Gaining Perspective While Waiting In Line to Cross the Border

by on December 31, 2020 · 1 comment

in Ocean Beach, San Diego

By Geoff Page

After a day long trip to Tijuana on Wednesday, I found a few emails my phone had not picked up because of where I was.  One was from editordude asking if any of his band of merry pranksters had any year-end thoughts to share in The Rag.  Had it not been for that trip to TJ, I’m not sure I would have known what to say.

Most of what comes to my mind about 2020 probably comes to most people’s thoughts.  This was an odd year and it is safe to say that it was a year when almost everyone was focused on the same things, politics and the pandemic.  In other years, attention was not so singularly concentrated because lots of things happened, good and bad, as usual.

This year was different because the good was overwhelmed by the bad. The year ended well in one respect because the piece of shit in the White House lost the election.  Had he won, 2020 would surely have gone down as one of the darkest years in our history.

But, the good feelings were difficult to express in the face of the pandemic killing people directly with the virus and indirectly with the chokehold it has placed on our country.

We have probably all been touched by the pandemic in some way, and that includes having friends, relatives, sons and daughters, either sick or dead or with severely affected livelihoods and dreams.

My experience with the virus is like everyone else’s experiences, I don’t know what I could add.  But, today, that trip to Mexico helped restore perspective that I think we can all use a dose of.

I haven’t driven below the border in years.  After many years in the past spent exploring parts south, I finally got tired one day of sitting in that goddamned long border line trying to get back into the States. One of my last waits was four hours and that was late at night.  So, I had not seen the vendors that walk between those lines of idling cars in many years.  It took us two hours to get across the border, so I had plenty of time to observe.

What I remembered seeing from the past were vendors walking around selling hats and churros and amazingly ridiculous souvenirs.  A guy would have a bunch of hats on his head or be carrying a t-frame with items hung from it.  We used to laugh at some of the wild, crazy sculptures they tried to sell us and laugh even louder when we’d see one disappear into a car window ahead of us and money would be passed back. The churros were always a hit.

What I saw Wednesday had these same elements but there was a lot I don’t remember seeing and some of it was jarring.

For starters, there seemed to be a great deal more of these vendors than I remembered.  Making a living with all that competition to sell stuff with very little profit requires real stamina and perseverance. And there seemed to be a great deal more available in the way of food.  The crazy sculptures were still there everywhere, testimony to the level of American tastes.

One thing that seemed new were entertainers.

Mostly, they consisted of jugglers, some very good.  I saw three different sets of juggler teams where one stood on the shoulders of the other and both juggled. Try to do that all day to make a living, amazing. There was a young guy who set up an amp and sung into a microphone, who was also very good, in the best tradition of the street musician.  But, this fellow was between lines of cars a few feet on either side slowly moving forward, thick with exhaust fumes.

One thing I know I never saw before was vendors carrying what looked like weeks old Chihuahua puppies in each hand.  As a dog lover, I wanted to buy them all to make sure they had good lives.  One can only hope.

But, what really hit me were the sights we don’t see here in the open like I saw moving between those cars.  The point here is not to be depressing but to express that those sights put everything into perspective like nothing else can.  I don’t even want to be really descriptive, just imagine those among us with severe physical afflictions, severe in the sense that I would defy anyone to tell me they have seen anything like it here.

Life is hard enough on most people who don’t have any physical afflictions, but those who do, have it hard wherever they are. One can only imagine how hard it is to survive in a country that does not have anything in their social welfare system for these unfortunate human beings.  So, they were out there either trying to sell some trinket as they tried to get their tortured bodies to move along the car line, or in the saddest cases, simply asking for help.

What makes it jarring is that these are real people right next to your car, mere feet away.  This was a difficult parade to watch but it was also kind of inspiring.  These people were out there, all of them, working very hard to make some kind of living. They are tough and resilient.  They have it way tougher than I and many, many others do.

In my younger years, I traveled all through Mexico.  I noticed something that became really clear in Mexico City.  It was there that I saw people directing traffic below traffic signals that worked perfectly well. I got into elevators where there was an elevator operator who would push the button for you.  I saw window washers on the side of a high-rise building hand-cranking their platform. In Puerta Vallarta, I saw an actual human chain of workers passing buckets of dirt from one to another to empty an excavation.

The point was that this was how Mexico seemed to make up for its lack of a social welfare system at that time.  Everyone worked, never mind that the job was clearly unnecessary, it gave people some sense of purpose having a job.  I believed they deliberately did not use machinery for some things because it would take away jobs – there did not seem to be any other explanation to me.  Some folks may not agree, but to me it seemed like a decent system. It seemed better than a hand out.

The people walking those lanes Wednesday were selling ridiculous shit no one really needs or they were selling all manner of food and drink that even mildly health-conscious people would not normally eat.  Any of us might eat or drink the stuff while in line for a one-time adventure.  But, when we do buy the crap they sell, they make a living with some sense of having earned it themselves.  This has to be preferable to any human being to walking along with a tin can begging for donations with nothing to offer in return.

So that gives one kind of a perspective.  Watching the poorest unfortunates among these vendors brought perspective of another kind.  Gratefulness and sadness.  Being thankful for something as simple as having been born with a body that functions well and sadness for those who were born with bodies that are burdens.  Whatever our problems are today, they pale in comparison to the daily struggles, lifelong struggles, that others endure.  Our problems come and go but there is no sunny tomorrow for some people.

What am I saying with all this crap? That we can take a lesson from those Mexican vendors.  We can be tough and resilient.  We can do whatever we need to do to make a living too, in our own ways.  We can work our way out of all this.  And, we need to make sure we help those along who have difficulty walking with us, for whatever reason.  We weren’t all born with perfect bodies and minds, but most of us were so the most of us can help.

We need to go back to a society that helps people and we need to kick the fuck out of everywhere those people who think that idea is a sacrilege because it costs them a dime they don’t need.  I hate to borrow a t-rumpian phrase but now it really means something.  We need to clean out the actual disgusting swamp that t-rump created and remove the boot from the necks of the poor and needy.  A country as rich as ours that does not care about the few that need help is a disgrace and t-rump has caused the world to wonder if we have any heart.

Luckily, the rest of the world realized what an idiot he was and I think many harbor the belief that we really are better than that.  Let’s show the world and those who have been left in the dust that we are.

Yes, we have reasons to be sad and worried about our future, but our problems can be overcome.  In our darkest moments, let’s think about those poor souls and remember, if we have sound bodies and minds, we are incredibly fortunate and we can make things better for everyone.



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Chris January 1, 2021 at 9:45 pm



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