The saga continues as Myrna Loy experiences some Jamaican culture in the service industry.
Trip Reports

The Other Side Of Tourism Part 11

Chapter XVIII

IT’S THE CULTURE, NOTHING PERSONAL

The next day, I decided that I would take out my braids. It took me 4 hours to take all the braids out. I found out where a beauty salon was and made an appointment for them to cut and style my hair, to give me a manicure and a pedicure.

I kept my appointment. I was attended to instantly (as there was nobody waiting).
I marvelled at their attentiveness. My feet were placed in a massage bowl immediately with warm suds, and a table was pulled up in front of me with all the utilities for a manicure.

I was told to put my fingers in a little bowl containing creamy water which I did. Just as I did so, a good looking ‘chinee’ woman came into the shop and asked how long it would take to get a manicure.

“Immediately” the owner said.

She instructed the girl who was shaping my nails to attend the Chinee woman. The table was whizzed from in front of me, leaving my dripping fingers suspended in animation. Contemptuous of protocol, the table was then calmly placed in front of the Chinee woman, whose projected butt deserved a good kick.

Once again, I was dumbfounded. My swarthy countenance had again nullified my existence. I should have stood up and walked out but my feet were emersed in water and besides, the massage had a somewhat soothing effect on me. I just sat there mummified acknowledging that this was the culture, nothing personal. I pacified myself — they don’t know better.

Another girl continued, she started filing down my toe-nails with the compassion of a bullfrog! She tittered when I exhibited signs of uneasiness. She was so determined to extract a piece of dead skin lodged beneath my nail that she dug and she wrenched at it until my toe bled. I wanted to push her off but I guess she was just trying to do her job properly. When she finally retrieved it, she showed it to me. I do not know what incensed her to perform a pedicure without any effort to ease my discomfort. She put some iodine on the cut, causing me to flinch — it stung and despite the blood trickling down the side of my big toe, she continued to file down my toe-nails to a flat finish.

After a while, the other girl came back (the one who had been attending to the Chinee) and she finished my pedicure. What a difference! The girl was so gentle. My tension subsided. My toe-nails were painted in a fluorescent orange and I asked for a french manicure also. By the time they had finished with me, I was looking sharp!

The next day, I went to the Pelican as usual, but this time, as a reformed human being. I was treated like a tourist. It was amazing. They didn’t even realize I was the same person. I suspected my anonymity when they brought me a menu instead of telling me what the ‘special’ was. Anyway, because they gave me so much attention, I gave the waiter a JA$20 tip. I was feeling generous!

I decided to visit a different beach (I found a beach that was only JA$5 to get in).

I spread my towel out and proceeded to lay down. I heard some voices:

“I have several gal you know but only one woman.”

Then came the irritating hissing sound:

“Psst… psst” (someone was trying to capture my attention).

“Excuse me, miss”

‘Not, again..” I thought.

I looked up and saw someone smiling. He looked O.K. from a distance but I couldn’t see his face properly because I didn’t have my contact lenses in. All I knew was that the voice came from amongst four men sitting on the life-guard stand and I could only assume that it was the one ‘skinning im teet’ (as my mother would say).

“Do you mind if I come over and sit next to you?” I remembered the voice:

“Aren’t you the one that just said that you have plenty of gal but only one woman? I do not want to be added to your harem, thank you!”

There was a jeer from the men. I had obviously shamed him.

“No, no… it wasn’t me… well, yes, it was me, but it’s man talk.. I only have one woman.”

“Oh, you only have one woman? And now you want to make it two?” I ridiculed.

“I would like to talk to you, if I may?” he asked interrupting the sentence.

I noticed that his diction was pleasantly precise and the inflexion in his tone well-placed. He came over and stood next to me. He was attractive by comparison, clean-shaven. His shoes (I had to look at his shoes) passed the test — they were polished to a distinct sheen. His black trousers had a razor sharp seam. Hmmmm I thought, not bad.

“May I talk to you for a few minutes before I go on duty?”

“On duty?”

“I’m a police officer.. I am not on duty now.. but I will be in a few minutes.”

(“No wonder he’s so sharp!” I thought).

“Yes, by all means, do…” I said moving over so he could share my towel.

A police officer? My mother had warned me about them. She told me they were promiscuous and that they would break your heart. I had never met a police officer before, apart from my father and my brothers and even then, by the time I met them they were no longer in the police force. My father was the reason my mother hated policemen and it was from her experience this warning stemmed. I was on holiday, a policeman or any other man for that matter would not have the opportunity to break my heart.. besides I only had three days left.. more the pity!

I was relieved to speak to an articulate native — to be attracted to someone intelligent. We spoke for a while, exchanged numbers and before he left to go on duty, he asked if he could bring me some ice-cream later.

Sonia called me that evening and I told her about the event of the day. I was very excited. (Sonia and I had the same father but had different mothers). We arranged to see each other.

See Part 12….

About the author

Myrna Loy