A Beaconite has already complained on this page about the government’s “Customer Care Service Centre,” which in May replaced the former system of switchboard operators who were courteous, efficient and quick to answer the phone. In his last complaint, the Beaconite noted that the new service was not ideal: It sometimes hangs up before an operator answers or leaves the caller listening to a recorded message for minutes on end. Now, the Beaconite is sorry to report that the situation is growing worse. On Tuesday, he needed to call the Immigration Department, but no one was answering the agency’s direct number. So he called the Customer Care Service Centre. No one answered there either, so he kept calling. In fact, he called it eight times without getting a response, waiting on hold for up to three minutes each time before hanging up and trying again. In between, he called the direct number for Immigration ten times, but no one ever answered. Finally, he got through on his ninth call to the Customer Care Service Centre after being on hold for more than two minutes. He was then transferred to the Immigration Department, which put him on hold for five more minutes before answering his 30-second question. From start to finish, the whole process took half an hour. The Beaconite begs government to bring back the old system, which worked very well.
Given one Beaconite’s fondness for cheesy jokes, it’s hard to resist writing in her last Reporter’s Notebook of the year that “hindsight is 2020.” But it holds a grain of truth, and the reporter has been thinking about the good things that happened despite the horrific nature of this year. Without further ado, here are a few things for which she is grateful in 2020: a year living in the Virgin Islands, which was her first experience moving abroad; the launch of Turtle Dove Library; surviving a car crash, the worst illness she’s ever experienced, and other harrowing situations; new and renewed friendships; golden apples and sugar cane; good waves; the joy of fostering dogs for the first time; opportunities to learn about investigative journalism in the Caribbean; wonderful co-workers who care deeply about the VI and are passionate about high-quality journalism; the roof over her head and food on her table; Cane Garden Bay sunsets; and the chance every week to contribute to her community through her work at the newspaper. It has by no means been an easy year, but she is grateful for the people who made it memorable.
Home for the holidays
Keeping track of time in the tropics has always been a bit difficult for a Beaconite, given how slight the changes are from one season to the next. The pandemic, with its months-long stretches spent at home, made the marking of time even fuzzier, and he can hardly believe that he’s arrived at the end of the year. In keeping with the divergence from normality that seems to be the theme of 2020, the Beaconite for the first time in his life is not going home for the holidays. In a sense, he welcomes this change, as he likes the idea of all of his Virgin Islands friends — some of whom are also barred from their homes — banding together to provide a sense of familiarity for one another. Though, to be sure, he is also a little sad not to be home for the holidays, and is already sentimental for Hannukah parties and snowboard trips of years past. This mix of emotions seems like the perfect disposition for bidding adieu to this strangest of years. As challenging as this year has been, it has also been one of the Beaconite’s favourites. He is both relieved and a little sad to see it go.
This weekend, a Beaconite attended an annual beach party she had attended last year at this time, and as she left, she told the host she hoped she’d be back again in 2021. She really meant it. In a year full of catastrophe, where there wasn’t much to be grateful for, in the Virgin Islands or anywhere else, she is still grateful to be where she is, living a life that many people envy, especially as the pandemic still rages outside the territory’s borders. However, she does have one — and only one — holiday wish: that next year will be better than this one. Feel free to borrow it.