Many years ago, I was driving back up the east coast highway after a day of school visits down south when a young man flashed by me on his motorbike. I recall thinking how irresponsibly he was driving; he had overtaken me on a bend and would have had no chance of avoiding a collision had there been another vehicle coming the other way. I had one of those uncharitable thoughts, which I suppose most of us have had from time to time, that wished the young man could have been taught a lesson; you know, the sort of “it would serve him right if …” kind of thoughts.
I suppose this memory was revived after I was recently picked up by a St Lucian friend and driven to a doctor’s appointment after I fell and injured my knee. Perhaps I am not a good passenger; people who drive a lot seldom are. But the trip from town was a bit of a nightmare.
My driver would be driving along when I would notice a car from a side road on the left begin to nudge his nose into the traffic. My driver would slow down fractionally as if he were considering stopping to let the intruder out, and then accelerate ever so slightly and drive straight past. Time and again, my heart was in my mouth in anticipation of a collision.
Sometimes my driver actually stopped to let people out, more often than not, two or three cars; there was no pattern to his generosity. Once or twice he would let a couple of cars out, then drive forward, pause as if to make the third car believe he was still in with a chance, and then accelerate past.
Since then, I have monitored numerous examples of similar behaviour. Sometimes, just two cars might be driving along with no other traffic in sight – mine and the one in front – when the car in front would suddenly stop to let a car in from a side road without a glance in the rear view mirror. The car waiting to enter could have easily waited another split second until the two of us had passed, but no, he had to get on to the highway.
Let’s not talk about bus drivers that overtake you, only to slam on their brakes and stop abruptly to let off a passenger. And let’s not mention the bus drivers that drive into the forecourt at Courts Marisule only to overtake ‘on the inside’ as it were five or six cars ahead of them before emerging at the other end of the parking area causing delays to every other road user. And please don’t get me going on the way the whole of the north of the island is held to ransom by bus drivers on the highway by the Rodney Bay malls.Anyway, enough of that; there I was, years ago, having uncharitable thoughts about a young man who had roared past me on his bike, no helmet on his head, as I made my way home after a tiring day of school visits ‘down south’, as they say.
I had just passed Mamiku Gardens on my way north, just around Praslin it must have been, when I was suddenly confronted by a group of people in the middle of the road, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. A pickup was off to the side and a motorbike lay askew on the asphalt.
Smack bang in the middle of the road there lay a twisted doll, strangely lifelike; its limbs pointing in all directions. I stopped and got out to see if there was anything I could do.
The young man was still alive, but barely conscious. There was no way he could be moved for fear of making his injuries worse. The onlookers, whose numbers had swelled amazingly in just a few moments as people appeared from nowhere, were standing around chatting. Now and then, someone would turn to peer at the figure on the asphalt, perhaps in concern, perhaps out of curiosity.
I knelt down in the road and took his hand. I don’t know what he felt, but I wanted him to feel something. I tried to massage his fingers, gently. His breathing was very shallow, hardly audible, labored. I wanted to believe he could feel my fingers, but perhaps that was wishful thinking.
The bystanders glanced over at us now and then, not in a callous way, just curiously disengaged. The boy began to shiver slightly. I asked for something to cover him. A man got a piece of cardboard from the back of his truck, and we covered him, his hand still in mine, till he died.