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THE LOWDOWN: They who can’t pick and choose

Richard Hoad

THE LOWDOWN: They who can’t pick and choose

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We were at the Miramar in Port of Spain when a young lady drew up a chair and asked for a cigarette. My Bajan colleague offered her a Trumpeter.
Trumpeters were the Bajan cigarette of the day. My vet had me feeding my goat Trumpeter stubs. Nicotine is a wormer. The goat soon learned to pick them up for himself. Trumpeter was boss!
“I don’t smoke them!” spat out the Trini lady disdainfully.
“Whores can’t pick and choose,” rejoined my friend. She took the cigarette.
Those words stayed with me. To this day my blood boils to hear of young women slaving for pimps, of foreign girls forced to work as prostitutes right here in Barbados. I vowed never to be in any profession where I couldn’t pick and choose.
Then I became a newspaper columnist. Fans shouting you off, nuff money. But you’re a prostitute nonetheless.
You write the column but the editors, legal and otherwise, can change or omit whatever they wish and never tell you. (An editor, not of THE NATION, spelt it out for me in those exact words.) A simple phone call could bring about changes acceptable to all but it never happens.
Recently, I did a rhyming paragraph in a column. I’m as proud as Kamau of my poetry. They took out sections at random and left me looking real foolish. But, hey, ours not to reason why, ours but to do. Or die. Columnists can’t pick and choose.
And we’re in good company. Our cocaine addicts get beaten, robbed, treated like dogs. They can’t pick or choose. Nor can Barack Obama when [Benjamin] Netanyahu comes calling.
Working wives have to put up with lewd suggestions and pats from bosses if they want to keep their job. Some have to spread.
Many LIME customers would gladly spread to get a little service. I pay business rates for my land line. Recently, a customer pointed out that I wasn’t listed in the new directory. Tried to contact LIME.
Eventually, I got an email last Tuesday telling me to call the phone book printers if I had a problem with my Yellow Pages listing. Hello, LIME? I have no problem with my Yellow Pages listing. I have no Yellow Pages listing. My number isn’t in the directory (the same listing as has been there since 1977) and I’m paying for a business phone.
Then there are those of us at the mercy of people who are “coming”. We can’t pick and choose either. “Coming” is a major profession in Barbados nowadays. Maybe they teach it at Cave Hill. I don’t know.
Right now I have a contractor who was coming since Wednesday last week. A shower stall builder coming at “7:30 tomorrow morning” about three weeks ago. An electrician coming to wire a 220 volt plug. Several customers coming for hay which I could have sold many times over. And they’re just a few. And they never call if they aren’t showing up.
Which is why I was struck speechless when Hugel Greaves of RIMCO turned up twice with parts he promised to bring for me. I hope he doesn’t lose his job over it. 
More surprise, Frank Roett promised to look at that disaster tractor which was pumping diesel into the oil sump. He came! And, after six months of frustration, he found the problem in six minutes! Someone had connected the No.4 injector line to the No.2 hole on the injector pump.
Even though holes are mere inches apart, and the pope or Obama says it’s okay, never connect anything else to your No. 2 hole!
Baroom! The tractor roared to life. Whereas before it was huffing and puffing like a minister of education and sending out billows of smoke, now it purred happily. The front-end loader lifted itself in pure joy. The muffler pipe flew off never to be seen again. NASA says it passed their moon probe headed for Jupiter.
God bless Frank Roett! Thanks to Hugel Greaves. And thanks to the gentleman in Ashton Hall who gave me a pumpkin. Just so. The wife made a lovely ham-bone soup with it. I had a prenuptial taste but when I came back later for my full quota, all was gone.
The story of my life.
• Richard Hoad is a farmer and social commentator.