I was at the Antigua airport before four on a Monday morning and after checking in with LIAT, went to pay my departure tax. Nobody was in the booth and several other people joined me in the line waiting and waiting. An older lady with a St Lucian accent, accompanied by her son who seems a LIAT employee, was upset. Clearly she wanted to get back to her home and had experienced similar delays several times before.
She said, "I in tong too long. Sparrow say so. He said, 'I in tong too long'." We eventually paid our departure tax and went to the entrance of the immigration department.
The guard said tersely, "They not ready yet." So we stood some more, waiting and waiting. The Immigration Officer on duty apologised and said only one of his three staff members had turned out for work. The old lady was there again with her son, standing right behind me, and she said again, "I in tong too long. That is what Sparrow say. I in tong too long."
Actually, it was not Sparrow but Chalkdust who sang, "I in tong too long" but the sentiment was certainly appropriate. The old lady sat next to me waiting for the flight to be called. There was a false alarm –we rushed to the counter to line up to board the flight and the clerk sent us back. The old lady looked at me and began the refrain, "I in tong too long." I refrained from correcting her since I doubt whether she would have believed me that Chalkdust was the singer and not Sparrow. Throughout the islands, especially those which still speak French patois, Sparrow is a hero – sah, sah yay and all that.
The other point I could have made to her but held back is that I am in tong longer than she has been and I have flown LIAT more times and more miles than she - almost as many as some of the pilots. But the tong that I have been in for far too long is Port of Spain tong. Even though I was hustling to get to Port of Spain to transact some legal business, as soon as I arrived and a man accosted me in front of the tax office saying, "Breds, I could help you get fix up you know", I knew that I was in tong too long.
In fact, honestly, I knew it just before that when I drove in to the Parkade at about 10.15 a.m. and had to drive almost to the top of the building.
When I pressed the elevator button it was blank. What is interesting is that the parking spaces for the building's overlord, UDeCOTT, are on the ground floor so Jearlean John and her people are spared having to climb the stairs or use the elevators.
The elevators are one-way. They are always going down. They work for a few minutes and then go down. They might do well in the porn business or in limbo. One that sways a little should be named Julia Edwards. As I realised that I had to walk down the stairs I remembered the old lady and groaned, "I in tong too long." What bothers me is what was said in an Express editorial, "When UDeCOTT chairman and HDC chief executive Jearlean John opened up before the power elite at Port of Spain's Union Club last week, the picture that emerged from her words was that of a dynamic agency of economic growth and transformation... The picture painted from her description of the present activities and future prospects of the agency was indeed hardly recognisable. Apart from construction, she envisions the company's involvement in real estate, tourism, finance, banking, media, information technology and health care. What exactly does she propose embarking upon under the eye-catching rubric of "media"? This is an area in which no significant relevant expertise can be identified, and an area in which the State is elsewhere heavily invested." How can I believe this can be achieved when two elevators can't be fixed so they can keep working for a whole day?
Truly, as Chalkie says, "I in tong too long."