An Interaction with a Jamaican Taxi Driver (with helpful commentary from me)

In a sick sort of way, I enjoy taking public transportation around Jamaica. I’m often asked to “small up” in the backseat of a car, hold a box of baby chicks, hold a baby, or listen to political or religious diatribe from fellow passengers or the driver. Taxi and bus drivers frequently perform death defying feats of driving. They carefully avoid potholes (of which there are a great many), are willing to carry a package or a bag of groceries to a destination on their route for you, and will take care of you once they get to know you. In general, they’re pretty reliable folks. I’ve encountered only two female drivers and they’re even better. Here, I will document one of my most…interesting interactions with a taxi driver.

Travel on Sundays can be tricky in rural areas as taxis don’t run as frequently (or at all). After visiting Julie in Free Hill, I walked the 20 minutes down to the bus stop, which is on the Bamboo-St. Ann’s Bay route. I needed to go to Bamboo and then on to Brown’s Town. After waiting what felt like an eternity to catch a taxi going that direction with an available seat, I finally got one that was totally empty. After a few moments of silence, the taxi driver asked me if I went to Rebel Salute (a big Reggae/Rastafarian concert that had happened over the weekend.). I told him I hadn’t, as I was visiting my friend in Free Hill. A few minutes later, he asked if I was a Christian (red flag! red flag! red flag!). I cautiously said I was. Any way you answer that question can lead to a sermon, but I find it best to just nod and say yes. As a followup, he asked if I was married (HUGE RED FLAG!). In this instance, young white women have a few choices:

A) say you’re married. B) say you’re married to a strong Jamaican man and you have a holeep of pickney C) say you’re single

I chose option A. (If you know me at all, I am SUPER single. I have now taken to wearing a ring on my ring finger just deter men) Option B is too much of a bluff for me to pull off. Option C just invites marriage proposals and leering looks and set ups.

Then, the driver asks me if I have any pickney. My answer: “Naaaaw suh, mi cyaan afford no pickney dem!” After he discovered I was 25 years old (practically middle aged!) he informed me that I should have AT LEAST a daughter by now. Probably a son, too! I kept insisting that I couldn’t afford any pickney because I’m a volunteer and don’t make any money. Well, my husband should be able to provide for my children and me. It’s his job! I told him I’m plenty independent, and besides, my husband is a volunteer too. We argued for the final 20 minutes of the ride about how I’m not going to be able to have kids soon (apparently female fertility drops off dramatically around age 27). I assured the man that I did want to have kids, I just can’t afford them now. Some day, I’m going to tell anyone who asks if I have kids that I can’t, I’m barren or whatever, just to see how they react.

I got out of taxi in Bamboo, not sure that what kind of impression I’d left on the driver. Sadly, the Bamboo to Brown’s Town driver told me that I was “good wife material.” I primly informed him that I was married. Crestfallen, he said I was far too young to be married. He was not yet 32 and then very proudly told me he already had THREE pickney and suggested that I should get cracking if I wanted any myself.



About Elizabeth Riley

It's the wonders I'm after, even if I have to bleed for them.
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