Published On: Sun, Jun 24th, 2018

To boldly go… up Cay Hill at more than 5mph

Chris Morvanby Chris Morvan

I was talking to a friend about traffic the other day and mentioned someone who works in the Little Bay area but lives in Cupecoy. “He must be crazy,” I found myself saying. “Even on a good day that’s a half hour drive.”

“That’s our island way of thinking,” she reminded me, and she was right. When you live in a small place you quickly forget how far some people travel to work in cities. Some unfortunates are resigned to spending an hour each way on the train, with fares adding up to many thousands of dollars a year. Either that or they waste half their life sitting in their car, facing the long grind home and then having to do it all again a few hours later.

This should have put into perspective the small matter of 90 minutes I had spent the week before, getting from the airport/big bridge roundabout to Pelican Key.

But it didn’t put it into perspective. It just amazed me that on a small island like this there should be traffic jams at all. Is it that there are too many cars or that the roads are too small?

My 90-minute odyssey was made extra irritating by the fact that the driver in front of me wasn’t on the ball and wouldn’t immediately creep forward when a small space opened up in front of him. When you’re sitting there, seething, such slackness is guaranteed to bring forth profanities and wondering what is wrong with the guy. Did he keep falling asleep?

In fact, dozy or not, he was Mr Popular, as evidenced by the young woman who walked over from the roadside to have a chat with him, causing him to become even less diligent with his creeping forward. And finally a passing cyclist took over the conversational duties, leaning on his roof and allowing himself to be pulled forward during one of the rare moments of movement.

In such frustrating periods of confinement the mind tends to find things to do, and mine turned to what stations were tuned into the presets on the radio. I trawled through three marginally different music stations and turned to speculating as to the technical process that rendered many of the voices alarmingly similar. Is it the fact that vocals are electronically tuned to correct sharp or flat notes that makes so many singers sound like androids? If it weren’t for a classic St Maarten delay, I might never have found time to think about that, so perhaps I should have been considering something more deserving of my attention.

Rather more thoughtful material did arrive when I flipped through to a station broadcasting a recording of a parliament session, but if I had stayed there too long I might have dropped off like the guy in front.

Of course there is something to be said for sitting in a line of cars on Cay Bay Road, winding around a small mountain, with a glorious sea view and cruise ships passing, bound to beat you to Philipsburg.

But getting involved in a snarl-up on Union Road or Walter Nisbeth, those are a different matter.

Or even worse, Bush Road, which could be in any godforsaken little town from Dakota to Gdansk.

As a newcomer, I can only imagine that this has been a sore point for many years and that minds better qualified than mine have thought about either making a tunnel through Cay Hill or expanding that steep, twisty glorified  goat track that goes over it. But even that would only solve one part of the puzzle.

There are too many motor vehicles in the world, that’s the simple fact, but how can that be resolved? Car sharing has been tried in many places and doesn’t seem to have made a blind bit of difference. Encouraging people to use public transport has been similarly unsuccessful.

Maybe we could use the sea and some customized jet skis. Or water buses from Marigot to Philipsburg, then on to somewhere like Oyster Pond and all the way back.

The only thing that can save us is something currently unimaginable, as the internet and mobile phones were even 50 years ago. Look at Star Trek in the late 60s, when they all had their personal communication devices and we went, “Sure, nice thought, but it ain’t going to happen in reality. Not in my lifetime.”

But wait…that’s it! The people who developed mobile phones were making Star Trek come true, so let’s lock today’s geniuses in their laboratories with boxed sets of Gene Roddenberry’s visionary masterpiece and not let them out until they have replicated the legendary transporter. Then, never mind talking to virtual assistants or saying “Okay Google,” we can all chorus “Beam me up Scotty” and whizz off to wherever we want to go.

There will, of course, be glitches, and groveling apologies from transporter staff as you rematerialize feeling incomplete because your navel has been sent to St Lucia by mistake.