Plenty of Bahamian hurricane survivors staying at the Fort Lauderdale Quality Inn. You can tell. They’re the ones looking lost at breakfast time. On their phones, circling the pool. Avoiding the iguanas. And then, two nights ago, we had a couple of ladies staying next door. I’m not saying I know what was going on – but all night long that door was opening and closing. Opening and closing. We even had one knock on our door. We opened the door to a confused-looking man.
‘I’m sorry,’ he said.
‘I think you’re looking for next door.’
Furtive nod. ‘Thank you.’
People have been displaced. Brothels possibly moved. We’re right in the thick of it here – in the asylum zone. Since it’s just another major, destructive hurricane in the Tropical Atlantic basin.
We keep spotting the effects. The handsome Uber lady who took us to The Galleria was in Hurricane Maria in the USVI. Lost her roof, her ceiling. Ended up, like so many, sheltering in her bathroom, holding onto her baby daughter.
‘At least we didn’t have the storm surge,’ she murmured. Deep conversation for a short Uber trip you might think, but find us a person in America who doesn’t want to talk.
‘That’s what we were waiting for,’ she continued as we cruised down the I95. ‘Maria was just so fast, she didn’t have enough time to whip one up. Not like in The Bahamas. Those guys had 15, 20 feet for days. Not hours, but days.’
As the information rolls through the short gap between the islands and the Florida coast, the news isn’t good. Lots of people are still missing – unaccounted for.
‘It just feels like something’s brewing out there. When the trees rustle like this and the wind comes from the south-east, you wonder what’s out there. What’s coming next?’
‘You’re not thinking of going back?’ I asked her. ‘To the USVI?’
‘My house is gone,’ she said.
I nodded, furtive. ‘Right.’
We hugged each other at the end of the ride. Cause that’s what you do with traumatised Uber drivers. Good luck.
Meanwhile, Florida really is the sunshine state. The palm trees are so luscious here. Life literally dripping off every rooftop. Everything wants to live here, like Henry our motel porter said. With his army of alligators, cats and iguanas outside. Maybe he even puts some in a spare motel room. I wouldn’t put it past Henry.
PS: I’m noticing another result of travel – suddenly I can tell Jack’s been living with girls for a LONG time. I don’t notice it so much at home, but on the move… Here’s the evidence so far:
1. He didn’t clock the situation the other night in next door’s room.
‘Really?’ I said the next morning at breakfast. ‘You didn’t notice the door knocking all night? All those mens’ voices and the ladies letting them in?’
‘No,’ he said. Disappointed expression while eating his breakfast grits. Grits! Newsflash, they really do taste better than they look. Like the inside of a chicken pie on a salty scone.
2. As we await boarding the Jet Blue flight to Port of Spain, I’ve just approached him. He was busy on his phone. Writing an email, I thought? Going through his What’s App work messages?
Nope. He was watching a cute video of a little girl playing with her Labrador. ‘You have to see this,’ he chortled. Definitely a chortle.