It’s Carnival season here in Trinidad and Tobago and for many people it’s the best time of the year. It’s the time of endless fetes, beautiful mas, music and rum. The time to show off the fruits of your last three month’s gym membership (or lack thereof). And the time for tourists, expats and distant relatives to fly in and reduce our food supplies and raise the prices of everything else. Exciting times!
Whether or not you intend to participate in the Carnival festivities, Carnival affects us all. With the influx of visitors, large crowds in packed venues, barely there to non-existent outfits, and limitless alcohol, a spike in criminal activity is inevitable. But not to fear. This is Trinidad – crime or no crime, there will be fetes. And for the feters/partygoers you can still enjoy your fete regardless of the rising crime rate. You just have to be smart and safe. To help you do so, here are 12 ways to be safe during Carnival.
- Do not go out alone – Whether you are going to a fete, a normal party or event, to watch the bands on Carnival Monday and Tuesday, do not go alone. The guiding principle that there is strength in numbers is very applicable here. I am particularly cautioning us ladies as we are unfortunately the “vulnerable” sector of the population in this regard. No matter how brave you feel, please have a friend or someone you trust accompany you, better yet a group of friends. There are too many predators in this world and they tend to come out to prey when we give them food. Do not feed the predators.
- Tell friends/family your whereabouts – Now, I’m not trying to curtail your freedom here. This point is aimed at keeping you safe. Now I know some young people may be thinking, “But my parents are pests! If I tell dem where I going they will never let me leave home!” If this is true, first of all you should be grateful that you have parents who care about your safety. Secondly, if you are under 18, you should stay home or at the very least be accompanied by a responsible adult. And thirdly, if you are over 18, why are you still living at home? Get a job, get an apartment and be independent. But I digress…
Yes, tell a friend or family member where you intend to go during Carnival. It’s not for them to keep tabs on you but only for your protection in case something goes wrong and you need a getaway car – I mean a ride home.
- Avoid certain notorious fetes and places – This should be self-explanatory. If you want to be safe during Carnival, avoid the notorious ‘hot zones’ and fetes and venues that are known harbours for criminal activity. But hey if that’s your preferred type and place of entertainment, don’t let me stop you. Attend at your own risk.
- Avoid rowdy crowds – Related to the previous point, you should avoid rowdy crowds. You can easily do this by not attending the events and fetes that usually host such disruptive crowds. Or if you happen to be at a regular fete and the crowd or a section of the crowd gets out of control, move away from them or leave the fete all together. To play it safe, you can attend the more upscale or bougie events like the all-inclusive fetes that cost an arm and a leg.
- Limit your alcohol consumption – Do not drink alcohol like a dehydrated man drinks water. Being under the influence of alcohol and/or other illicit substances will seriously impair your judgment, your memory and your sense of self awareness, all of which you need during this Carnival season (and in life in general). I’m not saying do not drink at all. Just do so in moderation if you do drink. Drunkards are prime targets for pickpockets, kidnappers, rapists and the like.
- Do not drive under the influence – Whether you are under the influence of alcohol or some narcotic substance, do not drive or operate machinery. There are numerous studies and reports that show that vehicular accidents and road traffic deaths multiply significantly when drunk drivers are at the wheel. Please designate a responsible and safe driver if you intend to drink. Not only will you save your life, but many others as well. If you cannot find a friend or family member to drive you, do not drive yourself. Call a taxi. No excuses.
- Drive a working car – For those of you who will be driving and not drinking, good job. Now, just ensure that the vehicle you will be driving is properly maintained and in a good condition, and that the engine will start when you want it to. This is important especially when you are ready to leave an event or fete or simply to make a hasty exit.
- Make sure your car insurance is up to date – This should be common sense but common sense is not very common these days. Not only is it unsafe to operate a vehicle with expired or no insurance, but it is illegal as well. This point is more geared towards your financial safety as opposed to your physical wellbeing. In the unfortunate event that you are involved in a traffic accident, your car windows are smashed, or your vehicle is damaged or stolen, you would most likely want to claim insurance for your loss. You will not be able to do so under an expired insurance policy or with none at all. Be warned.
- Be aware of your surroundings – This one is a catchall. Be vigilant wherever you go. I’m not saying to become paranoid but be aware of your surroundings and the people around you. Be careful where you park your vehicle; take a picture of your car and the vehicles next to it, preferably with their license plates for your security. Do not use the services of shady taxi drivers. Hire a licensed taxi driver from a reputable company.
Do not accept drinks from persons you do not know particularly a member of the opposite sex and a drink that is offered to you in a cup. Keep your handbag closed at all times and use one that has a working zipper; keep it on you and do not put it down anywhere, no matter if you think it will only be for a second. Thieves can move like lightning sometimes. Similarly with wallets.
- Take a self-defence class – This is useful for both men and women but more so for women. During Carnival the creeps come out in their numbers. Such creeps tend to view women as objects to satisfy their rum-fuelled desires. If and when they do decide to launch their aggression on you, to “take a jam” without your consent (which is sexual assault by the way), you need to be prepared. Now, I’m not saying to morph into Bruce Lee or switch into full Mortal Combat mode. A simple shove might be sufficient if the creep cannot understand the word “No”. If said creep persists a Chuck Norris kick may or may not be appropriate depending on the circumstances. So learn a few self-defence moves just in case you need to deploy them.
- Do not go home with strangers – Again, this should be common sense but too many people fail to allow such sense to prevail. For whatever reason, some people seem to believe that Carnival is the time to let all morals and sense of propriety out the door. Do not get me wrong – I am not advocating the lifestyle of a complete prude. Just strike the appropriate balance between having fun and maintaining some self-respect. There is no special immunity from diseases during Carnival. Strange people you meet during Carnival are the same strange people you would meet in everyday life, who may or may not be carrying STDs. Do not go home with strangers. As appealing as certain celebrities and media outlets may make it seem, fantasy is one thing and reality is another. You may take them home and they may take you to your grave. Protect your health, your money and your life.
- Stay home – This is always an option. Prevention is better than cure. Keep your tail at home – the ultimate way to be safe during Carnival. Of course you can be subject to many perils at home but you would not face the additional ones associated with the Carnival season.
So there you go. Those were 12 ways to be safe during Carnival. If you will be participating in this vibrant cultural event, I hope that you employ at least a few of these tips. Think of the safety of others as well as yourself and try to do things in moderation. Have a safe and happy Carnival season! (You may or may not see me at a fete)
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