Double dipping, as explained by Joe Henfield

(Paradise Island, Bahamas) — You have to imagine the thick Bahamian accent and a guy who looks a little like Jim Brown. That’s Joe Henfield, a private limo driver in Nassau. He doesn’t have a boss. He’s made friends with the cab handlers at the airport. He will explain–if you ask–how he can charge a taxi price for a limo ride. Cutting out the middle man has a lot to do with it. Owning his own limo makes up the balance. He’s done well enough for himself to put two kids through college, buy a second home in Hollywood, Florida, and travel extensively.

“Always the best,” he said yesterday as he navigated his way down the left side of John F. Kennedy Drive and to W. Bay St, a windy and crowded stretch of seaside road between the airport and downtown Nassau. To put a finer point on his taste for the good life, he told a story of going to America and renting a car.

“They gave me the car and it was filthy,” he said, shaking his head. The rental agent insisted the car was clean. Henfield pointed out the smell of cigarette smoke and finally went down to the next rental company where he rented a Lexus instead. “It was spotless,” he remembered.

Joe drove in silence for a few moments as if remembering the shine on the Lexus, and then spoke up. “I keep a clean limousine. I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, I don’t whore in the car. I expect the same in a car I rent. Always the best,” he said.

Henfield was born and raised in the Bahamas. He’s old enough to have two grown children. He knows the streets. He can trace the ups and downs of the economy on his daily ledger sheet. When the money isn’t flowing, people don’t have the scratch to spend on extravagances like limos. Even though Henfield will cut people a deal, they see the white stretch town car and automatically think it’s too expensive.

“Traffic is going to slow down,” he said as he faded into the right lane to avoid a tourist couple on a scooter. “Always slow in town.”

***

This is my fifth trip to the little island off Nassau’s coast. I’m no expert on the Bahamas, but I know Henfield’s route by heart. I know where the traffic gets busy. I know the tourists will be hanging out around Senor Frogs. I know it will cost $1 to cross the Paradise Island bridge. I know that crime is relatively low here. The bulk of it is small-time drug pushing and dirty hookers. Still, I listened to Henfield. I even encouraged him to go on with his stories.

“You’re hurting me!” Henfield exclaimed. He was pretending to be a hooker in false pain, what he told me was a common scam among the pros. The women let their johns think their manhood is so big it hurts. The men offer more money and lapse into commercial ecstasy. If they close their eyes too long, their wallet disappears. “Always put the money in safe,” Henfield said firmly. “Only keep out what you’re going to pay them. And always be sure to put yourself in a sack.”

Again, Henfield drove in silence for a minute before saying, “And no man is going to hurt a woman who can shoot an eleven pound baby outta her.”

Perhaps to steer the conversation in a different direction, Henfield said, “You’re married. Why don’t you bring your wife on the trip?”

I explained that my wife usually accompanied me on the Bahamas excursion, but with a baby on the way, she decided to stay home.

“It’s our second and last child,” I told him.

“How do you know?” he asked.

“I just don’t plan to have a third,” I explained.

“How do you know you won’t get number two and three at the same time?” he asked. “How old is your first boy?”

“Four and half,” I told him.

“Ah, been a long time!” he exclaimed, his Bahamian accent now more pronounced. “I tell people, when you wait that long and then go back in for a dip, it’s a lot easier to double dip.”

Frommer’s is good. Fodor’s and the Lonely Planet are pretty fair, too. But when trying to get by in a place that isn’t your own, I think most folks will agree that taxi drivers are the go-to resource. Nobody sees more of the city or knows how to get around it better. If you want to stay safe, they will keep you safe. If you want to get in trouble, they can get you in trouble.

Henfield is no obstetrician, nor does he hold any political power in this little island city. As far as I am concerned, however, he is mayor of Nassau. If my wife pops out two babies (unlikely, considering the ultrasound, but still), I’m going to convince the man to let me ghost write “Double Dipping.”

If you’re going to be in the area and need travel help or obstetric advice, I’ve got Henfield’s card.

Previously: Otis and the Magic Door, another cabbie story from the Bahamas.