In my recent commentaries, I have been imagining the Virgin Islands of 2030 through the eyes of a 10-year-old Guyanese girl named Maria, her older brother Zak, and their father Troy. This week, the VI family’s chronicle continues.
Troy and his son tramped close together down the narrow track from the retirement homes site towards the ski lift for cyclists and pedestrians who preferred the views to being shut inside a self-driving taxi. They stepped into the next empty compartment to the gentle hum of autonomous shopping drones reporting their positions overhead, strapped on their seat belts, and resumed their conversation.
Using shopping drones became more common after the United States Federal Reserve began to circulate digital dollars and the Virgin Islands began regulating cryptocurrencies, but the death of cash had been hastened by the insistence of every bank in the VI to stick rigidly to its own rules, failing to cooperate on even simple services like settling credit card bills by transfers from other banks. Their staff seemed not to understand why vulnerable customers turned to other means of transmitting funds.
Building-based banks rapidly lost customers to e-commerce services operable at home, particularly after the Covid-19 pandemic led the VI government to instruct customers to comply strictly with the social-distancing and cleansing protocols when using ATM machines. Consequently, they required greater supervision, but fears were expressed about the possibility of the virus’s transmission via banknotes.
Looking down the hill road toward town, they saw a large autonomous truck loaded with building blocks, doubtless programmed to emit a high-pitched whine as it approached a bend. Zak passed on the social media rumour that the robots building modular houses were going to be imported for the next apartment block.
Cyclists and pedestrians were banned from using the hill road under the Road Safety (Bare Heads) Act, but Troy hoped that people who no longer had to exercise at work would use sensibly the Recreation Day that had replaced their fifth working day and not turn to Askadoc.com for advice on voluntary ailments like obesity.
Zak reminded Troy to tell him about the incident before belongership which had exposed police corruption. Troy replied that the expatriate police involved were protecting themselves against their treatment as inferiors, although most Virgin Islanders were probably unaware of the baleful effects of that situation.
Troy told his son that he was driving home one afternoon about 20 years ago when a bright red car appeared from nowhere and collided with him. He immediately braked, but the other driver did a U-turn, away from the traffic. He was relieved that the female passenger in the other car had reported the accident, as it was growing dusk before the police arrived and began measuring and photographing the scene.
Troy assumed that the police sergeant showed more interest in his car’s position because it obstructed traffic, but was too shaken to understand why the officer had pointed to and photographed his headlights as if their damage was significant. The other driver exchanged contact details and insurers with him and drove off, but then the sergeant bewildered him with a caution that he would be called to the Magistrates’ Court to answer a charge of dangerous driving.
Troy’s garage told him next morning that his car was so unsafe that he shouldn’t have driven it home. When he went to his insurance agents to report the collision, he discovered they already knew about it and considered him to blame. The staff asked him to sign a copy of his verbal statement that was so badly and inaccurately worded that he took home a blank form instead.
In Troy’s statement, he rationalised his memory of the brightly coloured car’s sudden appearance by stating that he had been following it, fearing otherwise would be accused of driving without due care and attention. Some weeks later, after several enquiries to the police, he received a report in which the names of the drivers and cars involved were mixed up and the visibility described as excellent.
The report was signed by the traffic inspector, who was not present at the scene, so Troy asked to see him. During their discussion, the inspector suggested to him that the other car might have come from the side road he was just passing without stopping. It hadn’t entered Troy’s head that anyone would have driven straight across the junction, but it would have explained everything.
The inspector’s secretary later told Troy that he had signed another report calling for a further investigation into the incident, but destroyed it after the sergeant whispered something to him. The inspector sent him a second version of the report, correctly naming the drivers and their cars but falsely positioning the other car.
Troy told Zak that neither the sergeant’s notebook nor his photographs were ever produced to his lawyer even though the inspector personally promised Troy copies of the latter. However, the director of public prosecutions confirmed to his lawyer in writing that there would be no proceedings against him and opined that he was not to blame.
Troy said he could only speculate what the Virgin Islander’s passenger had told the police to make them shift the blame to him from her Virgin Islander friend. However, when he asked him over the phone how long he had stopped at the junction, he let slip that he hadn’t stopped at all. Troy couldn’t take advantage of a verbal admission, but knew the man’s girlfriend would have been upset at him making it.