It could be worse
MY FRIENDS in one of the smaller Caribbean countries in which I do the occasional consulting told me a story about a former deputy prime minister that had me laughing all the way to my computer.
This is a gentleman who, it is said, always responded to any report you gave him, even really bad news, by saying, “It could be worse.” He was known to people in the country as “Speedy Gonzales” after the hyperactive mouse in the cartoons.
It seems that the goodly deputy was with his deputy (who happened to be someone else’s wife) in the home, even more important the bedroom, of that someone else.
While they were enjoying what Othello refers to as the “beast with two backs”, the key turned in the latch and it was not Iago but the cuckolded husband. It is claimed, and legend has it, that the gentleman was quicker on the draw than any other politician in history. He grabbed his clothes, went through the window, slid down a drainpipe and when he hit the ground was fully clothed.
When a close confidante asked the deputy about the incident, he replied, “It could have been worse.” Aghast, his friend asked, “What could be worse than that?” The deputy replied with a smile, “Well, suppose there was no drainpipe there?”
When the deputy was serving as what is appropriately called the Minister of Home Affairs, sometimes known as the Minister of National Security, the Commissioner of Police came to him with a truly horrendous story. His men had received an emergency call from one of the posh villas in the hills and when they walked in they found the nude bodies of a man and a woman in the bedroom.
They had been shot to death. When they went to the living room, they found the body of a man with a gun at his side. “No doubt about it,” the Inspector in charge told the sergeant, “This was a double murder and suicide. This man came home and found his wife in bed with somebody else and shot them both. Then he shot himself.” “True,” the sergeant said, “but I bet when the minister hears about it he will say, ‘It could have been worse’.”
After hearing all the details from the Commissioner, the deputy prime minister said, as expected, “It could have been worse.” The Commissioner could not envisage anything worse and said to the deputy, “But minister, three people dead. What could be worse?” The minister smiled knowingly. “You know the man you found dead on the bedroom floor? If the husband had come home yesterday, that would have been me.”
I have a friend like that and last Saturday morning called him in Trinidad to tell him about my harrowing adventures two nights before when I took a LIAT flight from Antigua to go to Barbados and then connect with a Caribbean Airlines (CAL) flight to Trinidad and from there leave on another flight to Guyana.
The LIAT flight took off almost an hour late. It was supposed to stop briefly in Dominica and then head for Barbados, giving me enough time to go through Immigration, take my bag off the carousel, walk the long route to the CAL desk and get on the flight.
We ended up going to St Lucia to take up baggage that had been left behind there. By the time I arrived in Barbados, I knew that I was doomed.
However, I eventually made the flight thanks to a LIAT attendant named Olivia and her colleagues Shadron, Francia and Caroline. As I recounted what I went through, arriving at my Guyana hotel at three in the morning, my friend said the dreaded words, “It could have been worse,” explaining, “Well, given the financial state of LIAT and the dictatorial way the new CEO is behaving, they could have charged you for the St Lucia leg of the flight.”
I heard one in Guyana that has me laughing any time I think of it. Two ladies were sitting on a bench next to me when a man joined them.
One of the ladies was complaining about how difficult it was to find work. She commented: “The only wuck dey have is to cook and waash, cook and waash.” The man replied, “It could be worse.”
“How you mean it could be worse? What worse than duh?” “Well,” he replied drily, “it could be cook, waash and lash.” After laughing heartily, the lady replied, “I too old for the lashing but they have worse than that.” The others asked, “What worse than cook, waash and lash?” “The starch and the iron,” the lady responded with a knowing smile.
• Tony Deyal was last seen saying that while Thomas Jefferson was guilty of forcing his slaves to cook and wash, he also used the lash, which in one sense is a whip but in Guyana means sexual intercourse.