Re­mem­ber­ing Granny

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY - Ge­orge Davis is a broad­cast ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer and talk­show host. Email feed­back to col­umns@glean­erjm.com and ge­orge.s.davis@hot­mail.com.

IWAS in pri­mary school in the mid- to late 1980s dur­ing a spell of wa­ter lock-offs. At the time, I was liv­ing with my granny just out­side Old Har­bour in St Cather­ine. Wa­ter went any­time the elec­tric­ity went. Not be­fore I came to live in Kingston in 2001 did I know it was pos­si­ble for wa­ter to still be in the tap dur­ing a power out­age. Folks in Span­ish Town and be­yond will tell you that ‘light gone’ means ‘wa­ter gone’. And it still feels like magic to­day to rise in your Kingston 6 town house and see wa­ter gush­ing from the tap dur­ing a JPS out­age.

One day, a govern­ment-owned wa­ter truck came to the hous­ing scheme to de­liver the crys­tal juice to house­holds that hadn’t seen the stuff for weeks. Peo­ple swarmed the truck like ants to Cheese Trix, tot­ing pan, bucket, pail, drum, car­boy, flower pot, along with any­thing metal­lic or plas­tic that could hold the life juice. The driver of the truck worked with two gruff, scruffy-look­ing side­men re­spon­si­ble for manag­ing the hoses in­tended for at­tach­ment to the three out­let valves welded on to the left side of the ve­hi­cle.

The three-man wa­ter crew wore khaki suits that had seen bet­ter days and per­haps, be­cause of the stress in­duced by hav­ing to deal with ‘ol’ nayga’ cussing them for be­ing weeks late in de­liv­er­ing wa­ter, were in a foul mood. I couldn’t have been older than six, but I re­mem­ber them threat­en­ing sev­eral times to leave the com­mu­nity if the what’s-it-not peo­ple never be­haved their ‘bungo-blood-pushy-rash-clash’ selves.

Nowa­days, I chuckle when I read about per­sons rais­ing con­cerns about the qual­ity of the wa­ter trucked to them dur­ing a drought or ex­tended lock-off. Back then, we didn’t have the lux­ury of wor­ry­ing about whether the damn thing came from the dis­gust­ing, stink­ing Duhaney River, snaking along the bor­der of Kingston and St An­drew, or any of the streams around the Soap­berry sewage-treat­ment plant. We just wanted wa­ter.

At the time, my granny had some crock­ery that she would prob­a­bly not al­low Je­sus to use if he lived in the com­mu­nity. For a woman who knew only poverty, th­ese pre­cious plates, cups and saucers were her most trea­sured pos­ses­sions, and apart from her house, a Singer sewing ma­chine and a Kelv­ina­tor deep freeze rep­re­sented her only as­sets of real value.

As the truck made its way to our house, my granny had sur­mised that those per­sons liv­ing on the side of the world where the truck’s out­let valves were point­ing got first pref­er­ence with get­ting wa­ter. So as the ve­hi­cle inched its way to us, she hatched a plan. She or­dered me to call her when the truck got to our gate, be­fore dash­ing in­side the house. By the time it came to us, the truck was run­ning low and the side­men were re­fus­ing to fill any­thing larger than a bucket or wash pan.

GRANNY’S PLAN

My granny emerged and promptly went to the driver. ‘How yuh do, mi son? Yuh sup any warm tea from mawnin?’ ‘No?’ ‘Then come eat one sand­wich and drink likkle green tea nuh, man. After yuh no worse dan nuh baddy.’ The driver switched off the en­gine, pad­locked the main out­let valve and went into my yard with his crew.

As the neigh­bours cursed, putting to­gether var­i­ous com­bi­na­tions of bungo-blood-pushy-rash and clash, I watched in as­ton­ish­ment as the scruffy-look­ing wa­ter crew sat down in my tiny liv­ing room-cum-kitchen, ef­fec­tively hav­ing high tea, with egg sand­wiches from which the edges of the bread were cut. They ate and drank from crock­ery that had never been used in the years be­fore nor since.

After belch­ing and thank­ing Mama, the men re­turned to the truck, filled up the three 55gal­lon drums in my yard, along with ev­ery other re­cep­ta­cle we could find, be­fore shut­ting off the valves and beat­ing a hasty re­treat from the com­mu­nity, bad words ring­ing in their ears.

I write this in mem­ory of my granny, cham­pion and spon­sor, Joyce Beck­ford, who would have cel­e­brated her 82nd birth­day on Septem­ber 26 this year had she not left me in Au­gust 2010. I will al­ways love you.

Se­lah.

Nowa­days, I chuckle when I read about per­sons rais­ing con­cerns about the qual­ity of the wa­ter trucked to them dur­ing a drought or ex­tended lock-off. Back then, we didn’t have the lux­ury of wor­ry­ing about whether the damn thing came from the dis­gust­ing, stink­ing Duhaney River ... We just wanted wa­ter.

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