The other day a friend of mine sent me a hilarious video about French stereotypes. You know the usual ones – all French people wear striped t-shirts, and a beret, say “voulez-vous coucher avec moi”, and walk around with a loaf of bread under their arm, which must taste really bad… because they don’t bathe.
This got me thinking about Trinis, and the things we do that make us easier to spot than a thug on ID parade. I’ve lived in Trinidad, England, and Canada, and visited the US, and no matter where I go, I’ve found a few things that are forever consistent. Let’s start with the obvious.
1. Sing-song speech
I went to a West Indian play once, in London, and the granny in the show said the best singers in the Caribbean were from Trinidad and Tobago. All the Trinis in the house started to clap and ‘guff up’ their chest. Then she started to talk-sing. Talk about chain up. It’s true though. We sing everything we say. In England, they call it a lilt. We sound soooo happy. That’s why they love to hear us talk, so that we can make the dull weather seem a little brighter.
2. Rum til’ I die
I don’t care what anyone says, “Rum til’ I Die” is the national anthem of Trinidad and Tobago. Yuh woman leave yuh? Rum til’ I die. Yuh next woman horn yuh? “Rum is meh lover”. Financially ruined? Rum go save yuh. Every year, there’s a new song about rum, and if you walk into any bar, anywhere in the world, and hear someone order a “rum and cokes”, you could bet yuh bottom dollar is a Trini. Oh, and they playin’ all fours too, when they drinkin’.
Trinis are also the only people I know who sing about rum, as if alcoholism is no biggie. I pulled up a video of Ravi B singing “Rum is meh lover”, and he said rum kill his mother, his father, his brother, his sister, and his whole family, but he doh care, “he drinking today and forever”. Anyone watching us would think we’re all a pack of drunkards. And even though Uncle Johnnie is a serious competitor, he just doesn’t have the same sort of hold on us. We know he’s expensive, but rum? Raising the price of rum is like raising the price of flour, sugar, milk and salt. It’s a vital supply.
3. Soup must have dumplings
Soup is not soup unless it has dumplings. Trinis get mad when you give them soup and they can only count three dumplings in the bowl. Worse yet, if there are no dumplings at all. Give a Trini soup without dumplings, and they will tell you you tiefin’ dem, you robbin’ people, and you can’t cook. I’ve seen a few Trinis ‘get on bad’ in a posh restaurant when they didn’t get their dumplings. Giving a Trini soup sans dumplings is like giving them curry crab with no curry or crab.
4. Have shares in KFC
Trinis are the only people I know who can eat a greasy “box of dead” at 4 a.m. after a fete. Coincidentally, this is probably the fastest you will ever see a Trini move because we want to beat the people from the other 20 cars that pulled up at the same time. Besides, KFC Independence Square, the only other internationally acclaimed KFC outlet is the one in Piarco Airport. I am sure the ground crew could smell the plane when it lands in JFK or London Heathrow, because half the passengers coming off the plane with their luggage in one hand and a two-piece special in the other, with a five-piece in their bag for a friend or family member. They’ll also proudly tell you we have the best KFC “in de world”.
5. Hate to line up
Ask Trinis the formula for a straight line, and they’ll tell you ‘y’ equals A over here, B over there, and me getting served first. Trinis hate lining up, and whenever people are trying to make a genuine attempt at being orderly, someone has to step out of the line or just go straight to the front and start to quarrel, “Wham alyuh eh see me here. I eh getting served. STEUPS.” To avoid a scene, the clerk then serves the baddis, and everyone else mutters, secretly wishing they had the gall to behave just as badly and avoid the line. However, when they go abroad, Trinis line up… normal, normal.
6. Put ketchup and mustard on everything
After being away for a number of years, my tastes have become a little more refined. So personally I prefer mayo in the mix. On a serious note though, it’s quite funny to see the horror and disgust some people exhibit when they hear you want to put ketchup on pizza, especially Italians. I guess I’d have the same reaction if I heard someone asking for pesto to put on their Hott Shoppe roti.
Outsiders don’t seem to understand the concept that we Trinis can have an internal sense of urgency without any external manifestation. This has given rise to comments such as, “You’re so laidback you’re horizontal!” I’m sure a lot of you can relate, when I say I resent that statement, because it’s not our fault we had to master the art of walking fast and looking cool at the same time when rushing from school to meet friends up Fredrick Street, the Dial, or Library Corner (that’s South for alyuh who doh know beyond the lighthouse). Besides, it’s this ‘laidbackness’ that keeps our stress levels lower than low.
8. Can’t tell time
While, we’re on the topic of laidback, it’d be remiss of me to not mention our tendency to be late. Trini time always means 15 minutes, 30 minutes or even an hour after the time we agreed to. “Yeah I right round d corner” often means you’re now leaving your house, and don’t talk about when they promise to call you later. Later could mean tonight, tomorrow, or next week. Girls abroad get vex with Trini men for that. A Trini girl, however, would easier forgive you when you say, “but babes, yuh know later is Trini for I will call you some time”.
This is by no means an extensive list, but the next time someone asks you how to spot a Trini, tell them a Trini will be the only person in a real-time musical, eating KFC, horizontally, because we doh talk – we sing. We love we belly, and we always late (except if we going for KFC).
Check out the rest of this week’s issue (Issue 33: 22/11/10):
- Gary Acosta: Uncut and Unplugged
- From Vinyl to MP3s: Does Music Have Value Anymore?
- Men: God’s Gift to Women Unappreciated?
- Superstitions on the Wall: Do they ever die?
- Fat People Need Love Too