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JUST LIKE IT IS – Dialogue, bricks, kudos


Peter Simmons

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One of the occupational hazards but useful barometers of writing a weekly column is the feedback, mostly positive but sometimes negative, when corns are mashed. But in a column captioned Just like it is, in which no punches are pulled, this is par for the course.In my last column I mentioned the latest malapropisms of United States political aspirant Sarah Palin, confidently anticipating negative responses from two Barbados resident Americans who rushed to her defence previously, and think she has the answers to the country’s problems and the skills to turn it around. They ran true to form.Though we are on different sides of the political fence, we always have robust but civilised exchanges in which I operate from the premise that there is never any excuse for bad manners. So their well-articulated early Sunday morning three-way calls are always received with patient courtesy and good humour.After entering the caveat that based on my writings I “seem to be cut from the same Bolshevik cloth as Obama whose socialist voodoo has derailed the economy of our great capitalist democracy”, I was told that Palin was the “best candidate to return sanity to governance and put the recessionary economy back on a growth path”. I was rebuked for picking up on two alleged tongue slips –“refudiate” and “misunderestimate” – and holding up to public ridicule the woman likely to be next president. I countered by saying I was surprised that a slip of the tongue was not corrected by staff before being posted on her blog for the world to see.I asked whether they supported the tainted “tea party”. It went unanswered and I was told that while they knew it would never meet with my approval they knew from reading a previous column I supported the democratic mantra of letting “one hundred flowers bloom, one hundred schools of thought contend”. I was counselled that the emergence of the “tea party” was a reaction to Obama’s excesses and the “ineptitude of the Republicans lacking leadership and vision” and they will have no choice but to merge with the “tea party” with Palin the only credible leader. This comment activated my sarcasm and I really got their goat when I said that in the unlikely and mind-boggling event that she becomes president she would be a transformative head of state who would turn the White House into an abattoir of the English language. This threw them into a frenzy and I was accused of letting form trump substance and forgetting that George W. Bush was “a great president, though by no means a great wordsmith”. We agreed to disagree and maintain our dialogue.Best water, serially bad PRWhen Mr Arni Walters took over as executive chairman of the Barbados Water Authority (BWA), I wrote him an open letter in this space drawing attention to the fact that our water was of such superb quality that it was described by a leading British newspaper as “delicious”. I also implored him to try his best to ensure that the BWA’s customer relations matched the quality of its product.That it was an urgent imperative in the wake of the recent increase in water charges. I also cited some outstanding problems and offered a few humble suggestions. An incident last Wednesday morning led me to conclude that the BWA seems incorrigibly resistant to change.The incident Wednesday was an almost exact replication of what happened on the day last year when the House voted to increase water prices. I left home at seven o’clock and approaching Sheraton Centre was met by a torrent of water from a burst main.My wife called home alerting the household it was likely there would be an outage to effect repairs. On returning home at 11:30 the taps had been dry since 9 o’clock. There were no public service radio notices alerting consumers in surrounding areas of the outage and when service would return.When I went to bed at midnight the taps were still dry. At 5:30 I was happy that the water had returned. My wife said about 4 o’clock the afternoon she glimpsed a water tender quietly passing through the area conspicuously unannounced.Mr Walters, it is unacceptable to treat consumers so shabbily. It does not redound to the BWA’s credit to covet the crown as the company with the worst customer relations. Water is an essential commodity and service disruptions inconvenience thousands. If there is no in-house facility, then  [try] outsourcing your public relations. Something must be done.Kudos to the QEHThe BWA runs a close second to the QEH as the most vilified government institution. I made two recent visits to the hospital and, telling it just like it is, was the recipient of attention which removes me from the mainstream of torrential criticism.My first visit was to the Accident & Emergency Department one night .The response was quick, comforting and professional. Then on Wednesday morning my wife and I were walking along a corridor looking for a particular department and probably looking slightly lost.Hurrying towards us were two QEH officials we recognised from press photographs as CEO Dr Dexter James and director of medical services Dr Delores Lewis. She stopped to ask if she could be of assistance and pointed us in the appropriate direction. We were grateful and deeply impressed, a sentiment I shared with the board chairman and which can only burnish the image of the beleaguered institution. •Peter Simmons, a social scientist, is a former diplomat

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