Alez, Allez, Allez....
Allez, Allez, Allez…
Fans of the Tour de France are familiar with the cries that Frenchmen give to the participants in the Tour de France… Allez, Allez, Allez!
Well, here in Jamaica, a regular, everyday ride also elicits quite the reaction, much to the surprise of my wife and I, in our Move Back to Jamaica.
We are used to the polite and distant glances that cyclists get in the U.S., for the most part. People don’t really care to do much more than look… even when the pack of 150 cyclists is tearing around the corner of Flamingo and Sheridan at 25 mph. We have ridden from DC to Mount Vernon and back along bike-trails trail with runners, roller-bladers and walkers without as much as a hello.
In true North American style, people are pretty much intent on leaving you alone.
(Although there was the one time that a few drunk women in a car asked me if they could “smack my ass” while I was riding by the intersection of Stirling and 441… the outcome of that interaction I will leave for another post.)
Here in Jamaica, neither liquor nor anything stronger is needed to incite the passions of a Jamaican walking by on foot when it comes to cyclists, as early as 4am in the morning.
I have no idea what it is about – but on just about every ride I take, there are numerous comments shouted out from strangers, and not all of them are as encouraging or as savoury as those in France.
There are Exhortations: “Ride on– Rider – Ride on!” (heard from some school-children this morning.)
Coaching: “Not fast enough!! Pedal quicker! Yuh slacking off!”
Helpful: “Him a leave de whole of you behind – try harder!” and “Mek sure dem nuh lef you!”
Funny: “Dadda… yuh buss!” (transl. exhausted)
Racial: “Black man – nuh mek de white man/Chiney man/ Indian man lef’ you!”
Curses: “Move oonu bombo-claat off de road!”
Disturbing: “Get up -- you f**king sons of a sodomite!”
Sexual: “I will tek dat one – him look strong” and “Come ride _dis_ nuh?” (from suggestive women pedestrians to male cyclists)
Lately, our groups have included women…. Their presence alone is enough to stop traffic, and get long stares…
Disbelief: “Rass, is woman dat?!?!?” Is woman time now! Show Dem!”
Mildly Threatening: “Mi will kill off de man dem and tek de women!”
And there is a consistent comment that most women cyclists would expect to hear from their doctor.
Pleading: “OH GOD! BABY!! YUH MASHING UP DE PUM-PUM!!”
Or “MUMMY…. YUH SQUEEZING IT UP ON DAT BICYCLE”
From a certain perspective, they are enough to scare anyone off the road. In the U.S. it would be called harassment, and there would be lawsuits, protests and more.
A Jamaican Moving Back must get used to the fact that we Jamaicans really do operate as if we are all in each other’s lives, and when a group cycles by they are each seen as one of us.
In the North American sense, there are no “strangers.” There are us Jamaicans, and then there are foreigners.
When a cyclist is told “You are riding too slow!” the person making the comment is saying it to someone they assume they have a relationship with, even though never have never met.
The bad part of this kind of close social involvement is that lots of our crime that is personal. 90% of our crimes are not random, but have to do with retribution or revenge directed at particular offending individuals.
The good part is that a cyclist falling on the road would never be ignored by people rushing to meetings at their office, or on their way to get their cup of coffee at Starbucks. Instead, the concern would be genuine, and based on this kind of close involvement that all Jamaicans assume is automatically there.
The never-ending comments, the assistance on the road, and even the personal crimes are indications that people care, and care deeply. Moving Back to Jamaica from North American or the U.K. means getting used to that all over again.