Bus #17 is what the locals take to get to their jobs in the capital of St. John’s on the island of Antigua. Groups of students dressed in their blue or pink uniforms take bus #17 to get to school. Mamas take their babies and laborers take their tools. Young men with their long braided hair neatly piled high on their heads take bus #17. Other men with their long braided hair piled not so neatly take bus #17. On this hot, humid day when we needed, of all things, a new cat litter box, we took bus #17.
We start our journey at the beginning of the bus route outside the popular tourist destination of Nelsons Dockyard in English Harbor. As visitors boarded their luxury air conditioned tour busses, we hop into a minivan recognizable only as public transportation by the yellow #17 sticker on the windshield. The 30-minute ride costs $1.50.
The driver navigates between pedestrians and parked cars, and those cars simply stopped in the middle of the road so drivers can say hello to one another. Along the way, we make quick stops to pick up riders until all 10 seats are filled with 12 passengers.
We’re pretty pessimistic about finding a litter box in this land of many stray cats so we’re surprised when we discover there’s an actual pet store in town. Once we arrive at the transportation center in downtown St. John’s, Google Maps leads us through a residential area and up a hill, guaranteeing that a pet store will indeed be our destination. Just as we’re ready to abandon hope, we land at Glenn’s Pet Paradise. Of course, they do not carry litter boxes but they do in fact have quite a selection of pet products in their tiny store and we enjoy sharing cat stories with Glenn. And yes, they are the only pet store in town.
We’re in a shopping mecca so naturally we add to our shopping list. Allen’s flip-flops recently suffered a fatality and since these are critical footwear in our tropical beach environment, we set out to replace them. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Allen, he is 6’4”, towering over many and certainly a head above almost everyone on this Carribean island. He wears a size 17 shoe. You think finding a litter box is difficult? We pop into every shoe store in downtown St. John’s hoping to find surfboard-size flip flops. While we never come even close to finding a replacement pair, we do enjoy the incredulous looks of disbelief and laughter we get from storekeepers as they take in the largest feet that have ever walked through their doors.
The search for a new litter box, however, is a success. While pet stores are scarce, home supply stores are plentiful and the assortment of colorful plastic tubs even more so. Dot now has a nice, deep-sided plastic container that she can call her own. With litter box in hand, we continue to wander the streets of St. John’s. We find respite at a shaded sidewalk cafe where cold wine and humidity stand off in a display of nonstop condensation. A stop at a local farmer’s market completes our day in the city.
When it’s time to return, bus #17 is waiting for us. We climb in with the students and the mamas and the laborers, and all those braids. We have completed our day in the city and head back to the countryside we call home, where some have slept away the entire day.