I have a mixed bag of emotions regarding everyday life in Guyana. Joy, anxiety, and sorrow are a few. Sorrow because of the level of harassment that Guyanese constantly face. Anxiety because you never quite know what to expect next, and joy because of how resilient they have become.
If you can survive in Hell, you are ready for whatever the world throws at you.
In the United States Navy, SEAL trainees are subjected to the most intense training that any human is exposed to. This training culminates in what is referred to as Hell Week. It's a five-day crucible that deprives them of sleep while performing the most grueling tasks in bone-chilling temperatures.
During the 2014 commencement address at the University of Texas, Admiral William H. McRaven described the SEAL training as six months of being constantly harassed by professionally trained warriors.
The Guyanese experience is perhaps a never-ending Hell Week with other forms of stimulants that harass the senses.
As the day dawns, Guyanese are confronted with a litany of sounds. The neighborhood fowl-cocks, parrots and dogs lead the charge with their crowing, squawking and barking. Soon thereafter, motorists announce their presence with revving engines and honking horns. Booming music then gets added to the mix triggering all the car alarms within a 1-mile radius.
Who knew that Guyanese are so creative that they could replicate the effects of sonic boom decades after the Concordes were retired?
Then comes the industrial noises with its own garden-variety. Grinding. Banging. Drilling. Every motorized tool known to man kicks into gear right there in your residential neighborhood. Did some public servant who actually gets paid from your tax contribution see it fit to grant a licence for a workshop to operate in your street? Geez!!!
Except for those who live far away from the urban jungle, the harassment starts even before you leave the comfort of your home to go earn your keep. The journey to work brings no reprieve.
Whether you are driving your own car or commuting via mass transit (minibus), the traffic gridlock resembling an apocalyptic evacuation awaits you. May God help you if you have a weak bladder or irritated bowels.
I don't know if it's a prank or just outright mockery of the masses, but sirens and flashing lights would erupt from what are rumored to be emergency vehicles. All four lanes of traffic that formed on a two-lane road must now make way for the occupants of these unmarked vehicles who cannot wait.
There should be a petition for the list of all vehicles (and its owners) that are equipped with sirens and emergency lights to be made public. We ought to give proper respect to the operators of such vehicles. They should not be allowed to remain anonymous behind the heavily tinted windows. Not even the leader of the free world has such protection is his fortified limo.
Although the harassment knows no boundaries, it's not all somber. There are some moments that I find amusing amid the proceedings. Just as water finds its way into a crack, minibus drivers always seem to find a path to keep moving between the tightly packed vehicles.
Is there a secret society for minibus drivers where they teach these skills? Who else can navigate through such confined spaces without scraping every vehicle that has been passed?
No story that touches on the operation of minibuses is complete without describing the passenger experience. The operators ramp up the harassment by packing the passengers like sardines and subjecting them to such loud music that they cannot even hear your own thoughts.
If you are lucky to get the conductor's seat, your face would then be involved in an intimate relationship his armpit for the rest of the journey. For added measure the passengers get rocked from side to side as the driver worms his way through traffic narrowly missing everything that he passes.
Imagine all this drama before you arrive at the office where another circus with a different cast is about to start. But the workplace drama deserves a story of its own.
Let's just say that you survive the day but want to unwind before you go home. You set off for the seawall to watch the setting sun and feel the soothing trade-winds on your face. But you get there only to discover that every other car and the popup bars in front of which they are parked, are competing for attention with their sound systems.
When and where can Guyanese go to catch a breath? After all, the journey home is just a repeat of the morning sequence. Perhaps the next-door neighbors will take a break from their nightly cuss-out, affording you some quiet time when you get home.
Are Guyanese subliminally being conditioned to be professional warriors or are they courting the U.S. Navy to air drop their SEAL trainees into Guyana for Hell Week?
P.S. Don't forget to pray before you sleep. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?