The Banana Man

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A couple years ago while standing in line at a store in Grand Cayman a local character was jawing in the cashier’s ear and boring her with one complaint after another. He was speaking in Jamaican Patois so I couldn’t exactly understand everything he was saying. But from what I could understand, he left almost no miserable stone unturned. It was too hot outside. He had been working too hard or not enough, I couldn’t figure out which one he was complaining about, or perhaps both. Then there was the price of the bottle of beer he was buying. “Da price jus keep goin up, up, up. Dis is madness. You understand what I say, woman? Dis is madness.” Of course the price hadn’t gone up so much that he didn’t buy the beer. He complained all the way too the counter and he complained while standing at the counter. Then he complained all the way from the counter and out the front door. I’m certain he was still mumbling dissatisfaction as he meandered down the sidewalk drinking his beer.

I stepped up to the counter and smiled at the cashier who rolled her eyes and said, “He’s like da banana-man.”

I looked at her with a blank look on my face.

“You know da story?” she asked.

“Nope. Haven’t heard that one.”

“A beggerman was on da street,” she said as she rung up my purchase. “One day he sees a man comin at him with a bag of groceries in his arms. He walks up to the grocery bag man and says, “Mista, I be hungry. Let me have some ting to eat.” The grocery man was poor, but he reached in da bag and pulled out what he could spare. Wasn’t much, cause he had his own family to feed. He handed da man a banana, and kept headin home to his wife and kids. Da begger-man took da banana, but snapped, “Mon, you be selfish. A whole bag of groceries and all you give me is jus one banana.” He walked away mumbling as he stuffed the banana into his mouth. When he finished eating it, he threw da banana peel on da ground. There was an even poorer man walking behind him. Soon as da peel hit da ground, it was picked up. Da man who was even poorer and hungrier stuffed da peel into his mouth. He was starving and he was grateful to have even a peel to eat. Da selfish banana man never saw the man behind him as he look up to heaven and tank God for da banana peel.”

I smiled at the cashier and at the humility of the story.

Without looking up, she tended to the cash register and said, “No matta what you tink, someone else is always more worse off than you… or da whining bum who jus left,” she said motioning in the general direction of our complaining friend.

So, as we ramble along the road leading towards our unknown futures, there’s something we all need to ask ourselves. Are we the grocery man, or banana man or maybe even the banana peel man (or woman)? And then we should ask ourselves, are we grateful for what we have, or do we need to have less tomorrow in order to appreciate what we have today?

As my friend, Blessings, from St Kitts always said to me, “Brian… tank God for life.” Let us all be at least a little bit grateful for what we have today and give help where we can. Never forget that there’s always somebody who would love to have as much as we have, even if we don’t think we have enough.

And don’t forget, “Tank God for life” and whatever you may have to eat.

B.M. Simpson

About B.M. Simpson

B.M. Simpson was born and raised in rural Maine. He joined the Air Force at the age of 18 and lived and moved across the U.S. and Europe. After leaving the military, he spent years living and working in the Caribbean. On the islands of Anguilla, St. Kitts and Grand Cayman, he discovered a passion for island life and formed friendships second to none. After more than 20 years of writing songs, poems and short stories, he wrote his first full-length novel, Island Dogs, A Caribbean Tale of Friendship.