If I had remembered that today was Thursday; I would have left earlier for home, instead of spending an extra hour finishing up the accounts, and catching up on office gossip. Everyone knew that the police were out in their numbers on Thursdays; but somehow I forgot.
Every Thursday, starting from around 11:00 a.m., you could see their huge bikes parked at certain hot spots, and overweight police officers leafing through the various documents of fretful-looking drivers; it was never a pleasant sight. While many persons drove by guardedly, a few persons travelled on alternative routes to avoid the police, and some bus drivers parked their buses for the day.
So here I stood, among a crowd of anxious persons, awaiting a bus heading into Kingston; we were there for over an hour, and there was not a bus in sight. At first, the conversations were high spirited, with persons laughing and sharing interesting things about their day; but afterward, there were sounds of sighing, and many complaints of weariness, and of hungry bellies.
The first bus to arrive was already partially full with passengers going into Kingston town; and only those persons who spied it driving into the bus park, were quick enough to board it to fill the available seats. After forty-five minutes more of waiting, some persons chartered taxis and left, and those living within reasonable distance, hitch-hiked a drive to their homes. Other persons, like myself, stood akimbo; having drained faces, and tired eyes, that peered into the distance.
The sun was about getting ready to set, when a white van came to a halt at our bus stop.
“Town, town!” the driver called out suddenly, much to the surprise of everyone. The van was fitted with CC (Commercial Carriers) license plates, and we all assumed that the driver would be delivering stock items to the supermarket nearby.
“Is Kingston yuh really going?” an old man asked.
And at the sound of his affirmation, many persons quickly jumped inside; and they began sitting comfortably as they rested their weary feet. After a few minutes, I too decided to take a seat in the van; I should have really waited some more for a public passenger bus, but I couldn’t be bothered to remain standing anymore.
When the last seat inside was occupied, the van departed for Kingston, and everyone on board seemed relieved. Soon my focus was on the evening sun; it was taking its final peek over the hillside, and was looking one last time at the river, leaving a glimmering reflection. Then suddenly, the scenery changed, and I began seeing tall, green cane stalks; there was sugar cane growing in abundance to left and right of us as we travelled. I looked around and realized that we were no longer driving towards Kingston, but were instead, racing through sugarcane fields at a very fast speed.
“Oh my God!” I shrieked.
“Shh!” A lady beside me said. She had her finger to her lips, and she was trying to hide the fear that showed plainly on her face.
I looked to the left and to right of me; and then, when I looked behind, I saw a police car, with flashing blue lights, in hot pursuit of our van.
“Don’t look back!” The same lady said.
Then as I quickly turned around, and began to look straight ahead of me; I realized that everyone sitting in the van, was facing forward too.
The van sped through the fields, twisting and turning on pathways that only the driver and sugarcane farmers knew existed. We passed several wooden buildings, the houses of Indian farmers; all neatly kept, and homely. Then through deep sugar cane fields we sped, with cane branches slapping the windshield, and swiping at the windows as we passed. The van did not slow down for a moment; and we were jerked left, right, and centre, as it drove in and out of crater-like potholes, and over stones. At one point during our high speed chase, I glimpsed in the side view mirror; and saw that the police car speeding after us, was approximately twenty feet behind. I said a silent prayer, and sat with bated breath; this chase seemed similar to those I’ve only seen on television.
As the driver of the van maneuvered through the dense cane fields, we all sat rigidly, facing forward like robots; with fear-struck faces, and our hearts in our throats. Eventually, we returned to the main road, and headed into a little district. Then speeding down a little lane; the driver, on reaching his destination, quickly made a left turn and headed into a yard. He careened around the houses that were there; then expertly slid into a little shed around the back. When he jumped out of the van, he signalled to a man nearby, and after the passengers disembarked; the men quickly locked the door of the shed, and covered it completely with a huge tarpaulin.
We then walked quickly away; going around the houses, passing through their front yard garden, and then stepping into the lane; I had no idea where we were.
“It’s a good thing we never did pay any fare as yet.” A woman said.
Another woman hissed her teeth. “Fare!” she exclaimed. “You a talk bout fare? We could have all lost our lives!” Then, and as she wiped her face, she added, “Suppose the policeman dem did trigger happy?”
And just as she spoke, we saw the same police car driving down the lane; it passed us ever so slowly with both police officers looking to left and to the right, scouring the area in search of the van.
“We really did lost them.” A man said.
I walked along quietly with the group, they seemed to know where they were going; and as we continued walking some more, I eventually figured out where we were. We were half a mile above the location where we originally started out from.
“But is what this?” A school boy said, when he saw us returning to the bus stop.
A young woman burst out laughing, and my face burned with embarrassment as members of the waiting crowd recognized us as the same group of persons that had departed half-an-hour earlier.
“I was foolish to have taken that van.” I thought to myself. “The driver had absolutely no regard for the lives of his passengers. He drove us about as if he was transporting cartons of drinks, biscuits, and other staple food items for delivery to the supermarket.”
And as we stood, waiting yet again for a bus destined to Kingston, a blue van stopped and parked right in front of us.
“Who’s going to town?” The driver asked.
A lady hissed her teeth; but a few persons went and sat inside.
A quick glance at the license plate revealed that it was a van with a Commercial Carriers license; it was another driver trying to make quick money.
“Come mek we go inside nuh!” Some school girls said to each other.
“Nice lady,” the driver said to a bank employee. “Come nuh?”
She jumped right inside with a couple of friends. “We not going too far; yuh hear?” she said. “Just ’round the Junction.”
“That’s alright” the driver replied. “Town, town? Who’s going to town?” He called out some more.
A few minutes later, as the van was being slowly filled with passengers, a bus drove into the bus park; it was empty, and we gladly rushed toward it.
“Miss!” the driver of the van said to me, as I moved toward the bus. “Why you don’t tek my van? I’m leaving now, now!”
I pretended not to hear him, and went and joined the others as they queued to board the bus. And while I sat comfortably in my seat, I thought to myself;
“I would prefer to wait till ‘Thy Kingdom come’, for a legally licensed bus, than to travel in another van with CC license plates.”
Then as I reflected on the ordeal I went through; speeding through cane fields to evade the police; I heaved a long and deep sigh. And as the evening prepared to change into night time, and dark clouds strolled across the ashen sky; I looked at the driver who was still seeking passengers for his CC licensed van;
“Bout, ‘why you don’t tek my van?’” I thought. “Me? Not ever again! But see here, dem must be think sey me a biscuit!”