It's only in Trinidad you could be stuck in gridlock traffic for more than an hour and still find reason to smile, without even looking at your phone.
The rain had stopped on Tuesday afternoon and several drivers were walking up to the front of the lines of stationary vehicles to check the extent of the flood waters blocking our path outside Victoria Keyes on the Diego Martin Highway.
On the way back, the most talkative fella—and you could hear everything he was saying because he wasn’t wearing a mask—was planning to pass a hat to collect money for a bottle of Puncheon, while another guy called for a pot and hailed out to the others waiting behind their wheels, enquiring if anyone had come from the grocery with ingredients for the cook.
“I wonder if I call KFC they’ll deliver?” asked the man in the orange overalls who got out of the black pick-up on the left, looking out over the countless vehicles stretching back to Four Roads and beyond.
On my right, there was a fourth line making room between my Sentra and the highway wall, some facing in the opposite direction and others reversing behind them.
“Nobody can’t pass. The water too high. You have to turn around,” said the man leading that retreating line when the rain was still pouring down and the rest of us were standing in place.
As the skies cleared, the guy with all the lyrics, who offered the last of his cigarettes at a hefty price to those who were looking to bum a smoke, was chatting with the two young women in the Suzuki Swift just in front of me, telling his partners he was liming with Chelsea and I didn’t catch the other name.
I’m not sure where it started, but the conversation turned to politics, maybe because someone was looking to cast blame for our predicament in being stopped by a flood on the main road after less than an hour of rain.
The afternoon’s main organiser had it figured out, of course, proclaiming that we’re all from Diego Martin and reminding us this is PNM country and we must have voted for that party, so we kind of looked for what we got.
I wanted to shout out that I had stained my finger for the MSJ, so I could easily berate the administration for its many shortcomings, but decided to hold my tongue.
The masked man trying to go the wrong way, who grumbled every time I raised my phone out of the car window for a photo in his direction—“A million cars around, I not taking a picture of you,” I had to assure him—mumbled aloud: “What politics have to do with rain falling and causing flood,” more than likely a Government supporter.
His line hadn’t got much further and a policewoman in plain clothes, with her dark blue mask, was among those strolling around, looking at the motorists going the wrong way and asking what they were doing.
But with the river of brown water still flowing across the highway, that’s what we had to do eventually, breaking up the nice lime to turn around and drive north on the south-bound lane.
I went past Emmett Hennessy, still heading in the “right” direction, who asked if the water would go down by the time he got there.
I told him I doubt it, and I wonder now if he made it to the radio station in time for his afternoon shift.
A little further on was Wilson Road, where two policemen were directing us to turn off, to traverse the back streets, some of which I hadn’t been on in years, up and down the hills, eventually exiting on Morne Coco Road in Petit Valley.
Some of those in front and behind may have headed home, while others who had to go outside of Diego Martin kept going along Morne Coco Road, over the Northern Range to Maraval and down Saddle Road.
Me, I drove across the Valley, down Diego Martin Main Road, up La Puerta, onto Broome Street, back on Morne Coco Road and through Westmoorings North to Western Main Road, where I ground to a halt again.
Heading east, Cocorite was still under water and with three o’clock bringing on hunger pangs, I decided to take a detour to my parents’ home to pay them an unexpected visit and eat my lunch, before making another attempt to get to Express House in Port of Spain.
There was still traffic going past Westmall as I resumed my eventful journey, proceeding slowly to Cocorite, where it was reduced to two lanes.
An hour before, there was a sea of water covering the entire roadway in that area, more than two feet deep, so even if we had got past Powder Magazine earlier on, we would have been stopped again a quarter-mile around the corner.
At least us Diego brethren got an opportunity to bond, passing the time with good humour and ol’ talk.
On the serious side, it was the worst flooding I have seen there and I dread the next heavy noontime rainfall.
An engineer friend pointed out that it occurred the same day workmen started clearing the vegetation on the land between Victoria Keyes and Powder Magazine, supposedly to start construction of an overpass of dubious necessity, and without any plan for the water runoff.
Hopefully, next time we’re marooned someone walks with the pot and the rum.
P.S. Thanks to Ataklan for the headline.