It was the usual morning rush. I needed to leave the house at a certain time in order to beat the traffic and reach school and work on time. With everyone shepherded out of the house and after ensuring that socks and shoes were indeed matching and no lunch bags were left on the counter, we jumped into the car.
We were chatting about the day ahead, the fluffy clouds in the sky and what type of craft and other devices would need to be invented in order to reach the sky and retrieve some clouds. As I pondered the answer to that question, I was jolted out of my ruminations by a loud crash and after a bone-jarring thud I slowed the ‘Boyce-mobile’ to a crawl. A quick glance into the rear-view mirror illuminated the cause for the mind-blowing experience we had just had. We had dropped into a pothole.
As my heart rate normalized, I became cognizant of the fact that this experience was not uncommon for me and as the wheels in my head continued to turn, I recalled snippets of conversations with other persons who satisfied the criteria to be members of the Barbados Association of Pothole Survivors. An example of such a person was a father who was late in picking up his child from school. Almost like a recalcitrant child who was expecting punishment from an authority figure, he explained to the principal that his car had dropped into a chasm and the rim of his tyre had broken.
Other members have had their suspensions destroyed or tyres punctured and in one extreme case, someone passed a kidney stone. As jovial as this might sound, potholes are a serious concern in this country. I live towards the North of the island and most days I travel on Highway 1 to reach my various destinations. By the time I reach the outskirts of Bridgetown, my breakfast has had the same treatment as a James Bond martini- shaken not stirred… shaken and re-shaken times over; my right elbow is so sore from knocking against the sides of the door; my back is pulsating from being throttled against the seat whilst manoeuvring the cobblestone surface of the highway.
To add insult to injury, I happened to be listening to the radio whilst writing this article and Red Plastic Bag’s song Holes came over the airways. This song was a hit way back in 1985 and this fact clearly shows us that this malady is not a new problem. In that song he says, ‘what a hole, shun dat hole, a wider hole, a deeper hole’ and I could not agree more.
Potholes, in my opinion, seem to influence the burden of chronic disease in the country. I postulate that in trying to avoid potholes persons are more anxious whilst driving on already perplexing roadways and by the time they arrive at their intended stops, their blood pressure is markedly elevated. The grimacing and tightening of the jaw with each drop into a hole causes dysfunction of the temporomandibular joint (the joint connecting the jaw and the skull) and leads to facial pain and headaches.
I had the thought that perhaps I should try walking to my destinations. But I quickly shelved that idea because of the fear of falling into a chasm and twisting my ankle, thereby reducing my mobility and increasing my risk for obesity.
Let us also consider the resulting trauma to knees, elbows and skulls secondary to the jostling and the muscle strain from trying to avoid dropping into potholes. Should I even mention the pregnant patient who fears for the life of her yet unborn offspring? The child (or children) in utero respond to the rollercoaster rides by kicking the poor mother furiously. What about those persons who have to be scurried to the hospital by ambulance? I recounted my experience as a passenger in an ambulance a few articles ago where I was weak in the knees after I disembarked. I cannot envision how an ill patient would feel after such a trip. Stress, fear, road rage and pain are all by products of potholes, in my humble opinion.
To be truthful, I really am tired of dropping into potholes and I have developed a reflex of grinding my teeth, grimacing and letting out a ‘long Bajan stupse’ when it happens. One particular afternoon my daughter and I counted over one hundred and forty (140) holes and we had not yet reached home.
We can all agree that potholes are a nuisance. However, I applaud the relevant Ministry heads and staff who are working expeditiously to alleviate this serious problem plaguing our people. In the grand scheme of things, when people are dying of cancer and there is world hunger, potholes pale to insignificance. Nevertheless, it is an issue which needs to be addressed.
Since my abode is in one of the more rural parishes, I can expect that there will be some time passing before I can expect to have the luxury of a smooth ride from my driveway to work. Be that as it may, I look forward with great expectation to the day when I am able to spend my time on the road enjoying the roar of my engine, shifting my gears and feeling the breeze on my face; as opposed to grinding my teeth, demonstrating skills meant only for rally drivers and calculating how much of my budget I will unwillingly eventually need to hand over to my mechanic.
In the meantime, watch out for those holes!
(Rénee Boyce is a medical doctor, a wife, a mother and a Christian, who is committed to Barbados’ development. Email:email@example.com)