After the overwhelming response I got to my car crash story a while back, I’ve been meaning to write about another intense situation I found myself in; and only now have gotten around to writing it.
This happened about three weeks after the crash too, it was just another in a series of rather unfortunate events.
This was an incredible journey. I’d finished up in Vegas and decided I’d head to Jamaica for a week before returning home, I mean… its $200 to get to Jamaica how can I pass that up? For us Brits it’s closer to $1,300 for your average ticket to Jamaica so I wasn’t going to waste the opportunity.
Anyway, a drunken mess I arrived at the airport at 6am straight from my last night out in Vegas; nearly missing my flight due to falling asleep at the gates I wake up to the sound of the final call – “Mr Chaarrraaa…laaaammm…booo? Do we have a Mr Michael?”
Looking around, I was amazed at two things: the first being that I was the only person in sight and the second that the lady couldn’t come and ask if I was Michael? I was the only one there! Anyway, I wake up and board my flight sleeping all the way through to Jamaica – ace, recovered.
Arriving in Montego Bay
Upon arrival I was feeling really good about exploring a new place, experiencing a new culture, and let’s be honest… sharing a joint with some locals. There’s nothing I love more than trying to fit in with the local culture, you have to be willing to step out of your comfort zone and appreciate what others have to offer; sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse, but always for the lessons to be learned.
Feeling rather overwhelmed by the forceful nature of the cab drivers. I ended up sharing a cab with this young lady who’s hostel was very close to mine, minutes apart. We both felt a little safer and agreed it made sense financially too. Although, pretty sure it still only cost about $4 for a 25 minute cab ride, winning.
Upon arrival I was greeted by the biggest of grins you could imagine. You know, we’re talking a big black round face with florescent white teeth. And this was a big boy too, bear-like almost. He stood tall over me like a tree and yelled unnecessarily loud considering how close I was – “Weellllcommee to Montego Baaaayyyyyy. Ya’ gonna lov’ Jamaica!”
I digress. He shows me to my room, introduced me to some of the other *ahemm* hippies, and offers me a few words of local advice; where to get cabs, water, local stores etc. The fact I’ve not arrived at the actual topic of this story yet shows how much I have to tell. In the interest of not boring you, here’s a listed round-up of the events leading up to my story…
- Unpacked some bits and pieces, went a chilled with the hippie-like fellows at the hostel to share my first Jamaican joint.
- Around 11pm now the munchies got me real bad, so one of the guys, I forget his name, walks me 10 minutes down the road to find some Jerk chicken street-style. It was amazing.
- Next day, backpack on, walk deep into the heart of Montego Bay and enjoy looking around. Hit the beach, share a joint, more jerk chicken, lovely.
- Randomly hear about the bioluminescence waters nearby and decide to go along for a little swim and tour, possibly one of the most unique things I’ve ever done – sadly, my camera couldn’t capture the shots but here’s a video of how it works.
- Decide the next day I should head down to Negril, I’ve been told there’s some amazing things to do there and I especially wanted to visit this cliff jumping spot I’d read about online.
- Two hours, a few bottles of water and a bucket of sweat later I arrived and found myself a budget-hotel to stay in, easy.
And this is where the story begins, 689 words into the post, haha.
Arriving in Negril
Hassle. Hassle. Hassle. This is where the… you got it… hassle, begun. From the get-go in Negril it was hassle to do anything.
Allow me to make this point now so I don’t have to later, I think I was particularly unlucky and I don’t for one minute believe that many have had an experience like mine.
After finding my hotel, it was a pain in my arse just to get into the room. The lady couldn’t find the key, the door lock was broken, she couldn’t find the other room keys, and this one wasn’t ready yet, needed new bed sheets… ya-da blah-de-blah. It goes on. After much frustration it’s now around 1pm and I’m settled, showered and ready to go and enjoy myself.
