AS FAR back as September, stores had begun playing Christmas music.
“Yeah! Our season start already!” One enthusiastic store attendant attended my incredulity at having to endure parang far sooner, to my mind, than was necessary or even doctor-recommended.
In the Valpark Shopping Plaza, which falls squarely into my territorial range, there are worn-out loud speakers in the car park which typically warble distorted versions of some radio station or other. The sound system is probably manufactured by the fine people who make intercoms through which pilots deliver garbled greetings to passengers.
During the Christmas season this audio system, which is being asked to perform above its specifications, screeches out watered-down soca parang and oddly placed adverts for this sale and that bargain. The management at Valpark might want to consider an upgrade or complete scrapping of that system next year. It has the timbre of an air raid siren, but without, at least, the inherent expectation that soon there may be an end to your suffering.
Of course, Christmas music is all part of a strategy to put shoppers in the mood to spend. Full disclosure, I have found myself tapping my toe in the grocery to the strains of “Sereno say-ray-no!” which is somehow worked into almost every parang song.
The refrain ricocheted inside my brain as I hovered over a beautiful leg ham in all its resplendent, frozen glory. As I put my hand on my wallet, another sound popped into my head. ’Twas a cappella rendition of several callers from the credit card department reminding me my payment is past due.
The year 2019 has been a rough one for many citizens of this country. Notwithstanding the insistence by this Government that the economy has rebounded, not everyone is living that halcyon reality. Additionally, many people seem somehow convinced others are lying about seeing hard times.
This much was evidenced by vacuous remarks that surfaced amid reports people were rushing to the banks to change their “millions.”
“I tort Trinis say dey ain’t have morney.”
Many haven’t considered that while $40,000, for example, might sound like a lot of money, as nest eggs go that is nothing. When you consider the cost of living and the fact that one bout of illness can completely wipe out your financial resources, $40K is pocket change.
Thousands have lost their jobs. Countless businesses have closed up shop. Most recently, Unilever workers were sent home. The union lamented the timing, suggesting that to send home workers for Christmas is particularly heartless. I can’t think of any good time during the year to lose your job. When I was let go from Gayelle, I don’t remember thinking, "Well it’s not like it’s Christmas or anything."
Then there’s the Petrotrin closure in 2018. While 5,000 odd workers were despatched to certain uncertainty, the impact of the shock winding-up is still being felt far and wide.
According to Rampersad Sieuraj of the Penal/Debe Chamber of Commerce, businesses that depended on the refinery were left twisting in the wind. In one instance, a contracting company that did close to $2 million in business in 2018 had revenues fall to just above $66,000 this past year. Another contracting firm posting above $6 million in 2018 plummeted to under $300,000 in 2019. In business, those are extinction numbers.
Workers, businesses, and families far beyond the epicentre of Pointe-a-Pierre are only just beginning to suffer the consequences of the Petrotrin euthanasia.
If I’ve been vague about this before, let me be clear: Not only am I the president of the Hair Club for Men, I’m also a client. I operated a small business that was wiped out by economic decline of the past few years. So I empathise with those in the throes of struggle and the clutches of financial ruin.
For many citizens, there is no Christmas cheer and 2020 looms with even more menace. My one wish is that our communities lift each other at this time. If each home untouched by the ravages of job loss and economic stagnation can extend kindness to those cut adrift, that would make Christmas worth celebrating. I will take the parang and all.
If the true spirit of Christmas is generosity and neighbourly love, then spare a thought for those most in need. If each of us most able helped those less so, there would be far less suffering and need in our country. Also, if you can manage to do that year round, that would be pretty good too.