The Day the Fire Hose Reel Moved by Itself…A Duppy Story

It was turning out to be one of those interminable afternoons at work. I had to break it up. So I got up and went up to the first floor to deal with something that I could have dealt with by phone or email, but…well…interminable. So I negotiated the use of that meeting room for a working session I was convening in the coming week and ended up in the back corridor of the first floor discussing emergent strategy with Brenda. Ok. We weren’t discussing emergent strategy. But that’s not what this story is about.

As we strategised in hushed tones, I heard an unfamiliar: “Click, click, click...”

“What is that, B?”

“Look at the fire hose. Nuh it ah gwaan so”

“What? WHAT? OMG! The hose reel is moving by itself!”

That wall mounted emergency fire hose and reel was turning first clockwise, by itself, then anticlockwise, by itself. It just sat there on the wall, clicking back and forth. I just stook there watching with my mouth slightly ajar.

How exciting! I rushed back into the office area and summoned others who looked as if they too were having an interminably long afternoon to see the clicking hose. Gasps and oohs and ahhs and hands over mouths and exclamations of wonderment chorused up. Then came the stories. Stories about banging noises on desks after hours when she was the only one left in the office. Stories about toilets flushing themselves after dark. Stories about strange presences wafting through meeting rooms causing heads to swell and hairs on neck-backs to stand on end. Duppy stories. Duppy stories galore. Giggles and squeals and exclamations of  “Stop now!” permeated the just prior mausoleum like atmosphere that was the first floor. The interminable afternoon had taken quite an exciting turn!

Then I spotted Simon. Simon is an engineer. A scientist. An experienced man known as a practical, problem solver.

“Simon! Just the man we need. Please come here.” I summoned, fully in the moment.
“You have the answer we desperately need.”
You have to know how to couch your commands in order to be effective, you know…

Simon advanced towards me slowly and suspiciously. I suspect he was like “WTF is Kelly getting me into now…” I have a reputation of not being politically correct and horrendously blunt regardless of time and place. Sorry. Not sorry.

I said: “Look at that, Simon” pointing to the hose reel.

Nothing. Nothing at all. Lord god. The duppy get shy. Or the duppy mussi just kiss him teet and seh Kelly too damn hype. Watch me an har.

Simon looks at me quizzically and opens his hands in the universal questioning gesture.

“Keep looking. Just wait for it” I said while inwardly pleading, do Duppy, tun yuh roll, I mean reel, one more time.

YASSSSS! It happened: “click, click, click….pause….click, click, click”

A cheer went up from the small crowd enjoying this unexpected yet welcome diversion.

Simon exclaimed, stepped back, then walked towards it. Our hero, our engineer, our scientist approached the hose reel. He touched it. Then he turned the valve. Then he touched the house again.
He turned towards us. “This is not good” he said sagely with more than a little concern.

“What is it?” I was fairly shrieking at this point.

“The hose is energized. This is exactly what happened and  messed up the factory recently” he declared.

Simon patiently explained to his now eager and quiet audience that somehow water was getting into the hose despite the positioning of the valve and the ebbs and flows of water were resulting in the movement we were witnessing.

“I have to report this to Facilities immediately” he muttered and hurried off leaving us standing there.

We were all quiet and yes, crestfallen. We stood there in silence. Shauntelle is the one who broke the silence: “Well I preferred our explanation. It was more exciting.” We all exhaled and laughed along in agreement as we broke up and returned to what we were actually being paid to do.

The notion of some sort of super natural interference was preferable to the totally scientific reason for the hose moving by itself. And I started thinking.

Perhaps this is why Trump’s message resonates with so many. His sweeping generalisations, hyperbole laced rants and outright untruths are duppy stories that somehow are easier and more fun to digest than rational explanations. You see, facts demand active thought and consideration and then they demand action. Simon had to investigate and then think and then conclude and then go immediately to Facilities to take corrective action. Our duppy stories catered to our fears and emotions, negated the need to think and reason (duppies are outside of our control after all!) and removed the need for any sort of action on our part.   

Photo courtesy PBS

The people at a time in Biblical history are reported in the book of Isaiah as saying to the prophets of the Lord: “Do not prophesy to us what is right; speak to us smooth things, prophesy illusions.”Isaiah 30:10.

We’ve been rejecting truth and and fact, opting for duppy stories – fiction- for a long time now apparently.

The late great, Wilmott “Motty” Perkins introduced us to Erasmus Campbell, a would be parliamentarian here in Jamaica who declared his hand and his modus operandi early on: he promised honesty and told those looking for hand outs to vote for someone else. They did. And there ended Erasmus Campbell’s foray into representational politics.

Emotions trump logic every day. Anger and fear coupled with ignorance in some instances make us hear what we want to hear,  and create fertile ground for lies and half truth to flourish. And that is one of the reasons why post-truth politics appears to be winning today.

Duppy stories are fun around a bonfire or in a candle lit living room with long shadows on the wall when the power goes. But the fire will go out and the power will come back. And the coming of the light heralds Reality, where we are obliged to observe, reason, conclude and act. No more duppy stories.

PS For the record, I did tell Brenda that there must be some tensional differences in how the hose was wound on the reel causing the movement as it sought to correct the differences. Not quite correct, but see…I was still thinking even while enjoying the duppy stories.