hair weaves, prime numbers, cupcake trini, and carry-on outrage: my flight to trinidad


They, meaning the smarties in our world, have yet to create a teleportation device so that I can zip to Paris for lunch or to the beach in the Caribbean at a moment’s notice and be back to see a movie in New York later that night. Until then, we all need to fly. Now, I have written quite a bit about my travels and related to this [both linguistically and literally], my travails.

Such was my flight to Trinidad, dare I say my first Caribbean island. Yes, I’ve been to sixty-odd countries and never to a Caribbean island. Neither the flight nor the island disappointed. I left New York’s JFK International airport on the eve of the holiday that shall not be named [I don’t mention it for fear that I will be pepper-sprayed for the one pair of over-priced Air Jordans left on the shelf]. Because of the timing, the airport was relatively calm. As I waited at terminal 4 for my flight, I sipped a latte from Peet’s Coffee – a chain I knew from a recent trip to Boston, and shared another with a Spaniard on his way home via Amsterdam.

The flight was on Caribbean Air, apparently one and the same with Air Jamaica. The security process was unusually seamless and quick, and I got to the gate quickly. The first oddity I noticed was in how the rows were called in the boarding process. As I stood next to a young man from Trinidad, I commented on his two dozen cupcakes from Crumbs, and he responded. While I only really understood one out of every three words he said, I got the gist. He was concerned with having enough overhead luggage space, as apparently the Trinidad locals are notorious for taking quite a lot of baggage. In fact, the local story is that Delta ceased flying to Port of Spain for that reason – they could not [no pun intended] get a handle on the mountains of luggage that were taken on their flights to Trinidad.

The airline representative began calling the rows: “will rows 5, 7 and 11 through 13 please board.” I of course was in row 6 and cupcake Trini was in row 8. I first wondered if the representative’s family or friends were in rows 5 and 7, but could never quite figure out what was going on there. Maybe he just liked prime numbers. He then continued with rows 23 and higher, then 13 and higher, etc., until myself and cupcake Trini were among the very last to be called to board.

When we got on the plane, I had no issue since I just had a small backpack, but it was a struggle for cupcake Trini. He did manage to smash his carry-on above him, while the precious cupcakes were under the seat in front of him. I felt his pain, as the passengers around him were salivating at the sight of the cupcakes like hyenas over a dead carcass.

There was a flurry of activity on the plane and many people were running quite late for the flight. As I sat there in my row 6 aisle seat, I thought, hey – there’s Patti Labelle. Wait – there she is again. Wait, there she is at age 30. And there she is at age 50. I have never seen so many Lady Marmalade hair weaves in my life – and in every color of the rainbow. Accompanying the hair sculptures were tight bedazzled spandex pants, and 14th Street flats with giant genuine faux diamonds on them. I of course was in heaven thinking about the blog post I could write.

As the plane took off, the security procedures video began to play. On it appeared a Caribbean Airlines captain, who was as lilywhite as Hugh Grant – and in fact looked quite like him. The funny thing was, when he spoke he had a thick Trinidadian or Jamaican accent – something like “hello mon, deece eez caribbeann airlines and we tank you fer choozeeng us mon.” It was a great way to start a flight.

Before the flight took off, though, the flight attendants were berated by no less than five angry passengers because they could not fit all of the crap they had bought for the holiday that shall not be named and were trying to stuff into the overheads. One even said “I want you to take all of the bags out of the overheads and repack them so there can be a place for mine.” I didn’t see that passenger after that – not sure where he ended up. To the airline’s credit, they were closely monitoring the bags people were bringing on the plane, and before the passengers got on the plane, were telling people to check the extra crap. A few got through, and were not happy when their tickle-me Elmos would not fit overhead.

The flight itself was smooth, and my favorite moment came when we were served a “snack” which consisted of a hot ham and cheese sandwich, a bag of potato chips and a bag of “organic” chocolate chip cookies. Since I figured that Trinidad = speedos in terms of the beach, I held the bag of chips in my hand, studying the fat and calorie information. Just at that moment, the flight attendant came over to me, grabbed the bag out of my hand, turned it over to the side without the information and said “This is how you must eat the chips.” I fell in love with her at that moment and we laughed about it every time I saw her thereafter.

Ladies and Gentleman, welcome to Port of Spain in the island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.


  1. Oooh, now I want to fly Caribbean Air too. Glad to hear that you’re still travelling light and that your fellow passengers may soon get a glimpse of summer John.