Who Am I?

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A nobody; a nitwit; a pilot; a motorcyclist; a raconteur; a lover...of life - who loves to laugh, who tries to not take myself (or anything) too seriously...just a normal guy who knows his place in the universe by being in touch with my spiritual side. What more is there?

15 February 2007

The Mayor and Me

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.


island girl said...

You have such a great talent of story-telling. I really enjoy reading your blog. Keep it up.

Sorry to hear of your run-in with mayor but it made for good reading! Your faux pas made my dull day seem much brighter - Thanks! (tongue firmly in cheek)

Bob Barbanes said...

What I failed to mention in my post - but should have - is that the mayor really is a great guy and he really is doing a great job! He's been a positive force in Guanaja, and he's been nothing but nice to us, helping us out wherever and whenever he could. I feel very badly that he and I got off on the wrong foot. But I fear this is one of those situations that's just going to keep getting worse - especially if I keep opening my mouth and stick my (both) feet in.

Gene said...

Eh..Screw the Major. He has no power over you or "The Island". You guys are all doing A LOT for him and his precious Guanaja and he should be GREATFUL. People do communicate differently in other countries. Eye contact, jokes, etc..So maybe he just isn't used to the whole "American" way of Humor and Conversation.

Bob Barbanes said...

No, no, no! If it were just me living down here on my own, I might be inclined to agree. But I'm part of a much larger thing. The mayor most definitely *does* have power over us, especially the construction project we have underway on his island. I have nearly 40 people who depend on us for their pay every week. It would be horribly irresponsible of me to jeopardize that.

The mayor is The Man here, and we respect that. Believe me, he is grateful for all of the help the Boss has given Guanaja. But we help because: A) he truly wants to see Guanaja prosper and improve; and B) because he's such a nice guy. It's a two-way street of course, and we are not exempt from the rules. So it's best not to piss anybody off. And typical me, one of the very FIRST person I pissed off was the mayor. Greaaaaaat.

You are right about different cultures. We Americans must be aware that not everybody "gets" us. The Honduran sense of humor is VERY different from ours. Some "jokes" just don't translate well. I have found this out the hard way a couple of times already.

Open mouth/insert foot. That's me.

La Gringa said...

I agree with island girl -- you tell a good story.

As far as your dilemma goes, sounds like a bad one. It seems to me that once someone is insulted, they never get over it. When are the next elections?

Seriously, I'll ask El Jefe if he has any ideas how to repair the situation. I'm sure it will involve some major ass-kissing.
I'll let you know.

Bob Barbanes said...

Heh-heh-heh Gringa, "only" three years left for this administration - and we hope Richmond gets re-elected! He and I will come to some sort of working relationship. At the end of the day, he *is* a politician. We will just likely not be drinking buddies at Graham's.