Years ago a friend invited me to a Tobago Toastmasters meeting. I had never heard of Toastmasters until he explained what it was and why he had joined.
“Toastmasters International is a non-profit educational organisation that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of clubs” the "About" section on their website begins.
During the meeting, there was a short segment in which a few guests were invited to each give a speech (three minutes, I think it was) on a topic selected randomly. I can’t recall if I was selected from the small crowd when first time guests were asked to raise hands or if I had volunteered, but I ended up at the mike with a topic along the lines of “I will never do that again.” The first thing that came to mind was "smoking," so I gave a brief speech on the powerful experience I had on quitting.
The Toastmaster experience came to mind as I sat at my laptop, unsure of what to write for this article. I jotted down the first six topical subjects that came to mind:
1. December 6 THA election
2. Proposed $500 million hotel for Tobago
3. Attitudes to 'Safe Zones'
4. Vaccinated/unvaccinated students
5. Teachers are superheroes
6. Covid makes it hard for animals too.
I have reached for a timer and game die, intending (in Toastmaster guest speaker style) to write for three minutes on the subject corresponding to the number rolled. Number one...
Recently, passing along Milford Road, Bon Accord, I noticed men painting a wall. Passing by the day after, I saw the wall glistening white in the sun, like a child’s new school sneakers (an allegory not applicable with online schooling). The next day, the wall was red, with grey posts. Surprisingly (or not) my first thought upon seeing the red was "Subliminal advertising?" Colours seem to take on a new meaning when elections are looming.
On December 6, Tobagonians return to the polls to break the PDP-PNM deadlock of January 25. But questions arise from the people: Now, with 15 electoral districts instead of 12, and a new political party formed by Dr Denise Tsoiafatt-Angus could there be a 5-5-5 deadlock? Will there be election "safe-zones?" Will unvaccinated Tobagonians be barred from motorcades and polling stations? Will they be arrested and charged for attempting to participate? As someone pointed out in a social media comment..."the current SoE ends in November."
(NB That took a bit longer than three minutes, but...) Rolling the die again...number three. Immediately what comes to mind is a WhatsApp message I received a few days ago.
Setting timer for three minutes...
Pre-covid, whenever friends or relatives and I visited a particular Tobago establishment on an evening, we would always be welcomed as family. Everyone, new or known, who entered that venue was treated as such. The quirky décor and amicable, smiling owners made us all feel like special guests in a simple, cozy home that welcomed even children. I was therefore not surprised to receive a WhatsApp from the owners a few days ago, informing valued customers (aka "family") that, while they will continue to rigorously follow basic safety protocols, they have chosen to continue take-away service only and not reopen for in-house dining and entertainment. (Referring quickly to WhatsApp message): "In the five years we have been in business we always welcomed all customers and never had to discriminate...".
Three minutes up, but...
Their message further stated that they certainly do not choose to discriminate now, as some customers (aka "friends") have chosen to be vaccinated, some not.
While some may be quick to judge and label them as "irresponsible" or "business-foolish," in the throes of the pandemic and its newly-revised orders for "living," remember that we are all still human, not programmed, emotionless robots. I can understand why they feel that the new rules put them, emotively, in "a difficult position"...like saying to loved ones: “You can’t come into our home because you’re not vaccinated and are a danger to us.” Note, for some people the reverse also exists: “You can’t come into our home because you’re vaccinated and are a danger to us.” Is the real "danger" one’s vaccinated or unvaccinated status or humanity’s growing judgment and division that exist as a result of it?