A Lesson Learned in Grand Cayman

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Try Grand Cayman. If you don't like to dive, you may learn something. We did. Our first lesson consisted in island time. Everything is "five minutes."

"How long will it take for the taxi to arrive?"

"Five minutes."

Fifty-five minutes later, we asked again.

"He said he'll be here in five minutes."

When he finally arrived, another thirty-five minutes later, we asked how long it would take to get to the hotel.

"Five minutes."

By this time, I was wise. And so I beguiled the time by asking the driver questions about his past.

He was a cricket player, a dominoes player, a top spinner and had played marbles as a kid.

"When you play cricket, you know, you always want to put your weakest player out first," he said.

"I see, that way the opponent will underestimate you."

"Yes, man."

"That's a good military strategy."

"Yes, you even want to send your wife out first, you know."

I didn't say anything.

"Or look at it this way," he said, "When you are stuccoing a house, you always want to put the weakest stuff on last."

"Can you repeat that again?"

"You always put your weakest stuff on last. Some contractors, they say, put the weak stuff on first, then put on the good stuff."

"But then the good stuff falls off."


"So you always want to put the weaker stuff on the outside. I never thought of that before."

"Well, you learned something tonight."

Now that we had reached some sort of connection, he unloaded his wisdom on me.
"I'll tell you a story," he said.

"There was once a wedding. The mother of the groom said to the bride, all that you have to do is feed your husband and he'll be happy. So the wife made sure, after they got married, to always have the table set for him when he returned home from work. She would put out a knife and fork and plates. And then he would come home and grumble and be unhappy. She couldn't understand it."

"Finally, she went and asked her mother-in-law who said that what you want to do is have a little meat on the stove and a little rice on the stove. And then you don't bring out the drinks onto the table. I tried to teach him differently, but he grew up with his aunt and I couldn't change his habits."

"So after that, the wife one day, didn't put anything on the table. She didn't put any forks or plates or anything on the table."

"When her husband walked in, he was surprised. The first thing he said is, 'Mama's here.'"

"And his mother came out of the back room."

I paused, listening to what was coming next. I tried laughing but it sounded a little hollow, forced, like the laughter of a mannequin with a large plastic chest, heaving and giggling with hollow air.

"It just goes to show that no one knows their boy better than his mother."

Then we pulled into the parking lot of the Holiday Inn and he lumbered to a stop.

I gave him the $30 fee, told him we were teachers and couldn't afford a tip, and left.

He came into the glitzy resort to take a pee.

The whole thing was a hard transition because we had just come from Little Cayman, where puffing iguanas run free, where barracuda hang out menacingly underwater, where stingrays scud along the shoreline, and where rain falls like petals atop the clear cerulean of the ocean.

We had been staying at Pirates' Point Resort, a private diving resort with gourmet meals and cozy cottages.

At night, we could see the heaven filled with roams of stars, and feel out ankles attacked by roams of sand fleas. But it was worth it. There are so few people and so little development on the island, the marine life remains intact and the above-water activities are shrouded in a deep refreshing silence.

Sea grape trees, low and with menacing whorls of sharp white branches amidst almost shrubbery-like foliage guards the coastline against hurricanes. The last hurricane several years ago, lifted rocks from the seabed and hurled them at the shore. The resort's owner, Gladys, was able to save herself and her house because the many sea grape trees absorbed thousands of stones from the deep sea and kept them in their arms while the hurricane hit, creating a wall or immunity from the tsunamis -- keeping Little Cayman and the resort alive.

There was an armed robbery last week, the first of its type. A handful of masked bandits stole a cigarette boat from Grand Cayman, scooted over to Little Cayman, only to arrive on a day when the banks were closed, robbed the general store of about $300, then scooted back to Grand Cayman on their hot shot speedboat. The only problem was they couldn't outrun the coast guards' helicopter and eventually surrendered.

No one on the island is much worried about it.