When 78-year old Tobago-born McCartha Sandy-Lewis began working the stage of the Coachella Valley Music Festival at Indio, California in April 2020 the place virtually caught fire.
For citizens of “Sweet T+T”, this would be no surprise since it was very much in keeping with the magic of our esteemed female entertainer called Calypso Rose who made her breakthrough with a song named “Fire in Meh Wire” written in 1966.
“Fire in Meh Wire” went international, was translated into eight different languages, and was the first calypso to run two years in a row at the Trinidad Carnival.
Meanwhile, just as pleasantly unsurprised back in St James, Trinidad, Bo Peep – a geriatric caught sauntering down the sidewalk from the Supermarket – skipped across the traffic-laden Western Main Road with a bottle rum discreetly hidden in a black plastic bag under his shirt.
With silver hair shining in the sun, Bo Peep was hurrying to regroup with his posse. They had just won a Play Whe mark and were assembling in old plastic chairs chained to the guard rails to start enjoying a day of drinks courtesy the National Lotteries Control Board and “Jackass” – the winning mark.
An interesting phenomenon presents itself in Trinidad and Tobago where old people are blessed as recipients of a heap of benefits from the state and the remarkable way in which this largesse spreads throughout the various levels of society to help keep the nation stable.
That same Bo Peep caught hurrying from the super market, for example, receives a pension that’s big enough for him to afford to live above survival level each month.
The pension goes to the bank and, just as the sun is sure to come up in the morning, Bo Peep routinely receives his money by punching in his Debit card on the appointed day each month.
So that even as TT Finance Minister Colm Imbert laments about the various shortfalls he expects to suffer from in the next National Budget, not a single word is said about reducing old people’s pensions.
This would almost amount to treason and Imbert will probably never be seen in public office again. That’s how serious this issue is for citizens here.
In such a world of abundance and convenience, the old people of Sweet T+T tend to play important roles in supporting the young ones coming up after them.
This can be seen in a number of areas such as taking charge of grand children, the undertaking of certain bills in the house and bringing the children and their families to come and live in their homes as a means of saving money.
While the situations can have some form of awkwardness, it can be very rewarding to see the child running from school to show granddad her results for that important exam since he was the key person in charge if this project.
In times of crucial moments like sickness or the Court House, it’s grandma who pulls out the deed to bail out a child or who has the Medical Plan still in place.
As all these elements go to make up the tapestry of life and its various relationships in a place where, it has been confidently said: “God is a Trinidadian” – and with good reason.
It should be very obvious that old people are recognized for the serious contribution they make to the future.
And while this may not be so in any degree of intensity, the old people are king on election day since they represent a significant block of the stable, voting population that holds its position most of the time but can shift at a moment’s notice if they feel neglected by the ruling party.
Which may be another reason why Bo Peep and other geriatrics are so pampered by their government.
He does not pay fees to renew his driver’s licence; he gets a reduction on his electricity and water bill; and he rides the public air-conditioned bus and the inter island ferries for free.
At the casino, you see many people of his age and ilk lining up outside the “club” in the early morning to enjoy the “specials’ offered here where they can stay all day and eat and drink to their hearts’ delight and get credit if their funds run out.
Health Care is free and, should they think about it, they can get relief from paying for a Firearms User’s Licence although the Police Commissioner may want to screen them first.
So what more can a TT pensioner want?
Of course, no decent leader can expect that these men who are of his age, will ever lose that glint in their eyes as they wait in hope for the sun to rise again.
That’s why many smart wives simply smile on seeing them leave home with their chests puffed out as if ready to kill a young bull with a bang in the arena but instead heave with a rush as they culminate with a whimper that can be heard by every one but their disillusioned selves.
Leh mih know when yuh comin!
The young female calypsonian sings temptingly on stage as she presents her sweet, salty dish for us lambs who willingly wine forward to the slaughter.
In any case, it’s more money circulating in the economy since – apart from the damsels dressed in tight, short skirts of distress- our unlicensed village alchemists are usually making good money as hard-on specialists providing supplies which, whether unorthodox or run of the mill, guarantee results.
That’s why many bars and liming spots become a happy place of close-bodied activity on old men’s pay day when many unattached, sweet-smelling young women can be seen smiling when they make their full-bosomed appearances.
Mind you, this is not for the predictable service dealing in manufactured hardness. On the contrary, it another passive income stream which covers the hairdo, market supplies and even some cash for her young stud waiting patiently to finish the job that Pappy had only just started.