The checkout lines at Walmart are packed with Jamaican workers from orchards across the region. With the season ending, the men are taking their last paychecks to purchase home goods, clothing, and gifts for families back home. The cold air and cold rain signal it’s time to shop. The men pick over racks of women's underwear for wives, baby clothes, dress pants, work boots. Most necessities can be purchased back home, but the big box stores in Plattsburgh have a wider variety and often better prices. A group of men approaches Sam’s Club from the parking lot and calls out to an unfamiliar Jamaican from another orchard standing at the automatic doors, “Hey Rasta, you have a card?” Without hesitation he pulls it from his pocket and hands it over to his countrymen and says he’s shopping next door, return it to him there.
Inside, the men disappear down aisles. The hottest item is a laser light star shower. Last evening someone brought one back to camp and it set off a run at the stores. Money was collected, names were taken, and shopping carts were piled high with boxes of the lights. Back at camp each man opens the box and finds the nearest outlet. The overhead light is turned off. Red and green stars pepper the walls and outline men standing in the dark. Jamaica will be lit up with a million points of laser light this Christmas.
At noon a Greyhound bus swings into the grassy drive of the Mannix Road camp. Men pull bloated suitcases through the bunkhouse doors. The bus driver greets them smiling and points toward the cargo bays. The first group of 42 men departs for Jamaica today.
“It’s hard to send home workers who want to work,” Seth says, a sentiment Mason echoes as men climb aboard the idling buses. It’s been a difficult season. A worker’s productivity determines if he stays until the end of the harvest. Mason and Seth keep as many men on as finances allow, even if it means barely breaking even.