I never called him “Beltman” to his face. But that was my name for him. In all these years that he came up to me and chatted with me, I have never asked him his name. I don’t know his name. When my daughter was growing up we did her shopping together and there were certain personalities you came to know in the shopping centres of downtown Georgetown. My daughter is now twenty but two employees of Fogarty’s still ask me; “How is that little girl?”
Actually Fogarty’s has a little record that needs to be mentioned. Since my daughter was three, I took her shopping. I came to know a few of the ladies in the upper flat of the store. That was seventeen years ago and those employees are still there. I have not seen that in any other commercial outfit or retail establishment and by retail, I mean every conceivable business where you go and make a purchase whether it is an insurance policy, a hot dog, a jersey, a sack of cement or a hammer. In those seventeen years, I have met countless employees of commercial Georgetown and I can count on my fingers those that I still see working when I enter their workplaces. Employees do not stay in one place any longer in this country.
The one exception outside of the Fogarty’s example is the popcorn seller on the seawall in front of the bandstand. If my daughter is 20, and I bought popcorn for her from this gentleman when she was two years old, it means that guy has been in front of the Atlantic for over eighteen years. Last year I reminded him of how long I have been buying his popcorn since my wife now requests popcorn every afternoon when we stroll on the seawall. This gentleman told me that Minister Robeson Benn’s officials came last year and took away his popcorn cart where it has taken up residence in the Ministry’s compound. I went there to verify the information and it is true.
I got to know “Beltman” while shopping at Fogarty’s. He is not an employee of the store but he is always at the northern entrance with his home-crafted leather belts; about four dozens of them.
In all those years of shopping at Fogarty’s, I have only used that entrance. So “Beltman”: and I struck up a friendship. Last Friday, at about 10.00 hours, I saw four city policewomen arrest “Beltman” and take away his merchandise. I was livid. And my anger overflowed inside the office of the City Constabulary outlet at the Stabroek Market square. I asked the plain clothes officer why she took away his belts and she yelled out in my face that she ordered the confiscation.
I had a confrontation with the city police from this particular office before when I saw three of them demand six mosquito nets from a vendor or face being arrested. I went to the head office at the City Hall and had them brought before their superior. They were disciplined and I ran a column on the incident. A few months ago, outside of Guynaz on Bourda Street and North Road, I saw three of them pick up ten packets of carrots from a Rasta vendor or face being arrested. I went to the Bourda constabulary office and they told me the carrots would be returned
Mark Benschop and I went to get back the merchandise of “Beltman.” A big, big quarrel ensued between me and Inspector Adams. He claims he is doing his job of removing obstructions on city streets. I then challenged him to put all his ranks including he too into my car and Benschop’s and we will show them where obstructions are and for them to do their job. Benschop and I agreed to provide lunch. Asst. Superintendent, Blair-Carter came out of her office and accused me of behaving disorderly. I apologized, but insisted that if the city police are removing encumbrances, then why target poor vendors alone.
I again insisted, this time to Mrs. Blair-Carter, that we would take the city police and show them where the big-wigs are committing more serious violations than the poorer folks. This lady then politely told me, (Benschop was a witness) that this is an area of politics that the city police cannot do anything about and “we have to face that fact.” In other words, she admitted that she cannot touch the untouchables. I told her and Inspector Adams that they cannot dare go where Benschop and I would take them because the untouchables would cuss them down and chase them away.
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