Diane Phillips: And the award for gross stupidity goes to . . .


Diane Phillips

By Diane Phillips

If there were profit to be earned, some savvy entrepreneur would create an award that rewards the dumbest ideas ever. The scheme could work just like other awards, except it would be funnier. Like this letter which I received a little while back. It was sent to me by a well-known retailer.

Here is what it said. I kid you not, I could not make this up.

“We are writing to inform you that your card is being cancelled as of this date because we cannot find an address for you.”

I wrote back and told them that I was sorry they could not find an address, but they may be pleased to know their letter reached me at the address they did not have. I added, just for their enjoyment, that I have had the same address for more than 30 years. I also used the opportunity to inform them ever so politely that I would no longer be needing their card as I had a personal preference to do business with people and companies that did not qualify for the dumbest award ever.

Opportunities to present the dumbest award abound. Here’s a local one. In Nassau, Potter’s Cay is one of the most heavily trafficked areas along the northern coast. On a good day, traffic is painfully slow as cars, trucks, cycles and pedestrians crawl past conch and fish stalls along a crowded, narrow U-shaped roadway with as many lumps and bumps as a row of camels.

Further north on Potter’s Cay under the bridge there is even more traffic weaving in between the produce exchange, intermingling with trucks and cars coming and going from Bahamas Ferries, the Mail Boat and other inter-island carriers, vying for a place to cut in with all the traffic to cargo offices and trailers.

On a Friday afternoon, trying to get into and out of Potter’s Cay on to East Bay Street is like being 17 and trying to talk your way out of losing driving privileges a week after you got your driver’s licence, forgot to put fuel in the car and ran out in the middle of nowhere forcing Daddy to come and get you and bring a jerry can of gas. Good luck with those privileges for the next few weeks. There’s no reasoning that’s going to work to calm Daddy down.

Anyway, back to the Dumb Awards. There is simply no explaining why the parking area to the east of the Paradise Island bridge - on the south side - was designed the way it was. The concept was lovely. Take an unused grassy knoll, clean it up, plant it, build a boardwalk and create a parking lot for all those businesses, offices and the two restaurants across the street that previously had almost no parking for customers and staff.

The only problem is that to access the parking lot - which serves businesses all the way from the bridge to Seafront Sushi at the corner of William Street - is you have to enter a mile west and drive through Potter’s Cay, leaving those conch and fish stalls to your left as you head north, and to your right minutes later when you attempt to exit and eventually come back out again on to East Bay. What a great idea - add to the congestion and make it unlikely anyone visiting those offices, restaurants, businesses would actually use the parking lot unless they worked there.

All that had to be done was to create a cut-through from east of the bridge to the end of the strip. It could even be where the exit is now just opposite the east side of the Out Island Traders Building.

Moving on, probably nowhere in The Bahamas is there a government office more deserving of an anti-success award than Passport. The Passport Office has so mastered the art of requiring applicants to line up, to line up that there is almost an artistry about it.

Here is one scenario in an actual applicant’s words.

“I went to the Passport Office to apply for my son’s passport where I had to establish where I came by my surname. Keep in mind this was my (at least) fourth passport. I had the same surname. At 37 now, I had to establish my maiden name. This meant I had to have my parents (who were unmarried at the time of my birth) sign an affidavit stating my maiden surname was, in fact my surname. Once drafted and signed I had to take that to the Registrar General’s Department to be filed. I was married out of country and already had a previous e-passport in my hyphenated maiden-married name. Still, I was asked to obtain the long form (certified copy) of my marriage certificate. Apparently, the short version previously used would not do. There were times dealing with the Passport Office that I was so turned around they had me wondering if I really was Bahamian. Of course, I am Bahamian and my family has been here since that time. My other two children have their Bahamian passports but for my son the entire ordeal took six to eight weeks.”

I could add my own ordeal but will try to see the same humour in it as in the letter from the company saying they did not have my address.

When I renewed my passport this time, I returned to the office to see if I could collect about two to three days ahead of the nearly one month it was going to take because I unexpectedly had to travel. I was sent from one office to another, the collection office and from there, out the door, and to the next door, Queries. They had a question for me. They also had a phone number (like the letter had an address). But they hadn’t called.

After three weeks I was on the list to be called today, they said. They needed a better copy of my marriage certificate. The copy had the “R” missing from Registrar General indicating that my husband I were indeed married by the egistrar General. Same dates, same names, public record. Also, same marriage that was good enough for the last passport but apparently not a strong enough marriage by the egistrar for the renewal.

This was my third trip to the office and a woman who did take pity on me after I waited well over an hour (this time) said she would do me a favour and give me my passport but I would have to bring back a certified copy of the marriage certificate the next week or it would be pulled. What? My citizenship? I asked, stunned. “No,” she said, “the paper.” Oh the registrar general paper. Well, at least they weren’t cancelling my marriage.

It was not just me. On one side of me in the Queries office, a woman came in bearing and carrying all sorts of documents and her elderly mother in tow. That was not good enough. Yes, she was Bahamian. No one questioned that, but she did not bring her grandmother’s birth certificate. Her grandmother’s birth certificate?

On the other side stood a man whose patience was running thin. His passport was supposed to have been ready three days earlier and he was back again and could not get it because they had to “edit” his documents. “Why didn’t you call me?” said the elderly gentleman. “We probably did and you probably did not answer or your phone probably did not work,” they said. “My phone works…” well, you can see where that conversation was going. What were they editing? “You don’t have any hair on your head.” This fact did not seem to surprise the man with no hair. He had submitted photos so we were a little surprised that the photos could suddenly have sprouted hair or that they did not notice before and being still of the bald variety, would have to make yet another trip back.

Maybe instead of the dumbest idea award, we could find one that rewards a dose of commonsense. But if you have a business plan for dumbest idea ever award, please submit wherever you want and I’ll be the first to purchase a ticket and salute those who contribute to the disarray of our world.

Here’s to those who create chaos out of order and whose tales, once told in the light of the rear view mirror provide a cocktail hour musing and a laugh. If we did not laugh, we might just cry.


bogart 4 years, 3 months ago

On the road running alongside the water in front of OutIsland Building to exit in front of old Toogoods that area I am almost certain the area eas offically designated as an official Green Area zone by the Former PM area Hubert Ingraham along with many other coast areas so that the entire people of the Bahamas can get to see the water views that have been blocked in so many areas. The area is not meant for asphalt or parking for one of the webshop opeartors who had a business across the road or some business that opened to the public with about 2 parking spaces or any commercial parking for businesses. Whosoever that have chosen to block our views should be hauled before the courts and jailed and jail keys thrown away so they too can have their views blocked.!!!


sheeprunner12 4 years, 3 months ago

The Bahamas Dumbest Award goes to the Ministry of Education Diploma ........ demanding that children from public schools have 4 BJCs to graduate, when less than 30% of all students actually pass 4 BJCs .................... OR earning a Certificate of Excellence by having already passed 3 BGCSEs ....... when the vast majority of public school 12th graders do not even sit 3 BGCSEs at all!!!!!! ......... Again, we suppose the Diploma system is rigged for Private Schools.

Then you wonder why everything else in this country suffers ....... its all about Education.


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