I’m really not much of a shopper. Oh, it’s fun when I’m at Sarah’s house in Washington: we have our favorite stores to browse, and places to eat lunch. And when I’m home, I enjoy a quick trip to Sutton’s Bay to see what’s on sale at Lima Bean clothing. But mostly I’m an internet shopper. I head for Amazon, or eBay, or Musician’s Friend to buy what I need—happy to know it will show up in my mailbox in a couple of days.
In Eleuthera, however, things are different. There’s no mail delivery in Tarpum Bay, and I’ve never seen a delivery truck—I assume that by the time you order, pay shipping, taxes, and duty, all convenience and savings is lost. Here on the island, time is not a treasured commodity anyway—everybody has an abundance of it. (The resource of too much time compensates for the consistent lack of money and possessions, and creates a learning experience for American visitors. But more on that, later.)
Today was shopping day. I’ve written before about the adventure of shopping with Brenda—and it’s still an adventure, no matter how many times I’ve done it. We planned this day—Brenda didn’t have to work, and she had some errands as well. I suggested we rent a car (both of her family cars were ‘with the garage man’) and Brenda picked me up in a quite astounding vehicle: it outdid the bright yellow sports car with the air foils that she used to meet me at the airport last Friday!
This one was a metallic burgundy Chevy Malibu. What made it so amazing was the windows: they were coated all around with a matching window coating—also in shimmering burgundy. Only the front windshield was clear. Kervin had washed and polished the car before Brenda left, it glowed and glistened in the sunlight. Of course, nobody could see who was inside. I know these windows would be illegal in Michigan (though the sticker said the car was assembled in Lansing). I fantasized that in its past life, it was probably a drug mobile in Miami Beach or a pimp wagon in New Orleans.
At any rate, off we zoomed to Rock Sound, looking for a few items I felt were necessary for my comfort during the next couple of months.
Brenda had to pay some bills, as well. In a community with no real postal service and no credit cards or personal checks (and certainly no online banking), one pays bills by showing up at the utility office and forking over the cash,. It’s a pretty hard system for me to embrace, but I guess there’s something to be said for face-to-face interaction with one’s customers. There’s certainly enough personal contact with the Eleutheran method of purchasing utilities and again, when you have an abundance of time, who cares about convenience?
The lack of signage in Eleuthera is another clue that one is not in the United States. After all, when you’re on an island that’s only 2 miles wide, how lost can you get? And if you’ve lived here all your life, why would you need a sign? As a result, shopping with Brenda means pulling up to an anonymous ramshackle building, slipping through a darkened doorway (lights aren’t needed until there are customers), and finding yourself in a huge cavern loaded with boxes and bins of dusty goods, most of it unsorted and stacked randomly throughout the interior.
One store had the chairs we were looking for stacked above the milk and soda coolers. “How much for dem plastic chairs?” Brenda asks. Without looking at where she points, the store owner says, “Twenty five dollar each”, and doesn’t ask if he can get one down for us to look at more closely.
We check out several stores in Rock Sound, and then head for Governor’s Harbour, Eleuthera’s capitol. ‘Governor’s’ is about 25 miles to the North, but it’s a good hour drive, given the narrow roads and potholes. Straight stretches, though, Brenda makes it up to 55 in the Burgundy Bomb, even though the ocean is lapping over the seawall in some places. We repeat our forays into the recesses of dark concrete buildings: in one store there are at least 200 baseball caps hanging from the ceiling. I wonder how long they’ve been there: I almost never see anyone in Eleuthera wearing a ball cap—forwards, backwards, or sideways. Many of the stores still have dusty metallic Christmas wreaths still in their boxes, unsold this season and probably for several seasons before this one, from the looks of them.
Finally I say, “Miss Brenda, I have to have lunch! Stop shopping!”
“You hungry, Miss Judith?”
We head for the docks in Governor’s, to a little snack shop right next to the Customs building. It’s tiny, four stools at the counter and one small table for two. There are plenty of chairs and tables on the patio in front, but it’s cold out, and Brenda and I seat ourselves inside at the lone table.
There are two remarkable things about this place: (1) it is absolutely the cleanest and most pink and white restaurant I’ve ever seen, and (2) the food is amazingly good. I ordered conch, which was deep fried but with a batter more like tempura. Brenda had the juiciest cheeseburger I’ve found anywhere but Sledder’s in Traverse City—and while we ate we had a delightful conversation with the woman behind the counter. Brenda and Kervin are related to many people on the island, and so wherever we go Brenda establishes whatever 6 degrees of separation (usually much less than 6) exist with shopkeepers, waitresses, and gas station attendants.
It was fun listening to the two women discuss mutual friends, common relatives, and who was the minister at the Methodist church in Tarpum Bay these days. Most everybody knows Lynn’s and my house (the two-story pink one next to Miss Barbie’s Take-Away), and the pink-shirted hostess was no exception.
Our last stop was the Tarpum Bay furniture store. They know me there: it’s where Lynn and I parked the car that wouldn’t stop honking its horn last year, and where—on another trip—I mistakenly walked away with the old man’s cane. Once again I ended up with some significant expenditures from this store: a computer desk, a chair, and a charcoal grill to be precise.
Since we couldn’t get my purchases in The Burgundy Bomb, the proprietor fired up his delivery truck and followed us to my house, bringing everything in and putting it in the proper places before he left.
Brenda left soon after: she brought Kervin a conch dinner from our restaurant, and both of us were exhausted.
Girls Day Out. Rough life.