Life moves slowly in the Dominican Republic. It is late morning in Santo Domingo and the world has come to a standstill. Children play in the shade of a small tree across the street and beyond them two men sit hunched over a chess board. One of them appears to be sleeping. Dogs lie sprawled along the pavement and an old man reads a newspaper in an armchair on his porch. I sit lazily observing the scene, enjoying the gentle breeze blowing in off the warm waters of the Caribbean.
All of a sudden I see him approach, a flustered looking ruddy-faced man. He is middle aged and out of breath and wears a bright orange sticker. Evidently he is part of the ‘orange team’ that has recently come ashore from the enormous cruise ship docked in the harbour, looming imperiously over the delicate colonial buildings of this, the oldest city in the Americas.
I watch with mild curiosity as this incongruous character draws near. His beady eyes exude anger and frustration as he hurries along, noticing nothing around him but seemingly consumed by some terrible grievance.
“How much are they charging you in that hotel!” He spits the words out in a voice brimming with accusation. Somewhat taken aback by this outburst I do not instantly reply. “I saw you in that hotel. How much are they charging you?” he demands.
Still unsure quite what is the matter with the man I reply that I am paying 400 pesos per night. “I knew it!” he cries and a look of glee flickers across his sweaty face. “They’re charging me 500 but I know it’s not worth that. Horrible place! It’s an outrage, I’m going to talk to the manager”.
In an effort to placate the man I tell him 500 is the standard rate and that I am granted a discount as I have stayed here many times before and get on well with the owner of the place. He is having none of it however and rushes off with a look of righteous indignation to confront the hapless manager, muttering to himself as he goes, “These people, these people.”
I leave him to it and wander off to explore the cobbled streets of the town centre but an hour or so later as I make my way slowly back towards the hotel he appears again, waddling along at an impressive speed, a furious whirlwind of anger and disdain. From the look on his face I surmise he has failed to achieve his desired rate but it soon becomes apparent that a far more catastrophic problem now plagues him.
“Ten freaking public telephones and not one of them working! This place sucks, it really sucks.” He tugs incessantly at his wispy grey beard in his anguish and hops from foot to foot like a madman. His mannerisms bear an uncanny resemblance to those of a distressed chicken, or perhaps an intuitive turkey before Thanksgivng.
Seeing only the chicken and unable to quite grasp the apparent severity of the situation I can’t help but release an amused chuckle. His face, now purple from the exertion of the waddle, looks thunderous and I quickly adopt what I hope is a more sympathetic complexion.
“Ask at reception?” I venture timidly but immediately regret it as he launches full throttle into another feverish tirade of abuse.
“I hate this place. And these people!” he cries. “Nothing works. Nothing! I’ll tell you what the problem is! They’re all so damn laid back!”
I pause to reflect on this curious revelation as the avian little man continues slinging profanities left right and centre. I wonder how he could possibly be so oblivious to the fact that while he rages on about the inferior mindset of the Dominicans everyone around him is perfectly content. I wonder what this happy country has done to deserve a visit from this odious little creature, the antithesis of all that is wonderful and refreshing about the Dominican Republic.
But I remember with pleasure that here his rants and rages will fall on deaf ears and that to the people of the Caribbean he will always be nothing more than an amusing interlude to liven up the day, the tiniest ripple in an ocean of perfect tranquility.