Once I went to a government building, wearing a decent pair of knee-length cargo-type shorts. A stern-looking employee, peeping through a barely opened door, told me that I could not enter. When asked why, he informed me that I had on shorts and sandals.
At that moment a female employee appeared, wearing a skirt that did not leave much to the imagination. When I pointed out to the "clothing policeman" that the skirt was inches shorter than my shorts, I was informed that she was an employee.
The long-standing dress code in force at local government offices states that one cannot enter a government building wearing slippers, sandals or a sleeveless top.
The sister of a friend of mine was, on one occasion, unable to enter one such building in Tobago because the strict dress code did not allow for her sleeveless outfit; she therefore spontaneously fashioned a “dress” out of a large black garbage bag and entered the establishment.
Recently another friend did the same when she was barred from entering a government office. She donned a garbage bag to cover her shoulders. When told that she was still "inappropriately dressed" because her toes were showing through the sandals, she asked if she should put plastic bags on her feet too. Eventually, a supervisor was called and offered to take my friend's documents into the building.
Tourists from temperate climates revel in the freedom from layers of heavy clothing. So they wander around Tobago clad in "forbidden" attire...at least when it comes to entering government offices.
While this archaic dress code is implemented in both Tobago and Trinidad, thankfully Tobago has taken a pioneering step in abolishing it.
The island’s new "Chef Sec," Farley Augustine, recently announced that the "colonial" and "ridiculous" dress code enforced at THA buildings will be removed, not for workers but for the public, who will no longer be denied service because they are dressed for the tropics.
Snakes shed their skin because it no longer fits, or because it has become old and worn out. Their skin does not grow as they do, so they shed that they may expand.
Similarly, there are many things that the average human being may outgrow and must relinquish on a personal level to advance, evolve, be happy or simply be free from what is no longer appropriate for development. Relationships, jobs, places of abode, countries of residence, habits and rules are some of the things that may keep us in one place or state of being for a long time, often within the boundaries of perceived safety, familiarity and/or duty.
The shedding of outmoded ways of being and thinking can and should also take place on a wider level as we "abolish" what no longer works for us as a nation.
In this light, I asked several citizens what else they would like to see abolished from the TT landscape.
Gardener: “Loud exhausts in cars and loud music speakers in cars (same reason as with fireworks)!”
IT professional: “The catching and caging of any of our indigenous songbirds and sensitive fauna (ocelot, matte, etc).”
Beekeeper: “I would like a lot of the red tape removed when having to do business with the government. If they have already seen my birth paper/ID card, etc, why the need for having to produce all the documents over and over?"
Landscaper: “Remove that punitive property tax. Why should I have to pay more tax when I spent my hard-earned money improving my own property? I paid tax when I bought the property and VAT on everything I bought, and customs duty and purchase tax. Enough is enough.”
Translator: “A law that I question has to do with hanging clothes out to dry in public view. Granted it may not be the most aesthetic, but we live in a country where there's brilliant sunshine for most of the year. We should conserve electricity as much as possible by hanging clothes outside to dry. Also, there are people who simply do not have electricity at home and wash their laundry by hand. Where would they dry their clothing? However, there is a law that bans this.”
Attorney: “Get rid of overhead electricity wires. All electricity, data and telephone lines should be underground where possible, or if not, then wireless.”
Various respondents mentioned wanting fireworks to be abolished. I am in agreement with them, as that is my first answer too.