Chapter 6: Post 40 — 1965!

The piano was old and out of tune but much played. Covered in tapa cloth, it became a focal point of the living room. Somewhere along the way, we also got a cat.

The piano was old and out of tune but much played. Covered in tapa cloth, it became a focal point of the living room. Somewhere along the way, we also got a cat.

1965 started out exactly the way 1964 ended – with high humidity and torrential rain. The dry spell was a thing of the past as the reservoirs overflowed and the barrage came down with a force that was off-putting for the first ten minutes; then people just shrugged and went about their business.

It was through this onslaught of horizontal showers that the household goods were finally delivered, exactly one week after the ship carrying the load had cruised into the harbor. The two large crates were unloaded in front of the Broquet house, and the children swarmed wetly as they tried to peek inside. The wooden upright piano was the first piece out and it was temporarily parked in the sand as the movers tried to figure out how to get it into the house. The doorway was wide enough once the door had been removed, but there was a sharp turn that seemed impossible to navigate in order to get past the kitchen and into the living room. The movers stood in the monsoon discussing the best course of action while the piano keys swelled and glued themselves to each other, the wooden top starting to warp as it absorbed gallons and gallons of welcoming tears from its new homeland. A screen was eventually removed so it could slide directly into the living room, although at that point it was probably more useful as a boat than a musical instrument. Fortunately no one in the family played very well, so it wasn’t that much of a tragedy.

Our household goods were delivered on Monday in a torrential rain which managed to soak the piano extensively. We had the fan blowing on it all week-long and most of the keys have stopped sticking now. We were advised to hang a 25 watt light bulb in the works to discourage mildew, but we haven’t been able to find an extension cord in town so we haven’t hooked anything up yet.

Everything was in pretty good shape when it arrived. Nothing was broken and everything seems to have been packed well. I don’t think we have to worry about the humidity affecting the phonograph. It’s been played constantly since about ten minutes after it arrived. We shipped all our records and got ten new ones with the Christmas stuff so it’s really been getting a workout.

The washing machine faired a bit better, as it was used to being full of water. Piles of laundry appeared on the floor of every room, and the constant hum and sloshing could be heard throughout the house. Since there was no dryer, it became a constant battle to try to get clothes hung outside to dry in between downpours. The rain was sneaky and would frequently gush down as if someone had turned on a very powerful shower right over the clothesline, resulting in a game they began calling Kenmore roulette. But there really was no winner – even when the clothes were dry, everything was still a little damp.

License plates are $15.00 year, regardless of the size of the car. They also have a little gimmick whereby all cars have to be inspected each year. First you have to go to the Revenue Department for an inspection permit, for a fee, of course, one buck in this case. Then you have to drive seven miles to the Public Works garage for the inspection. A 300 lb. Samoan stares intently at the car for a few minutes, looks under the hood (after you show him how to open it), then gravely announces, “That’s a Datsun, isn’t it?” That completes the inspection. You then have to drive the seven miles back to town to apply for license plates. Once again, you go to the Revenue Dept. You show them your inspection permit stating that your car is in tip-top shape, fill out the registration form, pay your fee, and wait expectantly for your plates. “Come back in three days for your plates,”  you are told. They’ve got the damn things right there in the cabinet, but this is the way they have always done it, so what the hell? “By the way,” says the little man at the desk, “have you renewed your driver’s license?” “Hell, I just got here in September,” you inform him. “It doesn’t matter,” he says importantly, “it must be renewed every year in January.” So off you go to the police station to make an application for a new license. Everything goes smoothly. The police officer even helps you answer questions you don’t know. “All done,” he says, “take this card over to the Revenue Dept. and pay your two dollars.” About now you stagger, feeling slightly faint, back to the Revenue office where an efficient looking young lady takes your two dollars and gives you a receipt. Patiently, you wait until she informs you, “Oh, you don’t get your license today, you have to come back tomorrow for it.”

Isn’t it wonderful the way we’ve brought civilization to Samoa? This same type of procedure exists in every governmental office on the island, although some of the guys tell me that any red type is immediately waived if you wave a case of beer under the nose of the right person. One of the directors was reading an article in Newsweek about red tape and bureaucracy in Red China and how it was holding down progress in that nation. He said that the procedures outlined in the article were almost identical with what he had to go through to get a typewriter ribbon from General Supply. After waiting over four months for our household goods to get here, I know just what he means.


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