THE TV REPAIR MAN
We have a small flat screen TV/DVD player, which had gone the way of most electronic equipment in a salty atmosphere and someone had recommended us a TV repair man - Winston in Kingstown, St Vincent. Now Kingstown is only about 10 miles from our anchorage in Admiralty Bay, Bequia and the channel between the two islands is less than 10 miles wide, but the channel can be a very unpleasant, rolly place and the anchorages in St Vincent are some way from Kingstown so we made the trip across on the ferry. Actually, as we were to discover, the Bequia Channel can be a very rolly unpleasant place, even in a large RoRo ferry.
First challenge, naturally, was to locate Winston's repair shop. Up the stairway between the printers and the Roti shop. No sign - of course. Upstairs there are a handful of shops and offices, and there, next to the nail extension salon and opposite a small shop selling almost everything that nobody had ever wanted, was the Hollywood Emporium. Floor to ceiling decrepit, dusty electrical equipment marked it out as the place we were looking for. Winston was a quietly spoken, dusty guy of about 60, sporting a pair of illuminated magnifying glasses on top of his head, which made him look a little like an extra from Blade Runner. He slowly wrote us a receipt and we agreed I would call him tomorrow to find out his diagnosis.
Fine. I called. The DVD player needed a new motor, and he had one. It would be ready for collection on Friday (today was Wednesday). Friday I reminded him was a holiday. Ah. Well he could possibly come in on Saturday. Not to worry I said. Monday will be fine.
Monday, rollier than usual ferry ride. Arrive at Winston's. It's not ready. In fact it's a pile of components sharing his desk, with several other piles of components. "Couldn't get the screws out - corroded in. Have it ready by 4.00" (Just in time for the penultimate ferry back to Bequia.) Well, Kingstown's attractions are not considerable, but there is a hardware store so I would just have to have some lunch and buy some screws or something.
Back to Winston. The shop is closed! A hastily scrawled note in the window says something about a family emergency. On the desk, in the darkness, I can just make out the supine form of our disembowelled TV set. Long sigh......
I call Winston the next day. I'm (I think understandably) not happy. Why didn't he call me? He left in a hurry, he doesn't have a phone at home, he doesn't have a cell-phone. "So, when will it be ready?" I demand. "Oh man, I can't work under pressure" he wails.
Try a different approach. Try to befriend him. Try to understand what's going on. Turns out he needs to drill a hole, but he's lent someone his drill and they haven't brought it back. A friend is going to bring him a drill and then he will have the whole thing fixed in a jiffy. "So shall I call you this evening?" - I'm walking on eggshells here, don't want to be applying "pressure". Don't want him to crack and run amuck with a machete - at least not until I've got my TV back.
I call. It's not ready. The drill has arrived, but it's too big for the 1mm drill he needs to use. "OK" I say "I have a drill" (and, avoiding, of course any indication of pressure) "How about I come over tomorrow, with my drill and we work on the TV together."
So early ferry to Kingstown again and I'm in the Hollywood Emporium sitting opposite Winston as I hold and he drills, then he holds and I solder, etc etc. I very soon begin to understand why Winston never gets anything done. There is a constant stream of people coming in to enquire about their overdue repairs. Each of them requires him to stop work, exchange pleasantries, or insults, possibly have an argument, threaten violence, possibly offer to return the unrepaired piece, etc. For some reason none of this appears to constitute pressure! During all of this, I just keep on soldering. One guy who is desperately trying to pin Winston down, turns to me and with a glimmer of hope in his eyes asks "Are you working here now?" "Only on my own TV." I growl.
A well dressed lady arrives, complaining about her no good worthless boy, who brought her TV to be repaired, but she hasn't been able to get him to come back to collect it - this is a highly compressed version of a very long tirade. "Do you have a receipt?" "I do. I knew you would want a receipt but, that no good boy"..... further vilification of her worthless son. Winston shuffles around the shop peering at bits of equipment with dusty labels, whilst the lady continues listing the inadequacies of her son. He can't find it. "What was it like?" He asks her. "It was black." I (who have during all this time had my head buried in the TV) explode with laughter. Almost every piece of equipment in the shop is black. The irony of this is obviously lost on the other two, who turn slowly to stare at me as if inspecting something unpleasant. I rebury myself in the TV. Winston scrutinises the receipt again - "This is over a year old!" exclaims Winston. "Exactly! I told you how no good that boy was." Winston interrupts her with a story of having taken his shoes to be repaired and on returning to collect them 3 months and 1 day later he found that they had been disposed of. He points out that there is a similar condition on the back of his receipt. The lady sets off on another litany of the faults of her no good boy. Even Winston now wants to bring this to a close and suggests that if the lady were to come back in "a week or two" he would have had chance to check his garage for the missing piece.
We finally get the motor fitted. Now it has to be adjusted for focus and Winston will do that whilst I go for lunch and take another stroll around the hardware store. I am to return at 4.00. Having been caught by that one before, I return at 3.30. There has of course been zero progress. However, since the store normally closes at 4.00 the stream of unhappy customers has just about dried up. Winston and I sit ourselves once again either side of his work bench. Now I assume that in the factory, adjusting the motor spindle so that the laser which reads the disk is in focus, is performed by a precision, computer controlled machine without human intervention. In Winston's shop, it's done by levering the motor up and down the spindle with a screwdriver or the occasional tap with a hammer. A disc is then inserted to see if it plays. Four hands are hardly adequate for this so it's hard to imagine how Winston ever does this on his own. Perhaps he doesn't. Perhaps he's never done it before. Because after an hour and much levering and tapping, we haven't managed to play even one second of DVD.
I pick up the disc he's using and look at the playing surface. It looks as if it's been used as an ashtray for several years. I can't see any way that it would play in any machine. I point this out to Winston, who grudgingly agrees that I may have a point and disappears across the corridor to the shop with everything nobody would ever want. He returns proudly clutching a DVD which contains the first 6 episodes of the Lone Ranger! Excellent! If only we can get the machine working I may have chance to watch an episode before I have to catch the last ferry at 6.00pm.
Well after much more levering and tapping, we finally get the thing to play. It's nearly 5.30, so I have to settle for 5 minutes of episode 2 and then I have to run for the ferry.
As a footnote. We didn't use the DVD in anger until we were in Grenada several months later. You can guess the rest. It managed to play the first 80% of Babel and then died completely. Just as well we'd seen the film before!
After that, it was a parting of the ways for us and Len & Janna - at least for a while. They would spend some more time diving at the Horseshoe Reef whilst we with deteriorating batteries, failing water maker (again) and with pressure from our insurers to be further south before the onset of the hurricane season, would head back to Grenada.