaned and proceeded to join a queue into the terminal. A queue! I was shocked into silence. Was this the same horde that bit and clawed its way onto the aircraft in Kingston?
Later on, I recognized one of my fellow passengers in the hotel‘s dining room. She came over to talk with us. I discovered that she was a teacher by profession, and given that information I asked why their behaviour took a 180 degree turn once they landed in Curacao.
“Uncouth behaviour is not tolerated here,” she replied, “and if there is any hint of misconduct, it is back on the ‘plane and back to Jamaica; you couldn’t even pass through customs. There is also the same intolerance to misconduct at the free zone.”
We came back to Curacao after a three week stay on the plains of Venezuela . The order we experienced there was amazing. I will describe my experience there another time if you care to hear about it.
On our departure from Curacao we found ourselves in the airport with another set of very orderly Informal Commercial Importers (ICI). They spoke in near whispers and conducted themselves appropriately.
But all that changed once we were airborne. An elderly lady had boarded with three young children, the youngest sitting on her lap. One child sat in the middle seat and an ICI occupied the aisle seat. The third child was seated across the aisle, away from them. Apparently they had been unable to secure seats together. A flight attendant came and asked the ICI if she could exchange seats, so that the third child could sit with her grandmother and siblings.
The reply was astounding. “A wey di $%&# you a badda me fa woman? Mi naah move a *&%$.” The flight attendant pleaded, “Please ma’am for the little girl’s sake could you please just exchange seats with her? It’s just that you’ll be sitting on the other side.”
But the ICI was unmoved. “A me did tell oonoo say oonoo fi gi her dat-dey seat? Mi say mi nah move, so go &%$#-off.”
It was not over. Just before landing, the flight attendants handed out some souvenirs, and those who did not receive any went into the basement of a wholesale fabric store at 38,000 feet, measured some four letter materials and parceled them out. “Oonoo no know say a we a keep this &%$* ‘plane in a di air, if we no travel, oonoo wooda have fi close down long time,” they informed the crew.
Upon landing, as the aircraft taxied to the gate at Norman Manley, many of the passengers got up from their seats and stood in the aisle, and no entreaties by the cockpit crew could persuade them to remain seated until the aircraft came to a “complete stop outside the terminal building.” I was seething. I got up from my aisle seat, faced those who were standing behind me, and in as stern a tone as I could muster, said “You all are going to allow this child and this elderly lady to exit the plane without you all pushing us down.”
Those who were behind me complied with the request, until they touched the tarmac, when they ran off like wild animals. As we waited patiently to claim our luggage off the carousel, I got some hostile glances and quite a few cut-eyes.
Later I was recounting the episode to someone whom I had thought would see this as I did. But I did not expect the response that was like a slap in my face, “They have to survive, so that is their survival strategy.” Oh please. Why was this same strategy not applied in Curacao?
Do you understand why we are where we are? What textbook strategies can you apply to the above scenario? It is just like those who talk about teaching the vernacular in school when they themselves had to learn the Queens English and had to learn it well. Oh please, why do we accept every foolish idea?