I knew the cliff jumping café I wanted to visit wasn’t too far away. So, much like I did in Montego Bay, I decided to pack a small bag and simply take a walk, take it all in and see where I end up; eventually aiming to get to this hot-spot. Arriving in what I believed was the center of town was the least fun experience…
I can only assume this is where the locals, the dodgy ones at least, know to find targets like me. On my own, young, clearly a tourist, looking lost as I’m just floating about, easy pickings so-to-speak. A crooked eyed, crack-head looking man with a scruffy, patchy beard and dreadlocks approached me as I begun what I now knew was my 1.5 mile walk to the cliffs. He immediately asked me if I wanted to buy the best marijuana in Jamaica – a statement made by ever male I’d met – to which I quickly but politely declined. He kept up with me and kept asking and offering me things; where was I going, did I want a tour, why am I so rude (what!?), why am I so white (what!?), can he have a tip, and that I ought to be more careful.
At this point I’d be trying to shrug this guy off for at least nine minutes. Think about it, nine minutes is a long time to be dealing with a strange person on the street you’re trying to get away from. Several times by now he’d reach for my arm too to stop me or slow me down – again, trying my best not to offend I’d pull away with the least amount of aggression.
Eventually, he grabs onto my wrist and angrily pulls me to a halt. He proceeds to say… “Listen boy, ya can’t come to Jamaica and show me disrespect. Know ya place. Errre, ya jus anotha white boy… I cud drag you down dat alley to be chopped up and never seen again.”
Fuck me, what do you say to that? I looked him in the eye, it was tense, he let go and I flagged down the nearest cab – I got one in less than 30 seconds. As I walked for the cab door the crazy man yells over to me – “Ey bruda, yarin’ Jamaica now…hahaha!”
It was sinister. I can honestly say, up until this point in my life I’d never had such harsh words fired at me (from a stranger) as I did in those few minutes.
Arriving at Rick’s Café
Minutes later, I’m calm, composed and assuming not everyone in Jamaica is that brutal. I’m ready to have some damn fun already. Extremely excited to be at Rick’s Café, voted one of the most unique bars in the world, I wanted some food, drinks and to jump off that cliff!
I wanted to share a joint with someone but wasn’t sure as to the legalities or even the rules of the bar and didn’t want to just spark-up. So, I approached these three women who I noticed had been smoking earlier. Stroke of luck, turns out they’re British and one of them moved to Jamaica a short while ago. I asked if I could have a smoke and they shouted over to these guy friends to make sure it was ok – who just so happened to be locals.
Two men approached. I don’t mean to be stereotypical, however there’s really no other way to describe them except that they were the most Jamaican looking guys I’d seen since I arrived. They were close to black, with huge dreadlocks, short but noticeable beards… ermmm… essentially just Bob Marley with a little more… scruff?
They all welcomed me in and were very friendly from the get-go, it seemed. But all too quickly, say, after 45 minutes or so, it turned very sour. Bare in mind by this point I am high – though I’m experienced enough to know the difference between paranoia, I was in control.
I began to notice that one of the guys was slowly segregating me from the group. He kept doing things like shaking my hand and calling me brother, pulling me in closer and steering my head away, what I now assume was his way of making me feel comfortable. He went on to offer me drugs, many of which I’d never even heard of. I politely declined, held up the joint we were sharing and explained that I didn’t take other drugs.
He wasn’t happy that I didn’t want any and explained that it’s disrespectful to decline an offering from a friend. This went on for a while, him getting closer and closer to my face, just… at me… telling me this and that. I apologised and tried to take the conversation in other directions.
Eventually, he gave up on that topic and went back onto how we’re brothers, haha. Though, from this point onwards it all felt like he had an angle. Prior to this, we’d all made plans to head out tonight, meet up later at a bar and all that – the women were cool I had no problem with them. My food arrived and got munched. What I couldn’t understand was how the women had allowed this conversation to take place – they were right next to me, but no matter how much I tried to re-integrate myself back into it, or get their attention, they just didn’t notice. I later thought that maybe they were part of some kind of trap, luring unsuspecting tourists in.
So this is when it gets really scary, I tried to leave. I said that I was tired and ready to sleep, and would meet them all later for a beer. I had no intention, this guy had an agenda for sure. He wouldn’t let me leave. Staring right into me almost with an angry, bitter and stern look in his eyes, one of which I will never forget, he said… “Stay”. It went something like this…
Me: “Nahhh, that’s alright I really need to sleep if I’m gonna make it out later.”
