It was in the late hours of the night when I finally headed home; and as I drove along, I realized that there were hardly any vehicles being driven on the road. You could have easily guessed where the few drivers were headed at that time of night . . . some were off to the airport; others to the hospital, fast food joint, or club; but most times, the men driving along, were coming from their girlfriends’ houses, like I was.
As I neared my neighbourhood, I got a flat tyre.
“I just knew it!” I said.
I should have pumped air into the tyres earlier in the morning, but had been so busy throughout the day, that it slipped my mind.
Changing tyres was a breeze for me, I had been changing them ever since I was 14 years old; and that was over 50 years ago. I unbuckled my seat-belt and got to work. I didn’t sweat much in the cool, night air, but every sound I made, echoed loudly in the quietness.
“A tek yuh a tek off? Or is putting yuh a put back on?” A man asked me; he seemed to have appeared from nowhere.
“Is my car dis.” I replied, in a serious tone.
“Alright boss.” He said, and disappeared on his bicycle.
He probably thought I was scrapping the car and wanted to join me. “Old thief dem!” I thought.
Then after I finished, and closed my trunk, a police car stopped and parked beside mine. The cop came out and looked around.
“I was only changing my tyre.” I said.
“Oh.” He responded. “I just got a call about a suspicious car in this neighbourhood.” He continued.
“Well, I live not too far from here.” I said, pointing in the direction of my home; but he stood there uninterested.
“Turn around and lean up against the car.” The cop instructed me.
And suddenly, being afraid for my life, I quickly did as I was told.
The search was a fast one, and when I turned around to face the cop, I saw him flipping through my wallet.
“Is this all you have?” he asked, taking out all the money I had to my name.
He counted the dollar bills, it was all I had to purchase gas for my car and for groceries to last me until the end of the month.
“Yes.” I replied.
“You sure about that?” he asked in a gruff voice.
“Yes sir.” And after the cop pocketed my money and entered into his car, I said “You can’t tek mi money officer.”
But he didn’t even look at me; he wound up his window, started his car, and drove away.
I never felt this way in such a long time; I was taken advantage of, and robbed. And as I laid in bed that night, I realized that I could not even trust my local police.
A month later, I found myself involved with the Jamaican lawmen again. Two of them followed my car, and after driving for awhile, they signalled for me to stop.
“Big man.” One of them said. “Follow us down to the station.”
While driving behind their vehicle, I tried to figure out what I did wrong, but couldn’t exactly pinpoint my fault. I began framing responses in my mind, but responses to what?
“We’re locking you up today.” One of them said to me, as I stood inside the station.
But I wasn’t afraid of his threat; for I had been locked up for a few minutes, years ago, and was quickly released after I made a phone call to one of my school buddies, who was a senior police officer.
“What yuh charging me for?” I asked.
“We soon write it down and show you.” He said. “But we don’t have to do it, you know.” He added.
“Ahh! So that was it.” I thought to myself. “The wanted me to give them money.”
But what could it be about me? Recently, many persons had seemed to think that I must have hit the Lotto jackpot, or something! Although I was self employed; business was very slow, and I was broke. I had been living off my savings, and recently, I had been asking my children for financial assistance. Luckily for me, my girlfriend did not demand money from me; I visited her for my regular meals, and all she wanted from me, was my sweet loving.
“Show us yuh papers dem.” The second cop instructed.
“Car papers?” I asked
“Of course.” he responded.
And then, after he inspected them for the third time, he hissed his teeth and threw them in my direction. They fell on the desk, and after I gathered them together, I asked,
“Every thing is in order sir?
He rolled his eyes.
Then after a few minutes of questioning, the cops figured out that I was just a struggling businessman with only four faithful customers; two of which, were my relatives. They huddled in the corner for awhile, speaking in hushed tones; and when they were done, the third cop came over and spoke with me.
“Mr. Palmer!” he exclaimed, in a happy tone. “It is so good to see you again.”
I looked at him in surprise. Of course they all knew my name was Smith, for it was written on my documents.
“Guys, this is my friend’s father.” He said, patting me on the back like were long time buddies. “Is what you have him in here for?”
And before I could say anything, he escorted me out of the station, and directed me to my car.
Then after sitting down and buckling up my seat belt, I said to myself, “What a set of crooks! And just look at the way they got me to leave the station.”
I drove off in my car, and decided to just call it a day.
Then, six months later, as I stepped outside my bank, I found myself cornered by another set of policemen.
“You’ve parked your car in a non parking zone.” One of them said.
“But other cars are parking here too.” I responded, but they ignored me.
“Show me the no parking sign.” I demanded, but they stared blankly at me.
By then, I was so fed up and disgusted with some of the men in the Jamaican police force, that I angrily cursed them off for their incompetence, thievery, and corruption.
“Be careful that I don’t charge you for obstructing a police officer, and preventing him from carrying out his lawful duties.” One of them said.
I hissed my teeth, and continued cursing at them to the point where it seemed my blood pressure had sky-rocketed.
“Sir, you must not be feeling well today.” The cop said. “Give me your cell-phone and let me call one of your family members to come and take you home, before you get yourself into real trouble.”
I stared at the cop for awhile, “Should I give him my expensive cell-phone?” I asked myself. “It was a birthday gift from my daughter in foreign and I didn’t want him to steal it.”
I decided instead to give the cop the phone number of one of my sons; he stepped away and made the call, then returned a minute later.
“Your son is on his way.” He informed me. “Just wait for him inside the bank.”
Half an hour later, a wrecker came and towed away my car.
“Ken, you’re going out now?” Dottie asked, she was his wife.
“Yes, a good friend just called me.” Ken replied. “He said I should come pick up my old man who is waiting for me at his bank in Cross Roads.”
“Okay then.” She replied. “Since you going to be on the road, bring home some KFC* when you’re coming back.”
“Yup.” He said.
And while I sat in the air-conditioned bank, many miles away; a song began playing on radio with words as follows:
“Man to man is so unjust,
Children, ya don’t know who to trust.
Your worst enemy could be your best friend,
And your best friend your worse enemy. . . .”
* KFC = Kentucky Fried Chicken