by Pa Rock
For those of you who have been to the Caribbean, the concept of island time is not hard to master. None of the locals wear watches, and they do things at their own pace. Try to rush somebody at your peril!
Our ship docked at St. Thomas at eight o'clock this morning, and I was one of the first people down the gangplank. I caught a cab into the downtown area of the capital, Charlotte Amalie, where I expected to hop the nine o'clock ferry to St. John. But the ferry schedule had inexplicably changed yesterday, and today the first ferry did not run until ten o'clock. That left me an extra hour-plus to walk through the maze of jewelry stores and diamond shops that comprise a big section of Charlotte Amalie. I was confronted by many street hustlers who tried to steer me into their stores, even though diamonds were not my priority for the day.
The highlight of the morning in Charlotte Amalie was watching a mother hen and her several baby chicks scratching for bugs on the lawn by the post office. You can take the hillbilly out of the hills, but you can't take the hills out of the hillbilly!
The ferry ride to St. John was thirty minutes. The area where the ferry landed, Cruz Bay, is a quirky little community of outdoor cafes and taverns, tourist shops, and, yes, chickens running loose everywhere. I also heard that there were goats, donkeys, and the occasional cow that went where they pleased, but I didn't encounter any of those residents.
After deciding that St. John was now my favored place for retirement (sorry Puerto Rico), I opted to take a taxi tour of the island. I met a retired cop named Elvis who ran his own taxi. He quoted me a good price - if I could wait a few minutes until he secured some more riders. Half and hour later he still had only me. As I started to roam away, Elvis directed me to a store and a cafe thinking that would keep me busy. I stepped into the cafe and ordered a cheeseburger - to go. One hour later, after the lady already had my $10 for the burger, it finally arrived. I went outside to find Elvis driving off with three other customers!
After one of his colleagues flagged him down, I hopped aboard. It turned out that the hour-and-a-half tour was going to take a little longer than that - and I had to catch a ferry back to St. Thomas before the tour would end. Elvis suggested that he would drop me after part of the tour and I could take a taxi back to the ferry.
Fine. That sounded simple enough.
What I didn't anticipate was that all taxis seemed to operate on the principle of not moving until they were packed with tourists - and then only if the mood strikes them! Elvis found a cabbie at Trunk Bay who promised to get me back to the ferry on time for the 2:00 p.m. departure to Charlotte Amalie. As soon as Elvis pulled out of sight, that taxi driver shuffled me off to somebody else who had made no such promise - and would not worry about it if he had.
I told the new driver that I was in a hurry. Big mistake. He told me it was not good to hurry. As the time ticked on and our taxi filled oh-so-slowly, I was nearly in panic mode. Eventually the taxi was full, and later-rather-than-sooner our driver ambled over and cranked up his gold mine. We made it back to the ferry with five minutes to spare.
But the ferry schedule on St. John had changed. The next one to Charlotte Amalie wasn't for nearly two hours - too late for me to make it to the cruise ship before the scheduled departure. (Somehow, I sensed that the Captain of the Eurodam probably wasn't sailing by island time!)
The lady at the ticket cage told me that I could go to Red Hook by a ferry that was preparing to leave. Is Red Hook on St. Thomas, I asked hopefully. She looked at me like I was the dumbest mango in the tree, and told me that of course it was. I could go to Red Hook and then take a taxi to the ship.
Oh, great! Another taxi!
Things got better in Red Hook, and I was pushed into a taxi that was nearly full. We were able to get on the road relatively fast, and I soon learned that Red Hook was just about as far from my ship as you could get and still be on St. Thomas. But my sudden gust of good luck prevailed and now I am safely on board - although some of the crew did eye me suspiciously when I bent down and kissed the gangplank!