You haven’t heard from Gertie in a few days, and you may be wondering why the silence.
When I last wrote, Captain Jim had had a little mishap with the dinghy, as you may recall. Well, the little mishap turned into a bigger mishap than we thought: seems there was salt water in the boat motor and a rip in the seam. Jim made it out to the Ocean Dance, and the dinghy motor refused to run again. After some frantic calls and text messages, I managed to find Kervin, and we met Jim at the shore, after he rowed in. Kervin looked at the dinghy and said, “Machu can’t fix dat, and I can’t fix dat. It’sa four-stroke engine and you gotta go to a special school for that.”
Of course, Machu disagreed: “That’s easy, Mr. Jim. All you gotta do is pull the carburator.” Jim went with Kervin’s analysis of Machu’s capabilities: the engine has no carburator. Kervin suggested the names of a couple of mechanics in the vicinity, but one was busy with a regular customer and the other was nowhere to be found.
“My brudder Pedro could fix it,” Kervin said. “But he in Nassau.”
So you guessed it: Jim bought Pedro a ticket to fly from Nassau to work on the engine.
The next day was sunny and calm, and Pedro and Kervin went to work. By evening the engine was fixed, and the dinghy needed to be brought ashore to be patched. Jim would be good to go.
We celebrated with a dinner at my house: Kervin barbecued the chicken, Brenda made fried snapper and barracuda (which the locals eat, but which we didn’t try), Jim brought the rice and the sodas. It was a festive evening, with a late dinner (Kervin was late–‘Island Time’, you know). Nine people attacked the food like starving locusts, and I made a sinful coconut dessert which should have given everyone a sugar high for at least a week.
There was much joking—nobody was spared any expense . Jim had earlier observed that he never new when his new Bahamian friends were kidding and when they were not, but we got lots of practice trying to figure it out that evening.
But far too early the next morning my phone rang. “I got bad news, Miss Judith,” Kervin announced. “Pedro got pissed off and went back to Nassau on the plane this morning.”
“Yeah, he got mad and he went home. Mr. Thingum—Mr. Jim paid him $150 and Pedro say that’s an insult.”
“Kervin! Jim just gave him the plane fare. He will settle up for the work when it’s finished. Didn’t Pedro understand that?”
“I don’t guess so, Miss Judith. I try to tell him to call Jim and ax him, but Pedro he just went home.”
Kervin gets the persuasive Bahamian wheedle in his voice: “You call Mr. Jim and tell him?”
“No, Kervin, I will NOT call Mr. Jim and tell him. Pedro is your brother, and it’s your problem. If Pedro can’t make a phone call and straighten out his own business, I am not going to get in the middle of it.”
It’s difficult doing business in Eleuthera sometimes. I’ve built a house here, and we regularly rent cars and purchase goods and services from our friends and neighbors in Tarpum Bay. But there’s often a problem in communication, which leads to misunderstanding—as it did in this case.
My friends here are reluctant to set a price on themselves and their services. “Oh, Miss Judith, I ain’t charging you,” Brenda will say. “You are my friend.”
When I insist (“Brenda, you cleaned my house and I am going to pay you for it. Now how much?”), she will quote me a price which is ridiculously low. (“Miss Judith, then just give me $30. That’s all I need.”)
No amount of argument will change the price, but the semantics becomes important. “Ok, Brenda, here’s $30. And I included something for a tip.”
For the last two days, Kervin has been working on patching Jim’s boat. Jim said to him, “Kervin, I am sorry your brother didn’t understand and went home. I will certainly pay him for his work. And I will pay you for all you are doing. You just tell me how much I owe you for borrowing your dinghy will mine was being fixed, and for all the trips between your house and the boat, and for all the repair work that you did. Just tell me, and I will will pay.”
“No, Mr. Jim. You don’t worry about that. I be your friend,” is his answer.