Traffic was bumper to bumper on Thursday night as I attempted to make my way to a tennis tournament in Castries. Cars seemed to be spilling out of every crevice of Rodney Bay and its environs. My thoughts immediately drifted to the possibility of an accident. Why else would we be caught in this slow crawl on an otherwise uneventful weeknight, other than to satisfy the morbid curiosity of St Lucians intent on having a ‘look see’? Little did I know that I had unwittingly fallen victim to the other popular local pastime: the holiday panic.
You know what I’m talking about. Every major holiday on the island is preceded by outrageous lines at the petrol station and gridlock in the supermarkets rivaling the urgency of a hurricane advisory. As a former Girl Guide, I have nothing against being prepared, but what exactly are we preparing for?
It’s a long weekend, yes. But is there a famine? No. Why are there throngs of people clogging up grocery aisles with carts filled with enough food to feed a small army? It’s highly unlikely that this haul will be consumed in a month, let alone a weekend. Do you really need those extra boxes of macaroni and cheese dinner? Are you really going to buy those green peppers that appear to have survived the Gulf War? More cases of Heineken? Although, one can never really have too much Heineken. But I digress.
And did you not notice that you were low on gas at any point other than the evening before said holiday weekend? Did I miss the memo that said there would be absolutely NO gas available after Thursday evening? Just in case, I decided to conduct an informal survey over the weekend and found that, surprise of all surprises, there were stations open during the weekend, including Easter Sunday. Shocking right? Well no, not really but you get my point.
Oddly enough, this same fervor is not always replicated when an actual disaster is looming. Our famous ‘laissez-faire’ attitude seems to kick into high gear during such turbulent times. So why does the panic level hit astronomical highs before the holidays?
I figured I should consult an expert so I decided to ask a treasure trove of wisdom and potential disaster preparedness expert: my grandmother. After all, no one is more alert when a water shortage advisory is issued, filling every vessel in sight. Never mind that the warning will not affect her area. However, she was unavailable for comment because it was garbage day and well, that’s a whole other story. She’s the best…
So I remained just as I was on that fateful Thursday night: unaware of what the hoopla was about. I said as much to my sidekick Michelle as we sat in frustration, inching along in the melee, mentally cursing the cavalry of vehicles protruding from various petrol stations.
“I mean is this really necessary?” we scoffed.
Then, “Maybe I should get some gas too?” offered Michelle tentatively.
“Yeah, why not,” I responded shamelessly.
After all, we rationalized; It’s a long weekend.
Hey, when in Rome, right?