I cannot win with this mayor. Can’t win! We got off on the wrong foot at the start and I have never been able to make it right. Let me explain...
When I first got here, some things became quickly evident. The Boss is an extremely generous man, and some people had learned to take full advantage of his generosity. Our own employees lied and stole from us (some still do, or try to), non-employees were always coming and begging for “loans” or just making outright demands for money, and some local suppliers jacked up their prices when they knew it was for our company. Oh, it was quite an education!
So I landed back on our cay after a medevac flight one day. On our boat dock was a group of about thirty elementary school-age kids, jumping into the water. I assumed – well, I don’t know what I assumed. All I knew was that I had not been informed that a group visit had been arranged, and I was supposed to be the Guy In Charge of Things Now.
Before I could shut the helicopter down, our caretaker Devant (who happened to be off the island) called about another matter. I asked him if he knew anything about the group. He did not. I went over, looking for a person-in-charge. There were a couple of women, none of whom spoke English, of course. But I managed to glean that Devant’s wife Elsie had invited the schoolkids. Okay…where was Elsie? No one knew, shrugs all around. Devant called back right then and said that she too was off the island.
So what we had was a large group of rowdy, basically unsupervised kids running all over the island and getting up on the decks of the unlocked cabins. Not good. What if one of them had gotten hurt? What if they damaged or stole something? I was not happy. But at that point at least I was there. I went into the main house to take care of some business. Not ten minutes later I came out of the office, looked out at the boat dock and saw...nobody! All gone! Just like that, they vanished like a UFO had sucked them up. I called Devant. “Uh, you sounded angry so I told them they better leave,” he explained.
Only later did I find out that one of the teacher/supervisors was the mayor’s wife. D’oh!
Okay, flash forward a couple of months. One evening I’m in up at Graham’s Place (a “resort” of sorts with a popular bar just two cays up from us) and who pops in but the mayor. I introduce myself and he politely says, “Ohhhh, so you’re Bob!” The expression on his face said, Ohhh, so you’re the asshole! I apologized profusely for the mix-up, explaining it as best I could. I got the feeling that it was doing no good.
Flash forward even further. One of our workers, Negy, is a trained accountant. For various reasons (that are logical in Honduras), he ended up working for us doing manual labor. But let’s face it, people need to be doing what they’re trained to do, and when an opening came up at the “Municipal” (city hall) he jumped on it. I was sorry to see him go, but you cannot hold someone back.
So last night I go up to Graham’s again. And again there’s the mayor. Big Valentine’s Day party for the whole Municipal staff. Started at three o’clock (so you know they were already all fired-up). I go over intending to make nice, all smiling and friendly and “how you doin’?” We’re making idle chit-chat like old friends now, and so I mention Negy and how much I hated losing him. “You stole a good man from us,” I said, jabbing at him.
Stone. Cold. Silence. If looks could kill, I’d be one dead gringo right about now.
You know, it was one of “those” moments, like on t.v. when someone in a crowd does or says something incredibly dumb, and the music stops, a glass breaks, all conversation stops and there’s this big awkward silence as everyone turns and looks? Just like that. And there’s me, tugging at my tie like Rodney friggin’ Dangerfield.
“I did not steal him,” the mayor said icily. “He came of his own volition.”
Oh Dear Mother of God. Jeez-Louise! Don’t these people have ANY sense of humor? Evidently the mayor does not like the word “steal” to be associated with him in any form, even a light-hearted joke.
“Richmond, it’s just a business expression,” I explained lamely. “I simply mean that I feel robbed of a good employee. I’d never hold Negy back, and I’m really, really happy for him and happy for you to have him! I’m not trying to say you stole him…”
But I got that feeling again, like anything I could say would be useless. So I cut my losses and went for a drink or maybe to shoot myself.
Negy joined me at the bar and we toasted his new job. “You’ve got to work on the mayor,” I said. “Tell him I’m not such a bad guy.” He promised he would. But the damage is already done. Once you take a disliking to someone, it’s hard to turn that around. At least it is for me. Luckily I’ve got a “man on the inside” who can vouch for me personally. But I believe it’s an uphill battle.