Rammer jammers

A gang of Kingston bandits choose the wrong trio of young women to mess with: Nazma Muller and her friends

Illustration by James Hackett

Reports and rumours about crime in Jamaica have never fazed me. I lived in Kingston in the late 1990s and had a fabulous time, blissfully unaware of any danger as I cheerfully squeezed into packed buses at Half Way Tree and hitchhiked from Mona to Grants Pen Road, a street well-known for reasons other than its many ackee trees. I enjoyed boasting to uptown locals about my adventures in the less wholesome parts of Kingston: leaving a concert in Trench Town at 3 a.m., traipsing along with Beenie Man to Craig Town on a photo shoot, getting lost in Hannah Town . . . “Oonoo Trinis mad fi true,” they would declare, shaking their heads in disbelief.

So when a gunman actually attempted to hold me up, there was more at stake than just a crumpled Ja$1,000 bill and a beloved but badly scratched Storm watch. My belief that I could reason with even the wickedest don hung in the balance.

It was a Friday night, a few weeks before Carnival. A deal had been struck with De Man Dem: they would baby-sit Coleen’s two daughters while we girls hit the weekly Carnival fete at the Mas Camp. We promised to relieve them around 1 a.m. — perfect time for “big man to tek road”.

Of course, we couldn’t have guessed that the fete would be such a success, that the rum and Cokes would flow so generously, that Jamaican men would wine back so enthusiastically, and that we wouldn’t leave until 2.30 a.m., holding out until lock-off time for Machel Montano to sing “Roll It, Gyal”.

We headed home in fine spirits (Appleton, I believe), and pulled into the parking lot outside Coleen’s apartment. We sat in the car for a few minutes, plotting how we might sweet-talk De Man Dem.

“Oh gorsh, dey go be real vex we come back so late.”

“Cha, man, dem always dey a road. A long time now since me go out and have such a good time.” And with that Coleen broke into a lusty rendition of “Roll it, gyal, roll it, gyal, roooooollll!”

Sasha and I joined in, wining in our seats and laughing.

At that point, a young man came round the corner of the parking lot and walked purposefully towards the car. Still laughing, I had my hand on the door, about to open it. Being naive, tipsy, and Trini, I assumed the young man was either lost or looking for someone living in the apartment complex. Sasha, being Jamaican and far more streetwise, stopped laughing one time and said, “Lock your door. And don’t roll down the window.”

Convinced she was overreacting, I smiled at the youth expectantly as he bent down to my window. When he pulled out a shiny silver gun, my jaw dropped. I couldn’t believe it. The audacity of the boy! He tapped on the glass with the gun. Well, I never. Being naive, tipsy, and Trini, I was just about to roll down the window and give him a piece of my mind and tell him if his mother ever knew what he was doing, she would give him two good clout —

But Coleen, being half-Jamaican and not half as drunk as we thought she was, shouted, “Drive, Sasha, drive!”

Sasha, who had been staring, mesmerised, at the gun, promptly stepped on the gas and peeled out of the parking lot. She slammed her hand on the horn and kept it there as we flew round the bend — straight into a car. The gunman’s friends had stopped, engine running, on the first speed bump to block us.

We had seen the car driving out on our way in. The three occupants were clearly an enterprising group of bandits who thought, “Look three gyal a drive by themself — easy pickings dehya.”

They were so wrong. As we came round the bend, the one who had been standing beside the car, acting as the lookout, almost jumped out of his skin. Sasha stepped on the gas and rammed into the back of the car. The driver shouted at his friend to get in, and the lookout scurried into the car. It sped off.

We chased them out of the parking lot and down Constant Spring Road, Coleen yelling, “Follow them, Sasha, follow them!”

I was more inclined to let them go their way and we go to a police station. I convinced Sasha to pull into a nearby gas station. The bandits’ car disappeared in the direction of Half Way Tree, the gunman having been abandoned at the apartment complex. He was last seen by De Man Dem running behind his brethren.

The police arrived, expecting to find us scared and jittery. “You did very well, ladies,” the officer said soothingly. “That was quick thinking.”

Coleen was pacing up and down. “It shoulda be me driving,” she fumed. “I woulda drive over them, you see. All now dem woulda be plastered all over de wall.”

Memo to all bandits in Jamaica and Trinidad: don’t test Coleen. She will ram you into the next life.

The positive side of the experience (because there’s always one with us Trinis) is that we girls just might have a hit on our hands. De Man Dem have christened us De Rammer Jammers and we’re thinking of writing a soca song called “Ram It, Gyal”.

Crime is everywhere these days, but you can’t let idiot bwoys stop you enjoying life. A dat me a learn a Jamdown.