There is a little community just east of the Grenadan capital called Perdmontemps, which means "waste my time." A 1983 visitor can imagine what the early French colonialists must have been thinking when they decided on that name 300 years ago.

Grenada is only a 45-minute flight from Barbados to the north and about the same to Trinidad to the south. In another sense, it is a long way from anywhere, a country so small that a group of fewer than 50 men changed its history by staging a coup four years ago. Cuba subsequently doubled the number of doctors here by sending a 15-man medical team.

In that light, it seems natural for Prime Minister Maurice Bishop and his followers to be proud of the storm they have stirred in the United States over their warm relations with Cuban President Fidel Castro and the Soviets. One close adviser said the youthful leadership team is "reveling" in the concern shown recently over this island twice the size of the District of Columbia.

It was not always that way. For almost two decades, Grenada lay beautiful but little noticed. Sir Eric Gairy ruled--for 13 years under British tutelage and then as an independent prime minister--until he was overthrown March 13, 1979. Gairy made himself an expensive part of most financial deals on Grenada and entertained many visitors personally at his night club, the Evening Palace.

One Briton doing business here recalled an invitation from Gairy to attend a reception at his club for visiting dignitaries as well as the Grenadan diplomatic corps, at home for consulations. At first flattered by the evening in elegant company, the Briton was subsequently surprised when a waiter handed him a bill for hundreds of dollars and said he was expected to pay for the whole affair.

Those days are gone now, and the People's Revolutionary Government is serious. A poster in Butler House, the government headquarters, exhorts office employes to save paper clips because the revolution needs them. Workers regularly sit for education and political orientation classes designed to help them participate more fully in changing their society.

The Greenery, a restaurant overlooking St. George's picture-postcard harbor, advertises on Free Grenada Radio that customers who try its conch stew will be part of the "food revolution." An announcer on the same broadcast signs off the news wishing listeners "a productive day."

Occasionally things get so earnest that some Grenadans chuckle. A businesswoman recounted amid laughter, for example, that she and her neighbors were urged to turn in all their weapons and tools, including pellet guns and shovels, so the local militia could train and dig trenches to defend against a U.S.-sponsored invasion.

A resident of a hilltop home smiled and told how he saw guards at People's Revolutionary Army headquarters yank the camouflage off their antiaircraft cannons last week as two French coastal patrol boats pulled into the harbor below on a routine courtesy visit.

The French boats left after three days. But a mysterious Soviet ship, listing to port, remained anchored just outside the harbor for a second week. Government officials said they didn't know what it was but agreed it had too much superstructure to be a cargo vessel and too much rust to be a cruise ship. Some residents here said it was for marine research. Others wondered why it had so many antennas.

Cuba has become one of the Grenadan government's closest friends, providing doctors, advisers and military trainers. But the relationship has had some clouds as well. For example, Grenadan sailors had trouble getting used to 10 boats provided by Havana for the state-run fishery enterprise. Three sank. Three more were disabled. The remaining four were docked and the National Fisheries Company lost $75,000 last year.

In another instance, a Grenadan soldier guarding Pearls airport accidentally discharged his rifle, sending a bullet into a Cubana Airlines plane waiting on the ground for a flight to Havana. The round ripped into the hydraulic system and days went by before the damage was repaired and spare parts were flown in from Cuba.