They Come and They Go

There’s a phenomenon all too familiar to anyone who lives on a Caribbean island. It is one that is sometimes bittersweet and other times truly heartbreaking. But on occasion, it is cause to celebrate.

It is what I call “the island revolving door of residency.”

People flock to the islands for many reasons. Some are just passing through, and make it clear from the start that this is just a temporary gig (most follow their original plan, but a few end up staying). Others are hiding out on a more permanent basis (or so they believe). Still others have no set plans for the future, and are just taking things day-by-day (which often turns into year-by-year and even decade-by-decade…I’m in this group).

How long are you staying?!?

And then there is one other group. The ones I have learned to spot from a mile away (and that, coincidentally, is the distance I prefer to stay from these folks). I call these people “the ones who know best.”

They arrive in a flurry and suddenly they seem to be everywhere. They’ve joined every local Facebook community group (and they’re not shy about posting. All. The. Time.). They’re at every happy hour (or so it seems). They love to tell their story to anyone who will listen (run!). They make grand proclamations – about their skills, their special attributes, their business savvy. And, the best one, their intricate knowledge of the island and how it works. Nevermind that they’ve been here all of one month. They still know it best.

Needless to say, these people don’t really ever integrate into the fabric of island life very well. Of course, I suspect they are the same folks you don’t generally want to be friends with (or work with) back on the mainland, either.

But, worst of all, they also bitch and complain about stuff. Stuff that, if they had done even a tiny bit of research before moving here (or better yet, actually visited before moving here), they would know might be a problem.

Yes, we know our internet speed is painfully slow. Yes, we also know that it goes down. A lot. Yes, this causes headaches for those of us whose livelihoods depend on mainland connectivity.

Yes, it is bloody hot here in the summer. Yes, there are quite a few biting insects that will drive you crazy. Yes, occasionally you contract dengue as a result.

Yes, buying used island cars is an expensive and sketchy proposition. Yes, there are potholes the size of small swimming pools everywhere. And yes, your overpriced, unreliable island car will end up needing suspension repairs regularly.

Yes, the government bureaucracy makes no sense. Yes, it is frustrating. No, you will not change it, but by all means…go ahead and try. Best of luck to you. I’ll be at the beach.

You get the point.

But eventually, these same folks get worn down. It happens every time. With alarming predictability.

And then you start to see signs that they’re getting ready to throw in the towel.

It’s always the first sign. Every time.

The grand business plans they talked up, incessantly in every social encounter, have fizzled out or never materialized in the first place. (Possibly they pissed off the wrong person in the permit office. Or they annoyed all of their potential customers. Or both.)

Their near-daily social media posts stop offering up answers to every query or complaining about every inconvenience, and instead start being ones of the sale variety. You know, like their vehicles. And their appliances. And their fans. That last one is the dead giveaway, by the way. Because no sane Caribbean rock dweller sells their highly coveted fans unless they’re getting ready to bail on island life altogether.

That is when, and I will readily admit it, I engage in a teeny, tiny bit of schadenfreude. I know, it is not necessarily my nicest attribute. I also know I can’t help it. But I’m feeling it today, and enjoying it more than I probably should.

So I’m going to relax and enjoy it. Then later, I’m going to buy all their fans.

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Also published on Medium.

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