The truth is when you move to a rock, you find yourself in situations that you would never, never – and I mean never – find yourself in back home. Not a bad thing, necessarily. Just surprising.
But first, some needed backstory. I live on top of a big hill. Fairly far away (by my island’s standards) from the main town. Along the way down, the road winds through a local neighborhood. And a fairly common occurrence is coming across any random local resident hitchhiking a ride into town. There is actually an unofficial waiting spot that I’ve come to recognize.
Normally, I would never consider picking up a hitchhiker back in the States (you know, the whole Ted Bundy thing and all), but here it is different. Obviously, I wouldn’t stop for some sketchy looking dude after dark in an unfamiliar neighborhood. (I haven’t lost all my senses.)
But for the most part, if the guy or gal looks harmless and is hoping for a ride somewhere during daylight hours, I say “hop in and let me get you where you need to go, my friend.” (After all, it is bloody hot here, and helping each other out is sort of the island way.) Over the years, I’ve given rides to everyone from an elderly grandmother trying to get home from the store with her heavy bags to a guy who needed a ride to the doctor’s office to some rando dude who just wanted to get to the lottery office before it closed.
And so it went on Friday night.
On my way to an early party, I saw an older gentleman waiting patiently by the roadside in the designated collection spot. And because I try to be a nice person whenever I can, I stopped and offered him a ride. Plus, I finally have a decent vehicle, so I figure it isn’t punishment when I stop and someone has to decide if getting into a dilapidated jeep is worth more than waiting or just walking. Now my ride has shock absorbers. And comfortable seats. And airco. Pure luxury. By island standards anyway.
But back to my newest unanticipated passenger on Friday night. As it often goes, the short ride to the place he wanted to go provided another unforgettable island experience.
Turns out he is a fairly well-known elder on the island. 27 years as an immigration officer at the airport. Now retired. Plays at the Wednesday night jam sessions at our local bar, and loves karaoke. In fact, that was the night’s end destination for him – 9:00 p.m. karaoke at one of the Columbian bars. We also, as it turns out, have several mutual friends. Six degrees of separation does not exist here. More like one or two, at most. (And yes, this was all learned in a six minute drive to town.)
So, as I was transporting him to his first stop for the night (a pre-karaoke warm-up place), we started discussing music. He discovered I was American and started asking “Do you know this song, do you remember that song…” Then, out of the blue, he began serenading me with a romantic ballad from the 90s. Not just the chorus or a single verse to jog my memory, either.
The whole song. Start to finish. I was treated to an unplugged, a cappella version of Dan Hill’s “Sometimes When We Touch” as we drove along the oceanfront road. With the golden pink sun setting on the sparking Caribbean Sea. He was pretty good, too.
And I thought to myself, “Damn if this was how I expected my Friday night to begin.” But it was fun and sweet and totally unexpected. And a reminder of how crazily different my life is here than it used to be in the UK or US. And I like that difference.
Then we arrived at his destination, and he hopped out of the car to the applause of his Antillean friends already waiting at the open air roadside bar. I waved and went on my way.
And that, my friends, is why I love living on this rock. I’ve learned that the best island experiences happen at the most unexpected moments. What’s not to love about that?