Vignettes from the Wild
Nerville, Taxi Driver, St. Lucia
The first time I met Nerville he was standing next to Dan, my childhood best buddy, talking casually. Dan introduced him as, "Hey I met this guy who is interested in boats..." This being the Caribbean, and St. Lucia specifically, my cynical side was on high alert. This guy wanted something from us, I was sure.
Well, he was a taxi driver, but we needed one anyway so I consented, confirmed the fair was $10US and asked where the car was. Then, he became invisible. I started grilling Dan on all the news from home and pointing out this or that feature of Vieux Fort, which is rich in character to say the least.
I was being rude, in retrospect. I had assumed Nerville was another local who saw every white person as a walking gold mine. After a few months of being leeched on nearly daily, my patience had worn thin.
Finally, Dan interrupted and said, "Nerville has a few questions". I looked over, oh yes, we had a driver. Right. I looked at him hard for the first time. He was in his late forties, and dressed casually. A critical eye showed that he was carefully manicured in every detail, his clothing wasn't loud, but it was top drawer, his few jewelry accents were rich, but subdued. He spoke slowly, with a quiet deferential style and clear correct language.
Hmmm. Turns out that Nerville owns a taxi operation, with 8-10 cars and drivers. Turns out he is childhood friends with key members of the board of directors of one of the largest resorts on the island, and that they are working to acquire a sailing catamaran to operate as a day charter from the resort offering sunset cruises and the like. And he had a few questions about boats.
Well, you can imagine where that led. Talking to a local entrepreneur who saw opportunity to add value, and not just get something, was a refreshing change. We stood on the fishing pier looking out at the anchorage in the pre-sunset glow and discussed various merits of this or that style boat with his business goals in mind. Turns out Nerville had done his research and knew many of the salient details of various designs and what might make sense with his budget.
I watched him closely and found a person who was completely confident in his poise, thoughtful and a good listener. The sharper he proved to be, the stupider I felt.
In the end we shook hands and he gave me his card. I figured that was that.
As it turned out though, we were back in Vieux Fort a week later to get Grandma. Instead of running the gamut of taxi drivers all vying for attention, we called Nerv. His man was there ahead of us with his "Nerv's Taxi" spotless white shirt.
But there was a surprise, Grandma came with a friend she had met on the flight. A young lady who had planned to rent a car, only to find out she had hours of mountainous driving ahead, some on one lane hurricane washed out roads, and at night through some questionable areas where ganji (marijuana) is the principle crop.
Not a good idea. She was on the company dime, so didn't mind paying more for a taxi driver with whom she "would feel safe".
I knew who to call. We rendezvoused with Nerville where his street met the main road. Our driver took the lady in the Lexus and Nerville delivered Grandma and I back to the boat. I pumped him for information on the local economy, the vagaries of Soufrière (our worst experience so far) and I was again impressed with his observant eye and thoughtful insights.
We shook hands and his parting words were, "If you need anything, call me". There was a flavor to the delivery that was more than perfunctory. I had the distinct impression that "anything" meant help in a bind and, living on a high maintenance boat in a foreign land full of many resentful inhabitants, that might prove to be more than convenient.
In case you are in St. Lucia in need of a top notch professional, please email Nerv at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (758) 724-8885.