BY EDWARD RAWSON
We arrived Saturday late in the day. One of my first impressions was how well put together the new airport was. It looked like a much newer nicer space. It felt like an airport should feel like. The customs lines were very short and painless. Upon descending down to the baggage area, it was clean and very new looking. The bags came out on the carousel and we picked them up ourselves and headed to the exit. Now I say this point because anyone who has been to Haiti over the years as I have will remember a very different Airport. One where bags came out then were piled in a mound and dozens of porters clamoring at you and them to help you get your bag so they could get a small tip from you. Frankly it was chaotic and frustrating every time you arrived. Then as you exit the building there would be a dozen more people getting you to your taxi or your ride. Within the five minute walk to the exit the average person would be approached by no less than 30 different people each stating "yes my friend, Taxi?" as they would go to grab you bag. When you know where you are going and are an able bodied person it was an unbelievably unpleasant experience to be grabbed at in such a manor. On this trip the lack of clamoring was relieving. I did need help finding my way to the Hertz rental car which someone did and I was all too happy to provide him a tip for that service. The thing is by the time we arrived at the Hertz transport vehicle that one person turned into three people to help us two people walk literally 30 feet from the exit to a vehicle. Each not asking but demanding a tip for this service. So it isn't all the way perfect yet, but there has been a major culture shift in the right direction at the airport.
We took the short ride to the Hertz station where a frantic man helped us. He had piles of paper on the counter that looked like organized confusion. The process took more than 30 minutes to sign dozens of documents. I was asked for my drivers license four different times. When we went outside to the do the inspection of the car, that was when the fun began. Like many car rentals globally we walked around the car with an image of a vehicle to mark the dings and scratches so that it is clear that those scratches were there before me. The nice gentle man who was doing the inspection with me shows me the image of a mid-90's four door Toyota Carola and points to bumper of our four door full-size 4-wheel drive Volkswagen pickup truck and says we will start at the bumper and walk around. That alone was funny to me but when he pointed to the bumper which was hanging low and full of scratches and visible signs of having already been repainted, he started making marks on his drawing reflecting the corresponding scratches on the pickup. By the time he finished circling the vehicle with me, his image looked like a Jackson Pollock painting. The vehicle was not in terrible shape. It was relatively new vehicle and it was clean and looks strong. Anyone who drives in Haiti will tell you your car is going to get dings.There are not real traffic laws. Traffic has a natural ebb and flow. people typically just go on their turn. At intersections you slow up to make sure you and not going to run into anyone, and if its looking close you honk. There are not street lights or even stop signs. Just open intersections that you have to respect, but not fear. This truck looks as though it has seen its share of close calls, but it isn't quite on the rent-a-wreck inventory list yet. After all said and done I took the keys to my steed for the week and we headed on our journey.