It was a gruesome scene in the late afternoon. Female body parts were strewn in front of me and I couldn’t help but glance in horror at my child to see how much had been taken in.
“Driver, really. You have to be showing this?” “Driver, nah nah nah! Not this nonsense for me to be watching, eh!” Another older lady and I protested as soon as the young driver got in. “Well, sorry nuh,” he responded with just a smidgeon of attitude. The vehicle was one of the newer mini-vans that now run as taxis, outfitted with a screen from which music videos or movies are shown for the passengers’ pleasure.
The entire taxi was filled with females. There were three teenaged girls in the back seat, myself and the other lady who seemed to have just finished her shift at the hospital, and a woman perhaps in her mid to late-twenties next to the driver. I had just settled into the seat and looked up to confront writhing, barely covered buttocks. I shudder to think what went before I got in.
He changed the video, and a second came on: Old West brothel themed and the madam demanding money from her employees in crass language. He changed it again: cuss cuss cuss. He changed it again: safe music. That finished, and another began which he quickly switched. “Hm!” grunted my seat companion.
She glanced across at me, “I cah take all de obscenes. I does always tell them to take it off. Why dey feel people mus’ hear dat kinda nonsense? I does tell dem, leave dat for your bedroom. Doh be playing dat for payin’ people to hear.”
The young woman next to the driver giggled and looked at him and he responded by shaking his head and leaning over to whisper something to her, which made her laugh even louder. She had been unfazed by the music when we entered, eyes glued to the screen.
The final video was Selena Gomez, her song ‘Good for You’ – I had to Google it – and dressing up sexily for your man pretty much sums up the song. Nothing wrong with that you may think, but if you put this in the context of a barrage of songs with sexually explicit lyrics which teenagers listen to, well, another picture emerges. One of the schoolgirls behind me said, “That’s kind of dumb and objectifying women. If you have to dress up, do it for yourself.”
I don’t know how many sit silently suffering through the inanities and obscenities which pass for some music. I have a co-worker who makes the taxi driver change the music. I remember on another public transport vehicle, as we hit the main road, the quiet was suddenly interrupted by loud music punctuated with cursing. It was clearly not coming from the vehicle’s sound system. I looked around and saw across from me an older man, in his fifties or sixties, with a boy around five years old. The music was emanating from the phone in the boy’s hand.
I stared at the old man. He was not reacting. There were two old women immediately behind them. No reaction; they stared fixedly ahead. I kept looking at the old man, wondering why he hadn’t taken away the phone. It was at the tip of my tongue to say something, but frankly, I had made up my mind. I’d likely be cursed for saying anything. If he was fine with the little boy listening to that music, so be it.
The driver, as the music continued, frowned into the rearview mirror, his eyes searching the group behind him. He pulled aside, “Who playin’ dat music?” “De lil boy in front here,” came the chorus from the old ladies behind. “Aye! Aye! Tell dat lil boy to turn dat off!” The old man jumped as out of a reverie. “Take it off! Ain’t I tell yuh not to play dat music?!” The little boy dutifully took it off and continued staring at the screen of his phone. He didn’t look up at all.
I sometimes wonder if we have lost understanding of the value of who we are. Maybe it begins with setting higher standards for what we want for ourselves and our children, and our nation. Fear to speak out, though, has smothered the community it takes to raise a child. Simone Delochan
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