JUST HEAR THOSE SLEIGH BELLS CLICK, CLICK, CLICKING
They boast that they have not believed in Santa since they were six. And they knew there wasn’t an Easter Bunny or Tooth Fairy. But I know different. It was only when Second Born found a baby tooth accompanied by his note to TF, carefully stored in the safe, that his faith was finally shattered - and that was just last week. This year they presented me with letters addressed to Mrs. Claus containing a printout of an Amazon wish list. The Elves agreed we could manage an electric scooter each and have them shipped to Bim along with bits of furniture needed for the home. The goods duly arrived in Bridgetown early November. It is Christmas week and I am still waiting for the much-anticipated scooters to clear customs.
You see on this small rock, with currency exchange controls and high import duties on nearly everything, it ain’t over even after the last click confirming your credit card details. Assuming you have a credit card that allows you to pay in dollars or pounds, you then have to persuade your overpriced shippers that you are the client and that they should clear your goods. I have found to my cost telephone promises are not worth spit. I only got action when I sat quietly in their office and refused to leave until someone assumed responsibility for clearing the goods. Mr. Lee Parken promised to personally take on “my case”. Sure enough at 7pm, a week later, the very night before six houseguests descended, the flat pack furniture was offloaded onto our front porch. In the hours of screw-driver assembly that followed I did not notice the scooters were missing. By the time I did, dawn was breaking and it was Saturday. They don’t work weekends.
‘Oh yes they are still in Shed Three.’ said Mr. Lee Parken when I finally got him on his mobile. ‘I can’t get hold of the officer in charge to know why they aren’t releasing the scooters.’
Then he added ominously, ‘ I’ll get back to you.’
Another week of constant phone calls followed only to be told each time that the elusive officer could not be found within these twenty one by fourteen miles of coral. So I got his number and tried to deal with him directly. When we did talk I found that my alternative dispute resolution skills were no match for the mighty Customs and Excise. Indeed the negotiators in Copenhagen would have been more successful had they cut their teeth doing battle with the customs officers of Shed 3. And as in COP15 definitions were all important.
‘What yuh call dis ting? Ah scooter?’ asked Officer McBady
‘Yes. It’s a toy for my son.’ I replied.
‘Dis eh no toy. It have ah battery. Dis could go pon de road. Yuh cahn clear customs till yuh get a licence.’
‘It’s a toy. It can’t go more than five miles per hour.’
‘Man, dis battery have nuff power. I telling yuh dis could go pon de road.’ he repeated.
I sighed. ‘It can’t and he can’t. He is not using this except in our yard.’
‘Well it eh leaving here till it have ah licence.’
‘Okay. What kind of licence do you think I should get? A bicycle licence?’
‘No ah vehicle licence. And yuh go have to pay de 100% duty plus environmental fee, plus licencing fee, plus road tax plus handling and storage.’
‘It’s a toy!’ I yelled.
Then I remembered who was wearing the trousers.
‘Please would you mind reading the instructions on the box?’ I pleaded. ‘It is for children up to twelve years old.’
‘Doh tell me is some kinda ting to play wid.’’ he shot back. ‘I looking at de ting right now and dis eh no toy. I doh have to read nutting to know what dis is. It go have to get ah road licence or it staying just here.’
And sadly he is right. The rules provide an unbeatable combination of broad discretion coupled with a lack of transparency. I might have been a lawyer once but he is The Law. There is absolutely nothing I can do except cough up. So, although furious, I have agreed to pay. It cost enough to get the evil things here and it is Christmas and the boys will be disappointed if Claus does not come through for them. But that was not quite the pound of flesh the officer had in mind. He now insists I must wait for a mythical creature known only as, The Chief Inspector, to approve the clearance and sign off. This creature was of course last sighted about the same time as the Hobbits began exploring Middle-Earth.
We are T minus three days and I have as much chance of getting those scooters as Tiger has of a cozy Christmas with the wifey. So, if you have a couple electric scooters going spare ‘tis the season to be generous and call me.