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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

You're Not in Nevis

In the early 1980s, I was obsessed with tropical islands and was visiting the Caribbean nearly every winter. Often, I would island hop, traveling to two islands in one trip on a 10-day vacation.
In December 1983, I was with my sister and brother-in-law, visiting both Nevis and Monsterrat. We arrived at the Nevis airport, and I proceeded to rent a car. I wrote about my experience in The Point of Impact on October 25, 2010: 

I was completely dumbfounded when, in renting a car at the tiny airport, I was only asked when I would return. There was no paperwork or contracts, the only requirement to show a drivers license. The owner of the vehicle confirmed our agreement as to the rate ($25 per day), asked when I would return the car, and just handed me the keys.

Upon arriving at my inn, the first question I had was to the inn owner about this car rental transaction - the most puzzling and lackadaisical I have ever seen in my life. He said to be assured, the owner would know my whereabouts at any given moment. I asked how that was possible. He told me that Nevis was a very small place (the island nation only has a population of 12,000), and everyone knew everything. I asked how any problems would be resolved. He assured me that everything would be fine, just don't have an accident. This was not comforting at all.

What I did not mention in this story is the larger issue of theft. Effectively there was none, for the same reasons the renter of the car was unconcerned about details of who I was. If everyone knows everyone in a small island, stealing will be difficult to accomplish without getting caught. If I steal your TV, how will I keep it a secret without living a cloistered life? Word travels like wildfire and learn of the theft immediately, all eyes will be on the lookout, and invariably, someone will learn of its new home.

This is not unlike the small rural town in an isolated area, where the Golden Rule is even a more powerful operative, perhaps more so than the threat of punishment in being found out. In New York City, however, we have the polar opposite situation. This is a place where thieves can easily mix without fear of discovery. Opportunity knocks at every turn, and every prudent New Yorker never lets their guard down completely. Rituals and habits become second nature - without conscious effort, we guard our handbags, lock our doors, and never leave anything in sight in an automobile. We rotate watch over belongings in restaurants as turns are taken to use the bathroom.

And we chain our bikes. However, chaining by one wheel will not do the job - a bike less one wheel is a worthy candidate for theft. Best to lock both wheels and the frame altogether, or the frame and one wheel, carrying the other wheel with you. Even a wheel alone may be stolen.
There are places, such B&H Photo, where you know You're Not in Kansas. In today's photo, we have a cluster of front and back bicycle wheels chained together. A bit of a mystery, but one thing for sure - one glimpse and you know You're Not in Nevis :)

Related Posts: Last to See the Future, With Impunity, One Screw, Street Cred, Orange You Glad


Leslie said...

Where the heck is the site of that photo? Can't figure it out...

Mary P. said...

Me niether!

Mary P. said...

Me neither? Where's the spell check when you need it?