West Bay, 12 January 1998
A New ERA (or is that Error?) for Cayman
A happy New Year to you, too! You know, as I think back over
1997 and look forward to 1998, it occurs to me that the Cayman
Islands have entered a new era. I've seen a lot of changes since
I first came here almost twelve years ago, but it just seems like
the changes have been bigger and happening faster in the past year.
For instance, Cayman now has street addresses!
That may not sound
like a big change to you, but when you've become accustomed to
directing folks via landmarks instead of street names and numbers,
it's big! It could be a bit challenging at times, especially when
the folks you were directing weren't familiar with the landmarks,
but it meant that everyone eventually got to know everyone else and
became intimate with the geography and personality of Cayman as a whole.
It contributed to the small town feel of the islands and the friendly
reputation of the people. (You've GOT to be friendly if you take the
time to explain to someone how to get somewhere that has no address!)
In this case, it started with the innocent appearance of those ordinary
and white signs with street names on them, just like the ones your
see in any city or town in North America. (I must admit that was rather
helpful in a place where a street name can change six or seven times in a
ten mile stretch!)
Then, with the advent of "911" emergency service,
"the powers that be"
decided that we needed numbers on our buildings, in addition to the
street signs at every intersection, in order for the police and ambulance
drivers to find specific locations in an emergency. It has taken over a year,
and the distribution process is still not complete, but many of our homes and
businesses now sport green and white numbers identifying their addresses.
They are certainly not as picturesque as the descriptions we used to use,
but they are more precise.
I'm sure this undertaking will make Cayman a safer place to live and
visit, but I wonder what effect it will have on the knowledge of its residents.
They will probably know street names and numbers now, but will they know
who lives and works at those addresses? Will they stop to notice that
huge rubber tree or that pretty garden they once used as a landmark?
Will they take the time to give directions and chat for awhile, or will
they blurt out an address and move on?
And don't start thinking that we may get mail delivered to our doors
anytime soon as a result of these new addresses. Federal Express, DHL,
Sprint, and UPS may now be able to find us, but the Royal Mail will still
deliver only to postal boxes, and we'll still need to go to the post
office to collect our mail. That's not all bad, though. I usually run
into a friend or neighbor when I go to the post office, and we usually
stop to chat awhile. I hope that never changes.
And speaking of stopping and chatting, stop in later, and I'll tell you
about some of the other things that are going on around here...