Conspiracies, political hijinks, social disorder…COVID-19.
By Billy Phibbs
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… As for 2020, it was pretty much the worst… all the time…
Conspiracies, political hijinks, social disorder…COVID-19.
The pandemic has been and still is the uncrowned king of 2020’s epic reign of disaster and disorder. This prickly shaped little microbe of pestilence has made mask wearing both fashionable and argumentative, trapped millions in their homes, and has forced a world filled with eager travelers to hold fast in their respective homes, shackled to their couches, dreaming of adventure.
Here on St. John, we suffered as well. Exiled on an island with stay at home orders, we were forced to seek socially distanced entertainment at one of the many bland and uninspiring beaches. As the days merged into weeks, all we could do was lay in the sun and count clouds or take a dip in the turquoise bath water of the Caribbean Sea.
It was truly awful…
Then something happened. The desolate streets once again began to fill as travel restrictions were lifted. What was once a ghost town populated by very tan, slightly bored (but cheerful) community members was once again bustling with tourism.
We were thankful. Our economy is based mostly on tourism and small businesses were thirsty for monetary support.
But something was strange about these new tourists. The usual mesmerizing euphoria and doughy eyed amazement of our beautiful island wasn’t captivating them. Smiles were half covered by poorly worn Covid masks. Their manners and actions had gone feral while locked in captivity causing them to dart around erratically in a ravenous state. Store closures, half capacity restaurant dining, no bar service, and pandemic signs listing rules and regulations for public safety caused untapped months of aggression for authority to erupt into episodes of entitled rage.
Who could blame them. They were wild with Covid cabin fever. After months of being forced to hang out with their family members they were ready to cut loose like wild pirates landing on the shores of an uncharted territory.
We get it, you left your home hankering for a face melting good time and St. John is a tourism hotspot. Some community members have even referred to it as a “Disneyland for Adults”. While this is a fun moniker, it does have a dark side, especially after months of house arrest.
I witnessed one inebriated traveler (who pretty much defined the mantra of this disorderly demographic of pandemic prisoners) shouting “I’m from Texas, we already done did Covid” as she stumbled from her rental jeep, freeing herself from the serpent like seat belt that had ensnared her. Gathering herself, she snorted at me then marched into a local restaurant, using her mask as a sweat cloth to wipe her brow. True story…
St. John and the USVI collectively are small communities with roots that span generations of time. Their history here far outstretches the bounds of its visitor’s 7 day excursions. The islands have become, in one form or another, a sort of “best friend’s couch with a view… and a pool.” Most find it to be a proverbial fantasy island while some use it as playground for debauchery and indulgence.
All the islands ask when you visit is to be cordial, respectful, and act like civilized human beings, not half masked marauders rambling about “imaginary” fears and screaming about social indecencies. We are not the creators nor the authors of these new institutions for a safer vacation experience, just cast members trying to make you feel welcome while stinking of hand sanitizer and Lysol from a socially acceptable 6 foot distance.
We don’t like wearing the masks either but when you have a small, close knit community with only one hospital, limited rooms and equipment, on an island, in the middle of the ocean, the word pandemic is absolutely terrifying.
I like to use real world perspectives to help illustrate my points of view:
You move to a new town. In an attempt to break bread with your new neighbors you arrange an evening of dinner and dialogue as an icebreaker. Before the rendezvous your significant other administers a list of “do’s and don’t’s” to help lubricate this new and possibly uncomfortable social interaction. He or she tells you to smile, be pleasant, and not talk too much. You are warned that they do not allow shoes in their house and instructed to wear socks without holes in them. Don’t drink too much, keep your mouth closed when they are speaking and above all, don’t tell them that you have been relocated next door due to top secret legal purposes.
You show up wearing dirty flip flops that you refuse to take off, new socks (check), drunk, and instantly spill the beans on the crime family you used to be a hitman for and are hiding from.
Dinner is ruined, police are called, and you wake up in your front yard naked with only your previously new (now soiled) socks on.
I hope you get my point. Whether house guest or globetrotter, abiding by the rules of new places sets a standard, something a bit of research can make easy.
The internet provides a wealth of information about island “do’s and don’t’s” and rather than list them, I like to shed light on some of the ‘rebels without a clue’ as a learning example. Truth is, the majority of our visitors have been wonderful and overall a delight to share the majestic beauty of the islands with.
So before you get all jacked up on vodka shooters and energy drinks while flying here for your long awaited Covid 19 release party, take a moment and educate yourself on the importance of things like island mannerisms, Covid regulations, the importance of water conservation, reef safe sunscreen, recycling, etc.
Who knows, you might learn a thing or two. At the very least you won’t end up drunk and naked with new socks on being chased by a crime syndicate.
About the Author: Phibbs is a Rutgers Graduate originally hailing from NJ. He now lives in St. John with his island wife Cory Emerson and Renfield.his nefarious cat. An English Major during college and an avid dabbler in the black art of creative writing over the last 20 years, Billy and Cory also run a grocery provisioning service, Landlubber Logistics. Having spawned this service amidst the Covid 19 pandemic, it was designed to help community members and flourished into a luxury service for villas. Using social media as his platform, he seeks to educate himself as well as adventurers to all the magic St. John has to offer…and bring them groceries.