Once off the plane, I was herded along with the rest of the passengers through customs and welcomed to Jamaica. The airport was modest but overall functional and professional. What Sangster lacked in infrastructure, it made up for with the attentive, well dressed and mannered staff. I eventually found my way to the transportation terminal and got a taste of an aspect of Jamaican culture that would come to dominate my impression of the place: persistent, relentless, dude back-up, salesmanship, and hustle. After turning down a queue of eager drivers, I eventually found the one I had booked, but he didn’t have my itinerary and surprisingly, wasn’t interested in the Jamaican money I offered to pay him for a ride. To be fair, Jamaicans never are. After some haggling, I paid him about J$1800 (see?) and was escorted to my ride.
(The exchange rate of USD to JMD shifts depending on the person and the location. They typically want you to spend U.S dollars to get the edge and premium).
There was a guy from Canada brooding in the front seat when I jumped into a Japan-style Toyota Hiace passenger van. He entered and exited multiple times, irritable and jittery, like he’d had one too many macchiatos or not enough of them. I tossed my luggage in the back and sat down, looking and listening incredulously as he huffed and puffed to himself, to us all. He seemed to be angry because our driver was focused on packing the bus with more lost visitors like myself, for what he claimed was over 20 minutes. I guess it didn’t help that our driver was flirting with the Latina pair behind me and trying to sell me “Bob Marley” (Jamaican lingo for weed) while openly stating his belief that I was an “American gangster”. I told him I was a nerd and that I didn’t partake and that he was selling to the wrong guy. He laughed dismissively at my contention—most people usually do—and before the Canadian had a chance to bolt out of exasperation, jumped into the driver’s seat and we were off.