Last Monday, observed here in Eleuthera as Easter Monday and thus a “bank” holiday, I went down North to Governor’s Harbour. This is island speak. Locals tell each other they live Down North or Up South.
My friends Chris and Carolyn had just arrived from London and were spending their first nights in their brand spanking new cottage on the hill. I had to be there. I also wanted to see Michele about the arrangements at the Beach House for my big event on Friday the 20th.
I rented a car from Brenda Carey, who lives in an unassuming bungalow behind the castle. Once inside I found myself in a Petit Versailles of chandeliers, throw pillows, tassels, crystal and framed pictures of baroque Bahamian scenes. Evidence that the Eleuthera car rental business is a good one. Brenda hugged me to her ample chest on all three visits, the last time I was hugged twice because I begged her forgiveness for a schedule screw-up on the most sacred of church nights. Bad Barbi indeed, in my elaborate plan to not screw up her Easter Sunday evening I apparently ended up doing just that.
Yes, I do have my own car here, my beloved red GMC truck, which unfortunately runs on only three gears, and husband made me promise that I would not drive it on extended trips. Governor’s, 20 minutes north, is, by island standards, an extended trip and so I rented.
After spending the night at my friends’ unassuming local cottage also with an unexpected interior, this time not Versailles but World of Interiors style, I set off for my meeting at the Beach House. I opened the car door, threw my bag inside the rental, turned around to get my beach towel, and, being parked on an incline, the door fell shut. Ca-cloink. All the automatic doors had locked themselves. The keys were inside my bag that sat innocently on the passenger seat.
Not long after I was at the police station, yet another unassuming building, this time more in the Knickerbocker Gang style.
A friendly policeman, who looked like he’d had a jolly Easter celebration, was making calls for me. He was trying to locate a mechanic (or a crook) who had a car-door opening jimmy. After a few failed attempts at finding a Slim Jim we started chatting. I voiced my frustration at the independence of the rental car’s door system.
How is this possible? I lamented…
We once had a police car like that, he said.
Worst was that time when we stopped these two guys on the Queen’s Highway near Gregory Town. Ya man, we felt we had reason to search their car, turned it upside down, took forever, found nothing. When we got back to our car it was all shut up. So we had to go ask those guys if they’d give us a ride back to the station.
Did they? I ask.
Of course, he laughs. We got rid of that car.
He’s behind a high counter. I put my elbows on its battered surface and look down on him. He is on his Blackberry, which is charging, and the white cord is stretched across his face, practically wrapped around his nose. Behind him is a benign looking composition book and written on the side, in green marker, it says “CRIME REPORTS” .
While he chats with a mechanic about their church’s Easter beach party I think of the pumped up US police officers who recently shot that old Vietnam vet with a heart condition in his own home.
OK, he says, Mr. Culmer will be at your car in twenty minutes….
As I walk back I wonder.
Is it these simple, funny things that make Eleuthera so lovable?
Like the burglar who politely said Hi to me on the landing of our house before bolting. Or the story of the petty thief who swiped an orange Princeton sweatshirt during a prowl across someone’s porch that was reported to the police. Twenty minutes later he was picked up wearing same bright orange sweatshirt on Cupid’s Key a few hundred yards from the police station. Or my friend Ann who called the fire station when the brush right beside her house was on fire and their response was: do you have a bucket?
And do those small but meaningful things accumulate into bigger things like caring for your community, helping when help is needed and a 99% voter turnout?