Sunday, April 14, 2024

JUST LIKE IT IS – Ecstasy and agony

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As anyone writing a regular column knows and will readily confess, it is not easy. Ecstasy and agony come with the territory. One is motivated to continue the weekly slog by the intellectual challenge, the sourcing of topics, putting the words together attractively and the good that it can sometimes do.
Satisfaction comes through sharing information, enlightening, entertaining and asking pertinent questions when necessary. Immediate gratification comes via encomiums in emails and telephone calls from at home and abroad and from eyeball to eyeball encounters, making the effort all the more worthwhile.
This is not a political column, though from time to time I write about local, regional and international politics drawing on my training and experience.
My political stripes are zebra-like, but different from those of another Peter. For that reason, it is particularly gratifying when bouquets are thrown across the political divide.
That is what I expect in a sophisticated, civilised, democratic society at all times, and it should be easily discernible. I remain rigorously faithful to my banner Just Like It Is, writing without fear or favour. As the political cauldron begins to bubble and boil more vigorously, some, in the narrow corridors of their minds, believe that this space should take a partisan political stance.
Let me say to these zealots, look elsewhere.
I will write as the spirit moves me. If there are aspects of the character of David Thompson which I found appealing and worthy of emulation, they were highlighted as exemplary and useful tools of mentorship, particularly for the youth. If national events in the wake of his death and the passage of Tomas were worthy of acclaim, this space will say so.
As another ambassador once famously said, who don’t like it, can lump it. Rest assured, friends and foes, when, like a bridge over troubled waters, the burden of writing this column becomes too much to bear, I will lay it down. For the time being, if what I write is not what you want, take refuge in the comic pages.
Driving a taxi at 87?
I am a regular listener and sometime caller to the call-in programmes on both major radio stations. They are excellent barometers of public opinion. My other reasons for following them are too well known to warrant repetition here. One aspect which I have never mentioned, however, is the light relief and humour they provide. You need only hear the belly laughs of top host, Tony Marshall, to understand.
There is a former chronic caller who surfaced again recently. When the Barbados Labour Party was in office he called almost daily complaining at the top of his voice about the lack of progress on the St John Polyclinic to the point where one moderator feared he was courting a heart attack and cautioned him to cool it.
Since the change of Government in 2008, his hysterical calls in his guttural voice disappeared from the airwaves. Last week, he did not dwell, quite understandably, on his pet peeve, but aimed his verbal arrows in the direction of his old political adversaries.
Having heard him repeatedly advertise his profession as a taxi driver, I was amazed to hear him say during his resurrection that he is 87 years old. I have a few questions. First, is there a cut-off age, and what is it, beyond which the authorities will permit a man to drive a public service vehicle? Is a satisfactory medical certificate mandatory for renewal of a driving license and does he have a valid one?
And would he give an update on progress at the stalled polyclinic now that his party is in power? In case he is not in a position to report progress, as its long time, vociferous voice would he, the consummate insider, tell the call-in family, especially those from St John, what is delaying progress?  And sir, since the moderator seemed unconvinced that you are an octogenarian, precisely when were you born?
Why higher electricity bills?
Of all the utility companies in Barbados, I have said repeatedly both privately and publicly on the call-ins  that Light & Power is to be admired and applauded especially for its customer relations. Indeed, in damning the Barbados Water Authority for its hitherto serial deplorably poor customer relations, Light & Power was held up as worthy standard bearer.
With an enviable record of responding expeditiously to public concerns and queries, on behalf of a large number of family and friends, I feel constrained to ask why our October bills escalated dramatically.
I heard complaints on the call-in programmes which seemed surreal.
However, when I got my bill and saw a significant jump, knowing that nothing different in usage could have generated the spike in kilowatt hours, I called the company.
A charming lady promised to send a technician to check my fridge. He never came. I suppose the visit of Tomas grounded him. In any case, since everybody’s bill for October escalated significantly, I realised that I was not in a unique situation but was like the majority of other consumers who suffered a rate hike. Incidentally, my 2009 October bill was also higher than the others.
I wonder why?
Light & Power’s head of customer relations sets a consistently high standard, but I do not recall him taking to the airwaves to answer complaints about higher than usual October bills. I therefore ask the estimable Mr Worme to shed some light on the reason for the increase in bills of a significant number of consumers. Was there a computer glitch? A response would be most welcome.
• Peter Simmons, a social scientist, is a former diplomat.

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