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How come?

By Terry Joseph
March 04, 2005

Among the most colourful colloquial interrogatives is one that digs deeper and faster than a heavy garden fork, getting to the root of the matter, using only a brief, blunt spade but calling it precisely that, seeking profound intellectual returns from an investment of no more than two words, admitting confusion while challenging the source of greater knowledge, doing it all with the simple question: "How Come?"

Nothing escapes the query's pierce, be it religion, politics, law, social, economic or cultural ponder. The Big Bang theory only sounds awesome until a Trini looks up at Professor Einstein and without citing specific reference utters the dreaded inquiry, replete with trademark attitude that may or may not include hands akimbo as an outward and visible sign but invariably contains gladiatorial glare.

"Pray tell" or other sanitised versions just do not cut it. And you may well ask: "How come?"

A construction of nebulous origin, Trinis cannot verifiably claim it but one thing is certain: Natives of the territory of first coinage cannot apply our superior sense of theatre in posing the question. Even where the burden of proof is self-inflicted, in pursuit of answers you'd rather not hear but feel compelled to seek, the circumstances being so brazen or bizarre, life shouldn't proceed without assuaging the particular curiosity.

In fact, perhaps as a consequence of advancing age and the anxiety induced by not knowing or understanding certain things after all this time, it is a question I have lately been asking myself with increasing frequency.

How come, for instance, every female who puts on high-heeled shoes and gargles in more than one note is automatically a "diva"?

And how come a man who could well be pretending vagrancy brazenly set up a hovel along the driveway to the Police Commissioner's official residence and the police training school, sharing a see-through chain-link fence with them, lighting fires at will to prepare meals, doing his morning and evening ablutions completely in the buff and, for all we know, hide a rocket-propelled grenade-launcher in all the bush that surrounds his makeshift habitat?

And how come so many holders of high office feel a need to leak information to the media, each source with long knives drawn, attempting to advance his own agenda while bashing opponents and when the bacchanal really explodes, the antagonists so easily come together, sharing sentiments about chastising journalists for making a circus of it when the jugglers, clowns and ringmasters were all willing accessories before the fact?

How come people invariably offer to take a message when the party you telephoned is unavailable and as soon as you finish the first sentence, or merely recite your area code, only then they ask you to hold on so they could get pen and paper to write down the message they volunteered to take in the first place?

And how come groups, like Breakfast Shed cooks or Petrotrin Phase II Pan Groove steel orchestra, people who have no legal claim to properties on which they are operating, can simply say "we're not moving", because we do not like the alternative you are offering or the relocation grant is not enough, a parking lot is deemed inadequate; they authoritatively demand construction of an expensive foot-bridge, or conjure up some other wafer-thin reason to hold up major civil engineering works that will clearly redound to greater social good?

Frankly, I could think up a thousand more, like why Trinis never remember to secure Worldwide Web domain names for indigenous arts, entities like Pan until someone else in a foreign country has registered the site, or why cashiers wax impertinent if you demand the one cent change from a $20 bill tendered for an item costing $19.99, but those topics are nowhere near as puzzling as what happens in the political arena.

The week's most astonishing sequence has to do with the ruling People's National Movement (PNM), who organised a retreat to discuss matters affecting the organisation and no doubt strategise on major matters selecting, we may presume for guarantee of absolute privacy, a hotel owned by an activist aligned to the opposition United National Congress.

Although, gentleman that he is, the proprietor would hardly think of bugging the main discussion room, how come out of all available hotels the PNM chose his?

These and other troubling investigations overshadow the clichéd inquiry about the meaning of life. Indeed, as Jamaican singer Jimmy Cliff once posited: "There are more questions than answers" and even in that regard you may well ask: "How come?"

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