Sunday, October 7, 2012

There Are Things to See and People to Meet, So Let's Get Off Our Rumps and Use Our Feet (by Josh)

I really need to get a new phone.  It's not that I want to do anything fancy, and I appreciate the value of having a phone that NO ONE would ever want to steal. Yet, almost every day, while I'm out and about, I see something unusual and I think, "Man! I wish I had a camera right now!"  My friend Melanie has the right idea, and clicks away with her Blackberry every time she sees some new oddity.
For example, #1 on my photo wish-list is Posture Man.  I'm always impressed by the street vendors who walk all over creation with a bucket on the head, selling anything from avocados (aaaaaaahhhh-wa-kataaaay!!) to toilet paper (¡Papel, papelllll, tengo papel de bañññññooooo!), but this guy takes it to a whole new level.
I noticed him one day as I was walking to work and had to do a double-take. This guy RIDES AROUND ON A MOTORCYCLE, both hands responsibly at the controls, balancing a BUCKET ON HIS HEAD. It's not a tiny bucket, but a wash-basin really, almost 2 feet in diameter, full of fruit or candy or something. I'm not exactly sure what he's selling because I've been too amazed to call him over, and have had the chance to share my admiration with other folks on the street who are just as blown away as I am.  He has a lifting girdle on, like you'd wear while working at a warehouse, and with absolutely perfect posture rolls around town on his motorbike vending his wares. He's gotta have abs, and nerves, of steel.
But that's just one example. The other day a traffic cop came into our office to let us know that anyone who had a car parked near city hall needed to move it, as there would be an "event" starting soon.  I thought no more of it because I ain't got a car.
On my way home, however, I busted up laughing when I saw just what this official event was.  They had blocked off a major street, right downtown, for a stickball game at rush hour between a bunch of young adult men.  They seemed to be having fun, but the folks who had to find a detour (none provided) weren't too pleased!
Next, on the same walk home, I heard a horn that seemed to be stuck. I turned the corner and saw a crowd of onlookers surrounding a group of men trying to figure out how to turn off the horn of a Honda Accord that had t-boned a defenseless gua gua van. The worst part is that these vans always have their doors open, with buckleless passengers sitting right at the door, but it appeared that the sliding door was the only serious victim. Meantime, cars and motorcycles are racing around the curious looky-lous who are filling the intersection. I laughed again as I dodged crazy motorcyclists to continue home.
I thought about why it is that I seem to see so many interesting sights here.  Is it because this place is oh-so-different from my previous surroundings?  Is it because there are just more amusing things taking place at any given moment in the D.R.?  Finally, I decided that neither or these are the case, chiefly because of another phenomenon.
Now, I grew up in small towns.  In fact, many people I know attended high schools whose student body was larger than the entire population of one of the towns I've lived in.  So, it isn't a big surprise to me to see folks whom I know around town.  However, I currently live in a city of over 200,000, but I see people I know more often than I did in Toppenish.  Reflecting on it, I realized the same was true when I lived in Varna, in Bulgaria, which is an even larger city.
The difference? Cars vs. feet as the chief means of transportation. 
On any given day, between dropping kids off at school, picking them up, and commuting to and from work, I probably walk a minimum of 2 miles. Since most of the other folks here can't afford a car either, we see each other a lot. Then there's the matter of housing.  Were my home to be less materially inviting (ah, internet, cable and ceiling fans, the sirens of my life), I'd see even more great people and weird occurences, because I'd be sharing the common outdoor life most of my neighbors share with each other. If you think about it, that's how it used to be in the U.S., but over the past 25 years even architecture has changed to conspire in keeping us apart and shut away.  How many new homes do you see, in any given subdivision, that have porches conducive to neighbors and friends chatting outside?
It's also gotten me thinking about past discussions with people about the need to learn how to moderate our technology-laden lives.  I really don't think it's ludditism to advocate teaching children how to use technology responsibly, putting away their phones to speak with and listen to those who are in front of them.  Some have claimed that they wouldn't be talking with each other anyway, but I think the example around me is proof that, lacking certain distractions (though not lacking them by choice), people spend more time with each other, chillin' and conversing. 
The next step, as I see it: rid ourselves of idle talk (whether in person, texting or listening to it on TV) of all sorts and make those conversations meaningful, leading to not just words but joint actions, and gradually changing our communities into better places to live, one annoying stickball game at a time.


  1. I just sat down and checked my email and thought, "wouldn't it be nice to read another blog post by Rebecca and Josh". Bam! Within 10 seconds I got a new email telling me of this momentous post.

    Keep em' comin'. You have fans.

  2. I was wondering what that mysterious force pulling to blog was. You and your jedi mind tricks.
    Thanks for reading!