“Island time” works well for, well, not working. Not living off deadlines. Not getting anywhere by any particular time or worrying about much. But “island time” fails miserably when trying to catch ferries and make airplane connections.
The good news is we made it off St. John and on to St. Thomas. Then Anguilla. Then Antigua. And eventually to our destination, the island of St. Vincent. And it is breathtakingly beautiful. Worth the hassle? Of course (but that’s easy to say now). The bad news is the day was, as expected, an endurance test, only worse.
“Island time” was taken to new levels, and I don’t mean 20,000 feet in the air. I mean: Refusing to let planes land. Stranding people in airports. Canceling flights. Holding passengers hostage and inventing a form of “island torture.” They call it a “soft strike.”
It comes courtesy of the air traffic controllers on the island of Antigua, a hub for Liat island-hopping airlines. Seems the Controllers want more money, or something, and the government won’t pony up. So…they create chaos out of flying (which is already chaotic down here) and make everybody really, really mad (in all senses of the word).
We’d already received angry and defensive e-mails from the airline. Every cabbie or airport employee was talking about it—or refusing to. And frankly, there probably hasn’t been this much drama down here (other than hurricanes) since Reagan and Troops invaded Grenada 20 years ago.
As for me, I got scolded by a flight attendant and frightfully threatened by a security officer (who was about twice my size). A Gamegirl was stolen from right under my nose. And I witnessed unprecedented airport panic and paranoia. And that’s saying something, since air travel has been increasingly unpleasant since 9-11, if not before.
In the Antigua airport, most chairs were taken. Most garbage cans were boiling over. And the food stand was down to hot dogs and warm beer. At one point, I stared at an (empty!) garbage can for an hour or more, convinced that this was the appropriate mediation focus for the day.
A TV preacher barked in a Patois growl while a nearby CD stand played short samples of reggae, Jamaican toasting, and soca at full volume. At one point, I thought I would scream. But instead, I must have zoned out, because that’s when the new pink GameGirl (a necessary drug for CurlyGirl on a day like this) was pilfered. Disappeared like magic.
We got lucky. Our plane flew. We got out of there, and onto St. Vincent only a few long hours late. Needless to say, we went out for a celebratory dinner and stayed up way too late. When getting there is not half the fun, getting there feels twice as good.