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BC’s B’dos – Babylon by bus

NATANGA SMITH, [email protected]

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IN LAST WEEK’S COLUMN Shoot-by Driving, I considered (tongue in cheek) the widespread Bajan habit of driving far too fast on all minor roads, but declining to overtake on the highway.
You often, as I said (and anyone living here knows), encounter a line of cars crawling behind one slow-moving vehicle all the way fromWarrens to Farley Hill. I stand by what I wrote – especially after sitting behind several examples of the phenomenon yesterday morning – but I do recognise last week’s column contained a hamartia.
For the less literary-minded, a hamartia is not a cholesterol-laden rasher of bacon, but a “tragic flaw”, the sort of weakness that, in Greek tragedies, precipitated the downfall of the hero.
The Achilles’ heel (to keep the simile within the geography) of last week’s column was its overlooking the one class of Bajan driver who will overtake police vehicles on blind corners, overtake lines of cars at pedestrian crossings with children in wheelchairs actually on the zebra stripes, over- or under-take while actually going around roundabouts, overtake any time, anywhere, and regardless of oncoming traffic:
Transport Board bus drivers. (ZR drivers are a different matter altogether.)
Barbados Transport Board bus drivers are the Bajan equivalent of the post-Communist new Russian megarich criminal class: everyone can see plainly that what they are doing is blatantly wrong, but they are just too big to be touched.
If they are to be restrained, it will be by their own esoteric codes of behaviour, not the Highway Code.
An Italian gangster will gleefully torture a rival while piously refusing to harm a hair on the heads of his wife and children, and a Transport Board driver will force an ambulance into the ditch but jack-knife to a screeching halt in the middle of the road to let an old lady cross the street.
But, if he does, it’s because of his respect for grey hair, not because there’s a grey area in the Road Traffic Act.
And, amongst international breakers with impunity of the law, Bajan Transport Board drivers have real rank. Yes, the most successfulRussian Mafioso can buy whole sporting leagues; but the most ordinary Transport Board bus driver can overtake on Swan Street – which, really, is more impressive?
Ironically, the Bajan bus driver benefits from the overtaking fear at which he sneers. Every morning of life you see it time after time: a Transport Board bus stops – sometimes in the middle of his lane, but often in a lay-by purpose-built to allow other motorists to overtake unimpeded – and car after car will either simply stop or actually pull in behind the bus and wait.
It’s not that it’s unsafe to pass – I have myself overtaken 11 cars and then the bus parked in a lay-by bus stop – it’s just one more application of the unwritten Bajan rule that says: “This is how it has always been done. You don’t question. You just comply.”
Which leads, naturally, to Bajan ID cards.
B.C. Pires is red-lining in overdrive.