Remembering a lesson learned

One time…in 2003, my husband and I rented a car at the airport and drove to St. Mary. After getting a flat about 20 minutes outside the airport, changing the tire, stopping to get it fixed etc etc we found ourselves looking for the house we were staying at in the dark. On a BAD road – more pothole than road, all washed out, chunky marl, big rocks, you know the kind. We had a description of what the house looked like and the person that booked it for us lived in the area, but this was before we all had cell phones, we just had to find our way.

We were going really slow, with the car inside light on looking at directions. Doors unlocked.

A guy appeared out of nowhere and asked us if we were looking for Firefly (we were in Castle Garden, right by Firefly, going up one of the roads that leads there). I said no, but did ask about the house, by its name. The guy said he knew it and opened the back door and hopped in the car. Not what I was expecting or wanting but like i said, our doors were unlocked and we just weren’t thinking. At that point it seemed best to continue up the hill with our “guide”.

We went up the road maybe 15 feet and saw the gates that had been described to us. I announced this and said thanks to the guy who got out of the car – he hadn’t shown us anything, we were literally just there but hadn’t realized yet. As the guy shuts the car door and leaves my husband looks behind us and says “he is running”. “with a bag”.

We had a backpack on the back seat of the car and he had taken it.

My husband jumped out of the car and started yelling at him, and we can see as the guy runs, things are falling out of the open top of the back pack. But he’s down the hill now, it’s dark, and the guy at the house has come to the gate and is letting us in. We pick up the things we can see that fell and after a quick inventory realize he has only taken the “bathroom bag” – shampoo, hairbrush, toothpaste, stuff like that which we keep separately packed and plunk in the bathroom of wherever we are staying. My husband’s jeans were on the back seat too – with all of our cash – but the guy didn’t realize and they were still there.

Once we realized this, the really BAD feeling we had was replaced by a bit of a lucky one, though I was still a little shaken.

We went on to the house and talked to the owner about it. His children were there and thought the whole story was just fascinating…I remember his very precocious 8 year old daughter hearing the account and then pronouncing “he tricked you. like anancy”.

He calls the police and passes me the phone. They really want to come over but we tell them we are fine. They also want me to say the guy that took the bag was a rasta – they ask me like 4 times if I am sure but he wasn’t and i won’t. I got the sense they were a little frustrated that i didn’t want them to come by and visit AND that I insisted the guy had short hair. Oy.

Anyway we went out to eat in Oracabessa, came back and went to open our cottage but realized we’d locked it and didn’t have the right key. Well no one locks that particular lock apparently, and they have no idea if they have the key. They go to the attic of the main house and bring down this bag of like 100 keys. (The owners of this house bought it from the Marleys, it has a recording studio on the property and we are staying in the cottage that was used for musicians back then. So these are the Marley’s keys and our hosts have no idea what they are for).

Finally, after trying all the keys over the course of an hour or so and trust me, I am tired after the flat tire and the bag snatch and all this, my husband asks if he can just break in with a butter knife. That takes about 30 seconds and we are in.

The next morning the woman who booked the place for us comes up the road and is dying to talk to me because she heard what happened and needs to see if we are OK. Mind you this is 12 hours later and she lives down the hill by the main road and we are big news because hardly any tourists come here and in general there isn’t much crime. Apparently our car was set upon by 6 gunmen from Kingston, all carrying machetes (and guns, presumably, these being “gunmen”), and we were robbed at machete-point.

When I tell her what really happened she is obviously relieved. She hands me a plastic bag of toiletries given to her by neighbors who collected them on the roadside from where the thief dropped them from the bag. We actually got almost everything back, filled in the few missing items in Port Maria for about $5US.

One thing I had in there were tampons. Those did not all get returned…she tells me that a couple found their way to the youth center next door to her place where a few older boys told some of the younger boys that they were cigars from foreign and they should smoke them…which they did. I’d have liked to have seen that 🙂

We went on to have a wonderful stay there. I remember that town fondly – in fact stopped by just last month – and we have a great story to tell as well.

I do always lock my car doors now, though.

Some photos from the area….

Getting the tire fixed in Runaway Bay on the way to Port Maria

The villa we stayed at’s jungly surroundings

An unused building on the property

View from the recording studio deck

The owner’s pool, which we could use

Back of our cottage

Cottage verandah with view of the sea…loved my coffee here.

View from the verandah

The beach down the hill

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