The conductor yells out the window indiscernibly as he slams the sliding door of the bus shut. Our driver gasses it out of Downtown Falmouth at top speed and I shift in my crowded seat. We pass the hospital, the Safari Adventure Tours park, but before we reach the Queen’s Highway a loud ‘pop’ hails out, followed by a grinding sound as our bus pulls to a hault.
The passengers let out a collective sigh. Several among our rank kiss dem teet with frustration. Flat tire.
“All passengers please disembark!” The driver switches swiftly from Patwa to proper English as if to diffuse the tension.
As the driver and conductor collectively work to remove the flat, someone feigning a whisper hisses, “dem nuh ‘ave nuh spear tya.” No spare tire. Our only hope for reaching our destination is to flag down a vehicle with space on board, but so close to the departure point, our chances aren’t great.
A woman in a pink polka dotted top slips out a breast to feed her infant. An older woman adorned in a sun bleached black beret and clutching several black plastic bags curses under her breath about our driver’s poor road skills, about the near-empty charter bus that whizzes past us without hesitation, about being stuck next to so much bush. A young woman quizzes her toddler about the location of his various body parts (“Point to your nose! Your ears? Yes!”).
The conductor, having finished removing the spent tire from the bus, dashes across the road holding up his oversized shorts by the belt loops as they threaten to expose his underclothes. He ambles into the mangroves, stumbling and creating loud crunching sounds. He resembles a baby goat taking it’s first jerky, wobbly steps with an attitude that says I’ve so got this when you know they totally don’t got this.
Back on the other side of the road, someone lets a snicker escape their lips. Soon, the whole motley crew is bursting with laughter over the fumbling conductor, who has finally managed to perch himself on a crooked tree and light a thin spliff between his lips – presumably trying to take the edge off of the lost revenue.
I take a still-warm beef patty out of my bag and begin nibbling on it, aware that I might not make my doctor’s appointment on time.
At long last, a bus stops and a few of us clamber aboard. A smile teases the corners of my mouth as I reflect on our shared moment, a moment sweetened by human connection.