Sometimes things go really well throughout the day. You reach closing time and you realize that there weren’t too many problems throughout the day. This is rare, but it happens. Two days ago was not one of these days, but it’s funny to look back on now.
It’s amazing how comedic life can feel on this island, and the events that occur seem to be almost episodic. Two days ago, the episode involved three residents who weren’t keen on following some of the Hub rules, so we ended up in a bit of a predicament.
Our rules clearly state that, if you want to be transported to and from the Hub from the Hotspot, you need to attend class. We don’t drive our vans like a taxi, if you use our vehicles you need to come to class and then we will transport you back to the camp.
Two days ago, three men rode in the vans to the school, did not attend a class, and then tried to board the vans again and get a ride back to the camp. The driver of the van informed them that they had not attended class, so they would not be allowed to ride back to the camp. They didn’t like hearing this, so they climbed into the van and sat in the back row, refusing to move.
This is how we ended up in a good old fashioned stand off. As a teacher in the mornings, I don’t have to worry about driving until the afternoon shift begins, but since I had just finished teaching my last class, I watched the situation unfold from the classroom window. It seems that, whenever there is a problem, a group of men tend to just magically appear out of thin air and literally surround the situation. This is a little annoying because it becomes impossible to discretely solve small issues, but sometimes it’s encouraging because most of the men who circle-up are doing so in defense of the volunteers and the school.
This issue happens relatively frequently. People think that they can out smart our check-in system or they think that we’ll get soft and just drive them back to the camp. But we try not to do this, we try to keep the rules strict in an attempt to keep the system working. This particular situation was weird because usually when people refuse to get out of the van they back down within five minutes or so, but not this time. The stand off just stretched on and on and on. I watched as multiple volunteers made their way over to the van doors to try their luck at coaxing the three men out of the back seat. Then other residents tried as well, along with volunteers standing next to them to assert their authority. Translating didn’t work either, as none of the three men understand much English.
So, the drama continued to drag on. Eventually, although I suspected giving more attention to the situation would not work, I took a shot at trying to defuse it. I climbed into the middle seat of the van as everyone else dispersed and the four of us did our best to have an honest conversation. They speak just a little English and, at this point, I speak a little Arabic, so we pasted together a really messy, beautiful string of broken conversation. One of the men in particular is a very sweet guy, so I was really surprised that he was causing such a problem. I did my best to reason with him. He has come to my classes before and I think we have a good rapport with one another.
My attempt was ultimately unsuccessful, although I did manage to get one of them out of the van while the other two stayed put, and the one who got out with me was only stepping out to smoke a cigarette, then he got back in. Looking back on it, it’s pretty funny that he was respectful enough not to smoke in the van, but he wasn’t respectful enough of everyone else’s time. By sitting in the van, we were unable to use the van to transport people to and from the Hotspot, so they were really inconveniencing everyone’s day. Alas, we still made everything work, but the situation was all too dramatic.
While I was in the van, they kept telling me that they were going to sleep in the van, continuing their stand off throughout the night. I tried to imagine what this would look like in my head. It’s a 25 minute walk back to the Hotspot, why wouldn’t they just give it a rest and walk back in the sunshine? The answer? Pride.
Even though we don’t fully speak each other’s languages, it was perfectly communicated to me that they were sorry, they loved me and the people that work at the Hub, and they didn’t want to cause a problem; however, they weren’t moving. This, to me, meant simply that they were too prideful to admit they were in the wrong.
As soon as everyone stopped paying them any mind, they got bored, called a cab, and went back to the camp on their own accord. No harm done. They spent a total of 2 hours and 15 minutes waiting for us to cave in and drive them back to the camp. We didn’t give in. Rules are rules. What a stupid way to spend an afternoon.