Close call with a Barbados gang on August 17, 2010
by Jack Bowman
For several years I’ve read BFP’s occasional pieces about the Boscobel toll gang as really good campaigning journalism—precisely the kind of journalism that this country is gasping for. But I have to concede at the outset that I also read them as something of an abstraction, something that didn’t have much to do with me or mine.
That changed last week when I finally encountered the gang. To jump to the end: nothing very bad happened; it was simply a little alarming. But without doubt it would have been much worse if BFP hadn’t been writing its stuff.
The set-up …
I was giving a couple of guests from overseas my patented island tour. The guests: a middle-age guy and his twelve year-old son. It was their first visit to Barbados, and their first full day on the island. Unbelievably, we got lost on the way to Bathsheba (I say “unbelievably” because all the signage is perfect up there, and all the maps are completely accurate and highly detailed, and I’m strongly against irony in any form).
The event …
Lost and wandering in the car, driving along labyrinthine byways, we came upon the wonderful world of Boscobel. I was slowing the car to move round a bend (windows up, air conditioning on) when a gentleman at the side of the road began making urgent hand gestures and talking to me.
I put my foot on the brake for one second, probably only half a second, before a little alarm bell started ringing in the back of my brain. It took another microsecond for me to connect the alarm bell to some stuff I’d read on BFP several months ago, and to connect that to the word “Boscobel”.
So immediately I understood the situation.
I ignored the guy and drove on, still lost. And a minute later we came round a corner and there all the gentlemen were, the whole crew in one place. Six to eight guys, some leaning against a car on one side of the road, the others sitting on the other side of the road. None of them looking like they had major career plans and went to church every Sunday.
I saw them, they saw us, and they all got up and started moving towards the middle of the road. I said “problem”. The kid in the back seat of the car got frightened. I put my foot on the accelerator.
I’ve never been so happy to hear my car go through its revs. The car moved fast, the engine revved loud, and instinctively the gentlemen moved back to the sides of the road. I drove through the space between them. It was a little Moses-and-the-Red-Sea moment.
The lessons …
Several things to be said in this regard, but two are particularly important.
First, anybody who tells you that this gang is no longer operational is simply lying straight to your face.
Probably we all make different decisions about what kind of politicians we want and what kind of police officers we’d like to have. Your opinion might differ from mine. Speaking entirely for myself, I can say with certainty that I don’t want my politicians and police officers telling me that water isn’t wet. I don’t want them lying straight to my face.
Second, if I hadn’t read BFP’s several articles about these gentlemen in Boscobel, it’s a near certainty that I would have stopped the car when I encountered the first guy. It’s almost a natural instinct to stop a car if a pedestrian at the side of the road is making frantic hand gestures. So I want to give a huge round of applause to the Barbados Free Press folks in this regard.
The simple fact that I had read a couple of items on BFP over many months definitely made a difference. It meant that I didn’t get intimidated. It meant that three people didn’t get robbed. And it meant that a twelve year-old visitor didn’t go home and tell all his friends (who would have told their parents) that Barbados is a nasty place with nasty people.
That would have been a calamity, because the reality is so utterly different. This island is full from coast to coast with some of the most courteous, civil, politely reserved and well-meaning people that any tourist could hope to meet anywhere on this planet.
Major kudos to Barbados Free Press, in my view. That was a genuine public service you provided with your pieces about the Boscobel gang. Saved my bacon. Very sincere thanks.
(BFP Cliverton says: Thanks for your story and support, Jack. You must be mistaken about the Boscobel Toll Gang still being in business though. Prime Minister David Thompson recently assured a tourist via email that everything is okay. If the PM says there’s no problem with the Boscobel Road Toll Gang, who are we lowly citizens to disagree?)
Further Reading about the leadership, dedication and capabilities of the Royal Barbados Police Force …
June 17, 2009 – Boscobel Road Toll Gang Still Operating Freely In Barbados
September 16, 2008 – Barbados Police Helpless In Stopping Boscobel Road Toll Gang