My wife Chris and I were having an early dinner, just the two of us, at a local restaurant last Saturday night. We were just finishing up the main course when I looked at a watch and said, “Hey, it’s seven o’clock. We forgot about the football we wanted to watch. It’s going to end soon.” So we decided to forget dessert and go home to watch. I called for the check.
The football game we had in mind—we are both football fans—was the NFL playoff game between Baltimore and Denver. Playing for Denver would be the 36-year-old quarterback Peyton Manning, who was this year’s top-rated quarterback. It had been thought he was over-the-hill, but this was not the case. We wanted to see him on his charge to the Super Bowl, and now we were missing it.
After I paid the check and we were walking out to the car, Chris suggested that instead of going home, which was half an hour away, we go to a nearby sports bar where, through the windows we had seen, while driving to the restaurant, half a dozen TVs on the walls tuned to sports. We’d seen a big crowd inside. Maybe that would be more fun, and furthermore, we wouldn’t miss as much of it.
Although this story is going to be about visitors and locals, as you will soon see, it is not to be about visitors and locals in the Hamptons. We were, this night, on an island called Providenciales, which is part of Turks and Caicos in the Caribbean. The temperature outside was 80 degrees. We were going to Danny’s Buoy, a local bar.
Parking out front, we could hear people cheering. We walked in. All seats at the bar and five of the six high round tables with stools were occupied. We sat at the sixth round table and surveyed the scene.
There were four TVs, two behind the long bar and two on a side wall. One behind the bar was tuned to a cricket match, the second and the other two on the wall to football. Everyone, about 20 men and three women, was watching the football.
“Hey mon, that was a fair catch.”
“They threw the flag. Nobody gonna overturn it.”
The TV went to its usual string of commercials, Toyota, Verizon, Volkswagen, during which everybody talked about the game or greeted newcomers with hugs or high fives. People came into and out of the bar often. At that point, one of the men called from the bar to me.
“Who you rootin’ for?”
“Denver,” I said.
The referee on the screen was announcing a decision. The call on the field was confirmed.
“Fair enough,” someone said.
“I agree. It was fair.”
Caribbean patois is spoken very fast and often with abbreviated words making it difficult to understand. But if you work at it, you get it.
Back to the game. Manning threw a bullet of a pass 40 yards right on the mark and everybody went wild. What a wonderful time was being had.
“We’ll get ’em back. You’ll see,” someone said.
I couldn’t imagine how a native of Turks and Caicos could be a Baltimore Ravens fan, but there it was.
“The temperature here in Denver is now nine degrees,” one of the commentators said. “With the wind chill, it’s minus one.”
On the field, puffs of white smoke were coming out of everybody’s mouths with every exhale. It occurred to me that nobody in this room had ever experienced anything like these temperatures. What were they making of it?
I can’t say that Chris and I were being welcomed with open arms in this bar. But when it came to cheers and high fives, we were part of the action. On the other hand, there wasn’t the slightest indication of any concern or suspicion. There was a man they were suspicious of. He was a slender man, a Rastafarian with a beard and beret, and he weaved around a bit drunk, apparently unaware, even with all this bustling activity, that there was a game going on. People waved him out of the way when he was blocking their view.
Midway through the fourth quarter, with the score tied, the man at the bar I’d talked to got up and headed past me toward the door.
“You leaving?” I asked. “Now?”
“My wife’s gotta be picked up,” he said. “I take her home. I be back.”
At this point, I noticed through a window that there was a deck off this bar with tables and chairs and that everybody sitting out there was Caucasian. They all had the same identifying plumage—brightly colored resort clothes and white hats or scarves. It’s what we had on, too. And they were all looking at the outside wall above the window where there must have been more TVs. Occasionally, they too, at the appropriate moments, let out cheers for the teams. But there was a difference. Their comments and congratulations were shared only with those at their table, not at any other tables.
And this got me thinking. Here we were inside, where everybody was in work clothes and knew everybody else, and so happy and relaxed and having so much fun. Out there—were we SUPPOSED to be out there?—there was some enthusiasm, but less. The people were in a foreign land, strangers, uncertain that things were okay. Their pockets may have been filled with cash but they were unsure of themselves. They were the outsiders.
It also didn’t pass my notice that although there were the white rich people outside and the working black people inside this bar, that on the TV screen the athletes were all mixed up together, black and white, Hawaiian, Tongan, whatever. Well, that’s good, I thought.
The game got better and better. Denver, who was favored, would pull ahead, but then plucky Baltimore would catch up. With a minute left to play, it looked like Baltimore was through. But then, with just 31 seconds left, Baltimore’s quarterback threw a touchdown pass, sending the game into overtime. You’d have thought Danny’s Buoy had won the lottery. People were screaming and yelling. One overtime ended and now there was a second overtime, and at this point Manning made a mistake. He was intercepted, Baltimore scored and it was over.
In the dark, in the parking lot, leaving the bar, it occurred to me that what is going on in the Hamptons is not much different than what is going on here on this island—except that the rich are far richer in the Hamptons, and far more able to do something about it.
They come to the Hamptons and buy a piece of property that might have been farmland and they surround it with hedgerows and gates and inside hire gardeners and staff to create their own little worlds separate from the worlds outside filled with local people. They often spend tens of millions of dollars.
It’s the way of a changing world, I guess, along with our awkward attempts to adapt to it.
Anyway, Baltimore won. I’ve got friends there and there was no doubt in my mind they were watching this.
On the other hand, I think I’ll text them instead. Calls from here are really expensive.