Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Junk Mail Escape

Mark had a bad day (he's the everything is wrong guy).

It made me think about a time I spent in the Amazon. Yes, the people there had less than I have ever seen any people have. Most of them did not have houses. They slept on boards raised up from the ground. It was the flooded forest and so the places they lived flooded during the rainy season--I suppose it wasn't worth the trouble to put on a roof or walls. They had one change of clothing if they were lucky. Most people owned: one ragged t-shirt, one pair of shorts and about 50% of the time-- a pair of rubber flip flops. A gringa went there to live and gave out some basic medicines but there was no medical care to speak of. (Most people do not have medical care of any kind in many countries. We get used to hearing it but when you find out people died from a disease that would take $1.50 to cure it seems much stranger...and worse of course.)

It wasn't sad for me. I was there as a tourist. Of course, I cannot forget that people slept on boards and so on but it wasn't like a refugee camp or a war zone--it was a stable place with interesting people you could learn from and talk to. It was not the worst place I have ever been--people had a nice community with little violence and fear. The difficulty of their lives is wrong, it is unfair, it is part of an unjust and unnecessary cruelty in this world but they did their best anyway--foraging daily and trying to get a little something more from visitors like me.

As there is mostly a barter system (no stores so no money to spend) you are encouraged as a tourist to bring things to trade.

I brought a lot of gift sample lipsticks. Estee Lauder 'raging mauve' is now worn by the lovely women of the Amazon.You pretty much give away all the stuff in your luggage in the end and get back some piranha tooth necklaces and parrot feathers and things made from gourds and beans. Spears were cool. Piranha soup. Not too horrible tasting grubs, etc. (Oh, by the way piranhas don't eat people. You can swim in a river with thousands of piranhas. However, it's best not to do so when you have open wounds.)

Am I bumming you out? Sorry. I have this habit of trying to make a simple point but then digressing.

What does this have to do with Mark's bad day? Well...besides the fact that life was at its most basic for most of the people I met

Anyway, besides seeing people who lived with so little--besides seeing the most amazing life forms I've ever seen and the darkest and most star filled nights--the thing I can never forget is that there was no junk mail. No phones. No electricity. No plumbing. No mail at all. No flyers. No television. No radio. No commercials.

No one paid taxes (obviously you cannot pay taxes on a fish you caught for soup that day). No one could ask anything of you really. No one could want anything from you. You didn't have anything.

Being greedy, I was wishing I could have a comfortable life and still be isolated in the same way.

Simply my name, my car, my very presence on this earth has created piles and piles of MAIL. I have left a record, a paper trail...stuff--so much stuff. There's no starting over and there's no way to get away from it. But sometimes wouldn't it be nice not to have an address? To be somewhere THEY could never find you and try and 'suggest' in their friendly way what you should do--buy their insurance, vote for them, shop at K-mart, save money by buying things that cost money, etc.

I understand Mark's dilemma. I got a message on my car today. It said: "I spent two hours shoveling this space. And you took up too spaces. (Well, I think that's what it said--it wasn't very legible.) That was not very POLITE."

I honestly did not realize--I SWEAR--that a folding chair stuck in a bunch of snow could actually mean that the person was coming back and not to park here. Why didn't they make a sign? (I'm glad I didn't steal the folding chair at least--I'm apt to take things off the street.) What do I know? I'm from a place it doesn't snow.

I had bad karma after this and everything went downhill today--rapidly. But at least the message left on my car was personal--addressed to me. No nice stationary--just a paper bag. I'm sure they imagined me as evil and terrible--the dastardly selfish parker--but my car would not go backwards or forwards so I left it where it was. I was his (I imagine it was a him) imaginary enemy.

But it isn't as bad as a bagel store flyer.


Post a Comment

<< Home