Me­an­der­ing Matthew

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY - An­nie Paul

AS I write this col­umn on Mon­day evening, Ja­maicans are ex­hal­ing in re­lief af­ter a very tense week­end of manic prepa­ra­tions for a hur­ri­cane that never came.

In the in­terim, hur­ri­cane hu­mour ruled so­cial me­dia, start­ing with the re­sponse to my fear­ful ques­tion on Friday when Matthew briefly in­ten­si­fied to a Cat­e­gory Five hur­ri­cane. “What did we do to de­serve this?!” I tweeted plain­tively. Bam came the re­sponse from @max­izwho: “2 words ... Lotto scam!”

The tweet that summed the way­ward hur­ri­cane up best was from Al­li­son Char­maine/@al­ly­is­roam­ing: “#Hur­ri­caneMatthew is that ex that parks at the end of your road for hours wait­ing for you to get home, then drives slowly past your house.”

“A wah time the storm a keep?” was a favourite re­frain as Sunday moved into Mon­day with­out a huff or a puff from Matthew.

“I swear Matthew get­ting di­rec­tions to Ja­maica from a Ja­maican be­cause all now him cyaa reach ... . Ja­maica is up the road, make a right af­ter the big bread­fruit tree, pass Maas Birdie shop then make a left a di gungo tree, walk likkle bit pass di ceme­tery and then you see a piece of red bush cross di road don’t walk pass be­cause it a crosses and keep straight til yuh a see a Miss Meg a pick ac­kee, dont beg har none shi mean like di star ap­ple tree weh shi sid­dung unda, memba fi keep straight den mek a lef right deh suh a Ja­maica.” Who the wits are who in­vent these jokes re­mains a mys­tery, but the lack of copy­right pro­tec­tion cer­tainly doesn’t in­hibit their cre­ativ­ity.

The fol­low­ing let­ter to Hur­ri­cane

Matthew was do­ing the rounds early in the day: “Dear Matthew, I know you want to come to Ja­maica to con­duct busi­ness and see how the pros­per­ity a work. I know you are hes­i­tat­ing be­cause of all the re­cent vi­o­lence and you don’t want the gun­men shoot out yuh one eye. I re­alise that you are try­ing to walk in the foot­steps of your grand­fa­ther Gil­bert, your un­cle Ivan and your fa­ther Felix. But your daddy didn’t come n tor­ment us, so it would be nice if you did the same. Your mother Ka­t­rina did a lot to other

coun­tries but she went past Ja­maica. I hope they taught you well and you will by­pass Ja­maica too.”

DODG­ING HUR­RI­CANES

Well, the hur­ri­cane from hell did just that. Jeff Masters of Weather Un­der­ground noted Ja­maica’s re­mark­able his­tory of dodg­ing hur­ri­canes:

“Hur­ri­canes have a funny way of tak­ing 11th-hour course changes that spare the is­land a di­rect hit. Cat­e­gory 5 Hur­ri­cane Allen took an odd wob­ble around the is­land. Cat­e­gory 4

Hur­ri­cane Dean of 2007 was headed straight for the is­land, but also wob­bled just to the south, keep­ing the dan­ger­ous north­ern eye­wall just south of Ja­maica. Dean caused plenty of dam­age, though, bring­ing sus­tained Cat­e­gory 2 hur­ri­cane winds to the coast. Dam­age was es­ti­mated at $350 mil­lion, and three peo­ple died.

“Per­haps the most re­mark­able turn of an ap­proach­ing hur­ri­cane was by Hur­ri­cane Ivan 2004, as it headed di­rectly for the is­land with 145mph Cat­e­gory Four winds. Ivan took a sud­den turn 35 miles from the is­land, traced out an ex­act out­line of the is­land’s coast 35 miles off­shore, then re­sumed its pre­vi­ous track.”

The prayer war­riors firmly be­lieve it is they who are sin­gle-mind­edly turn­ing hur­ri­canes away from Ja­maica. But then, why aren’t they also able to lib­er­ate the coun­try from the scourge of lotto scam­mers, hunger and poverty? Why don’t they pray us into FirstWorld sta­tus and pros­per­ity?

Mean­while, the jokes con­tinue. Some­one even started a Twit­ter ac­count in Matthew’s name: “Doe worry Ja­maica, me still a come,” said @Mattdi­hur­ri­cane. “Wait­ing for me is like wait­ing for a cus­tomer care rep when Flow Ja­maica has u on hold.”

Fi­nally, the round-up wouldn’t be com­plete with­out a touch of po­lit­i­cal hu­mour. @Thi­sisPreki wanted to know why MP Lisa Hanna seemed to be miss­ing in ac­tion from so­cial me­dia in an im­pend­ing cri­sis like Matthew af­ter hav­ing been so hy­per­ac­tive on it in the weeks lead­ing up to the PNP’s vi­cepres­i­den­tial elec­tion which she lost. “How me nah see Lisa a post nutn bout pre­par­ing her con­stituency for the storm? She stop work from the VP loss or Corve stop post?”

Corve da Costa was Ms Hanna’s so­cial-me­dia point per­son, tweet­ing on her be­half fre­quently, pre-elec­tion. Ah, well, to quote Bob Dy­lan, the an­swer, my friends, is blow­ing in the wind, the an­swer is blow­ing in the wind.

An­nie Paul is a writer and critic based at the Univer­sity of the West Indies and author of the blog, Ac­tive Voice (an­niepaul.net). Email feed­back to col­umns@glean­erjm.com or tweet @an­niepaul.

JER­MAINE BARN­ABY/FREE­LANCE PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

Per­sons on Tues­day clear­ing a sec­tion of the Long Bay main road in Port­land where de­bris had washed up on the thor­ough­fare on Mon­day.

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