Friday, September 4, 2009


I spent the last 3-day weekend in Tobago with friends. It was a 4-day weekend for me; I took the Friday off. The decision was made to travel by boat so that we could take the cars. In the end, only one car made the trip but that was okay, as Friday’s travelling was split between the 10am boat and the afternoon’s 5 o’clock sailing.

Friday morning process, though a little too long was painless. The driver of the car took the tickets of the passengers and got us all checked in. We sat in the car and waited while she toed the line. She even stayed at the check in counter and waited for one of the party who was running late. When she did come back to the car we saw him coming in and sent him to the counter where they promptly sent him back to the car and was told to sit.

We waited to be allowed on to the boat and when we boarded, we followed all instructions to the seating area. As a result, apart from choppy waters, major sea sickness for some and the trip being a little longer than needed, it was a painless experience.

That was Port of Spain to Tobago.

Independence morning found us at the Port of Scarborough – the fist trip being deposited at approximately 3:15am. As expected, our return tickets specifically stated that all vehicles needed to be on the port three hours prior to sailing; walk on passengers needed to arrive two hours prior. With arrival times like 3:45 and 4:15am, we honestly believed that we were well within the prescribed times.

Those of us who were walk ons found ourselves to be the first in line, and we were prepared and excited to see the doors promptly at 6:30am.

Not so …

Having stood – yes I said STOOD – in one spot for over three hours, I was eventually forced by the pain in my back and feet to ask one of the port policemen what time the check in department planned to open its doors. “7am ma’am,” was his response. I’m sorry … 7AM???! If the boat leaves at 8:30am, why is the check in desk opening at 7am when we are all told to be there 2 hours before? Why is it that cars were only allowed on to the boat at 7:45am? Why is it that the check in desk only opened their doors at 7:15am?

The punch line came when a mother and an aunt went to the counter with their tickets and those of their charges and were told that they needed to bring the children in to the din – all of whom were under the age of 10 – never mind the sign that announced that parents could perform the check ins for their children. It was during this particular conversational exchange that i became acutely aware that the individual who opened the door was shouting at us like we were all students of the School for the Deaf. Then someone in the line softly mentioned that things were indeed different in Trinidad. Well!! Mr Megaphone Mouth then shouted all the louder that “Things aren’t different between Trinidad and Tobago, but there are international standards to be maintained and you cannot expect to come to paradise and not do what is right... you have to toe the line here in Tobago. I don’t know what you used to in Trinidad. Now keep a straight line and behave in an orderly manner!!!”

Excuse me??? What gives the Scarborough Port staff the right to speak to passengers like this? Again I am forced to hark back to my beef regarding Customer Service.

These people need to understand that the Ferry service is utilized on a daily bass by the LOCAL travelling public, not necessarily the foreigners. For the most part foreign visitors travel to Tobago by plane. Therefore, without ‘me’ there is no freakin ‘you’!!!

This entire incident takes me back to a statement I have heard one of my parents’ friends make – “ ‘Bagonians doh like Trinis”. When this was first said in my presence I laughed, because I had never come across what my mother refers to as warped racism. How in the hell could you be ‘totin’ feelins’’ re trinis when we are the same frickin country???

There has been many a joke told about the mothers of Tobagonian children and their reactions to their offspring marrying Trinis. It is said that the mother of a Tobagonian daughter is thrilled when she snags a Trini man, but it is not such a joyous thing when a ‘Gonian boy falls for a Trini girl. Double standard much???

I am yet to understand the disdain between our twin island state. There were people who were in the line screaming up, down and sideways that the port staff were acting as they did, due to the fact that it was mostly Trinis trying to get home … that they were showing off and ‘winin’ back on us. Hello??? WE ARE HOME!!! It’s one country!!! What do you need after all these blasted years to make it official – a bridge? Actually … that’s not a bad idea, and gone would be the doubt that we are indeed a TWIN ISLAND STATE.

There should be no reason in the world for me to feel more comfortable in Barbados than I do in Tobago, but that is the truth of the matter. When your own countrymen and women look at you with disdain when you speak, it can’t be a good thing. It is a feeling of wariness that permeates the soul.

Paradise? Paradise for the foreigner is what they mean … certainly not for the local. I mentioned on my way to the port that Tobago is not a little Barbados and people laughed.

I think that people need to take the time to bridge the ever widening gap between Trini and ‘Bago and to really mean it when they say TRINBAGONIANS.

As an aside, please know that I am NOT going to Tobago again by boat unless I am certain that I am a drive-on passenger, and yes ‘H’, I know that getting my license would go a long way to assuring same …

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