Him: “I tink you should stay bruda.”
Me: “I know, I know, I’m sorry. What was the club again? You’re going at about 9pm right?”
Him: “No pro’lem, we gon’ take you dere. You want clothes? Me boy will take you back.”
Me: “No, don’t be silly I’m totally fine. I’ll meet you later.”
At this point he leaned over even closer, put a firm, rough hand on my forearm and said… “…stay, boy.”
In a rather relaxed fashion as if I didn’t understand the severity of the situation, I calmly agreed and said that I’d chill a bit more as long as his friend could take me back later. By this point I was stuck. Literally, I was being held somewhere against my will with no real idea of how I could get out. I couldn’t go to the toilet, or to the water, or anywhere with regards to running away, because why would I need my bag?
Now I’m scared shitless. I’m playing along to this guy, who’s still being overly weird and sinister. Saying things which clearly had other meanings. Asking me questions about my financial situation, family and more. How the fuck can I get out of this!?
By some divine miracle, mother nature came along to save me. It began to rain slightly and everyone could see there was a fierce thunderstorm coming in the distance. Within about 3-4 minutes of the drizzle starting, it began to nail it like I’d never seen. We’re talking rain drops the size of marbles – it really hurt! Because all six of us were underneath this umbrella on an outside table, we needed to run inside to the main bar for shelter.
We were about to make the run, it must’ve been about 20 meters or so. I kept a close eye on the guy I was most scared of. As I packed away my bag I noticed him say something to his friend and hinted towards me with a head movement. His friend came over and said that he’d run first and we should all follow. I assume this was so he could make sure I didn’t disappear, while the main guy was last – sandwiched!
We ran. I had one shot. One opportunity to get away. The rain was so thick and the wind ferocious, you could barely see a few meters in front. Using my bag to cover my head I dashed a second or two after he did, mostly because the other guy pushed me and said “Go, stay close!”. It winded around a corner with just enough of an angle that I could be out of sight for a second or so. In action-star-like fashion I launched myself behind a center piece, you know, like a nice tree surrounded by a mini fountain contained by a wall. At just 3ft tall, it was much to hide behind so I had no choice but to land laying down, quickly crouched around it, and watched on as the others ran past.
… one, two, three, four… hmmmm where’s number five? The last guy, the asshole that had been holding me down eventually walked past, looking around him slowly as if he was looking out for me. Again, it was sinister. Like when the good guy is running from the bad guy in a film, and even though the bad guy is walking slowly – he’s always there! Terminator-esque. Luckily, he didn’t see me and went to the bar. I saw as he asked his friend about me and raise his hands up in anger.
I wasted no time and dashed for the exit of the complex where I knew taxi’s we’re waiting. I jumped in the first one and said “Go right now, I’ll pay you triple!”. I was happy, this guy complied with no worries; wheel-spinning our way off. A minute or so down the road I explained that it’s OK to slow down and told him where I was staying.
Honestly, by this point. I was a mess. I didn’t know what to do or where to go. These guys knew where I was staying and they could be on the way. I didn’t know what they wanted with me. It could’ve been nothing, literally nothing at all. It could’ve been something small like stealing my money – sure that’s not ideal but I’d still be alive and well! And then further thoughts we’re worse. They could’ve wanted to; rape me, turn me into a slave, sell me, take organs, or kill me altogether. After the day I’d had, none of these thoughts seemed unreasonable.
I got to my room, grabbed my pocket knife which didn’t leave my hand, packed my bags and quickly Skyped my brother – sitting in full view of the entrance and an escape route. A crying mess I asked what to do and he simply said, come home. So that’s what I did. I put my laptop back in the bag and headed for the road, found a taxi, jumped in and said… airport please.
All in all, it had only taken me 16 minutes from running away to getting in a taxi headed for the airport. And the pocket knife didn’t leave my hand until I got out and was in the airport grounds. I probably didn’t need to go home, but I’d had so much bad luck the past few weeks it just seemed like the right thing to do.
6 hours later I boarded a flight home.