While a student at a so-called 'brand-name' boy’s school, back in the 80’s, there was a chronic shortage of chairs. This annoying problem usually made the school day one long game of musical chairs for students. So, for instance, if you took your break at lunchtime, had to go to the science lab or basically went anywhere that required you leaving your classroom, you would often return to find your chair missing. This was quite frustrating and there was really no way of preventing this from happening.
It so happened that one day, to the chagrin of myself and my fellow students, several etchings of male genitalia, apparently done with a sharp-pointed compass, started appearing on some of these chairs. Obviously this was disastrous, since we surely could not afford anymore chairs being taken out of circulation and it did not have to be stated that no boy dared sit on any of these chairs.
Being a Jamaican man is not an easy task. Just figuring out what is required of you is an enormous, confusing challenge that can take a lifetime. At this point in my life I have learned only enough to know that a Jamaican man is expected, nay, required to meet a variety of contradictory and often onerous stereotypes and failing to meet even one can result in one becoming a social leper.
First and foremost a Jamaican man must not be weak. Strength and virility are prized above all else. This strength and virility is expressed in a number of ways.
Firstly, you must love the ladies. I don’t mean you must like the ladies, you must love them. You must love them like Jesus loved the little children. You must love them by the dozen and by the score. You must love them fat or slim. Tall or short. Black, white, red or brown. You must love them in the morning, at noontime and at night. You must love them in St. Elizabeth, Port Antonio and South Korea. I go further. You must love them even when they don’t love you. You must ignore the fact that you are an overweight, bald, toothless pervert and pursue them with the vigor of a young Casanova.
Is there a nobler creature alive than the Jamaican Taxi driver? I think not, dear reader. For industry, resourcefulness and sheer entrepreneurship, I daresay few are his equal.
Now, I am sure there are those of you who will disagree with me. No doubt there are some of you who, having been involved in some unpleasant (but no doubt rare) incident with a taxi driver, may be inclined to speak less highly of the breed. Some of you, for example, will recall being trapped behind a taxi creeping along at 2 miles per hour, as its driver scanned the sidewalks for customers, oblivious to the blowing of your horn and your shouted curses. Others of you will recall having been almost run off the road by the same taximan who, having secured a customer, is now racing at an unholy speed to deliver said customer to their destination.
But there is not one of those taximen who, on your approach, will not drop everything he is doing to come to your service. At a moment’s notice, he will do all in his power to see to it that you are conveyed safely and speedily to your destination.
The other day I took a shower at my girlfriend’s house. This was a little unusual for me because usually I don’t bathe anywhere other than in my own home. Its not that I’m a snob or anything, its just that my mother (being a proper Jamaican lady) raised me not to ever be a burden to other people. Being a “burden”, by her reckoning, involved doing anything that caused the least bit of inconvenience, embarrassment or nuisance to others. One did not stay too long at other people’s houses, one did not spill things on other people’s rugs and one certainly never ever showered anywhere other than in one’s own home or maybe the home of a blood relative (and then only after a hurricane or some other natural disaster caused an extended disruption in the supply of water). Anything else would be unseemly.
I made an exception to this ironclad rule only because I was at the home of my established girlfriend (by “established” I mean she had occupied the post for over a month) and because, having slept over the night before, I now desperately needed my morning shower. In any case, I had made extensive preparations for this singular occasion by packing a change of clothes, a towel and a washcloth (known in Jamaica as a “rag”) in my overnight bag. My girlfriend had given me a funny look when I announced that I had packed my own towel (weren’t her towels good enough?), but no worries: I would be a burden to no one. Of that I was sure.
So I made my way to the bathroom and deposited my supplies beside the bathtub.
My girlfriend’s bathroom, by the way, is a rather fancy affair: sponge-painted walls, indigo-coloured marble tiles, full-length mirrors and the like. The “fanciness” extended to the fixtures: the shower controls resembled those of a fighter jet and it took me a good five minutes of fiddling with the faucet and cursing softly under my breath to get the shower to produce hot water. That done, however, I quickly undressed and stood under the spray of water. I shivered slightly and exhaled. Thank god for hot water.
Then I reached for the soap…