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Daytime highway business – The Al Gilkes column

Al Gilkes

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I know you have all seen people buying and selling along the ABC Highway, but have you ever seen people buying and selling on the highway itself?Don’t get mixed up. I am not talking about people who buy and sell coconuts, roast corn or vegetables on the verges of the highway. Nor am I talking about people who buy and sell in-season fruits like dunks and ackees and other items like peeled sugar cane and baked nuts in the little no-man triangles dividing the lanes into and out of the roundabout. What I am talking about is people in a vehiclein one of the two lanes of traffic going in the same directions between roundabouts buying andselling from people in another vehicle in theother lane of traffic.The irony was that although the woman driving in the car ahead in the lane next to me was doing business with the man driving his little van aheadin my lane, neither of them posed a threat toanyone else on that maximum speed stretch of highway between Warrens and the Waterford Bottom junction. Although the traffic in both lanes was bumperto bumper from one roundabout to the other, not one of the drivers on the more than mile-long stretch found it necessary to suddenly mash brakes to avoid a collision and a possible pile-up or even to honka horn at the unexpected transaction right in the middle of the road, because nobody was going anywhere fast.It was gridlock, more than a mile of it on what was expanded at tremendous cost to two lanes in both directions in order to relieve the congestion.That evening I was running late for a 5 p.m. meeting at Sheraton Centre and decided that rather than challenge the congested streets in and out of The City I would try to make it by what I assumed would be the fastest route. Little did I expect that having reached Warrens in relatively quick time that any dream of whooshing along the ABC and making my appointment on time wouldbe dashed by a highway full of vehicles allstanding still.Unable to turn back because there was no way back until I reached the roundabout more than a mile away, I settled into the frustration of inching along so slowly that the needle on the speedometer barely moved from the 0 position. Then out of the blue and without warning the unusual happened. The car in the left lane and the van ahead in my lane drifted together like two boats in a pond, and a conversation developed betweenthe occupants. That was not unusual given the circumstances. What was unusual was when a hand stretched across from van to the car with a plastic bag of salt bread, followed by a hand stretching from thecar to the van with a piece of money. Then to add icing to the cake, the hand from the van stretched back out again, this time to meet the hand from the carhalf-way in order to pass the change.We had a good laugh but a moment later the reality of our condition returned. We were stuck on a four-lane highway in traffic moving so slowly that early afternoon walkers were speeding bywith amused grins on their faces.Then I remembered the flyovers that had been planned to rid the ABC of its congestion problems and wondered if somebody would consider dusting off those plans and having a second think in the interest of motorists.
•Al Gilkes heads a public relations firm.