conversations with strangers #126

2.26.16

I trudged down the 65 stairs from my apartment to the laundry room, shoved my clothes into the washer, and realized I’d forgotten my laundry detergent. The other two washing machines were busy, so I flew up the stairs before someone else could come down and lay claim to the final washer. Success.

Once all that was settled, I climbed back upstairs to find my wireless wasn’t working. I reset it and unplugged it and did all the usual things, but no luck. I called Comcast was told via automatic voice that service was out in my area and a crew was working on it.

My stuffy nose and aching head were magnified now that I only had the quiet of my apartment for company. More often than not, I read instead of watch TV, but because I no longer could watch TV, it was all I wanted to do.

I walked to the sink and turned the water on, testing it, to make sure it still worked. Old Panama habits die hard, I guess. It did. I had water, heat, electricity. I was fine. I pulled out a book while I waited for my laundry / the internet, whichever was ready first.

It returned within the hour.

Once settled in with Thursday night’s episode of The 100, I folded my laundry and decided I was motivated enough to get the OJ I needed for tomorrow from the corner convenience store.

As I leaned into the refrigerator to grab the last bottle of Tropicana, I heard a woman say “Oh, I’ll be right back” and she dashed out the front door. As I walked up to the counter, a bunch of items were lined up.

Him: It’s cash only.

Me: Okay.

Him: *mutters something about Comcast in accented English*

Me: *realization dawns* Oh, yes. Me too. Mine came back about 10 minutes ago. Hopefully yours will too. I live just up the street.

Him: Oh, good. Maybe yes. No credit cards until then.

Me: *pulls out cash to pay*

As I walked home, my thoughts strayed back to Panama and how the loss of just the internet and cable wouldn’t have slowed their roll. Granted, nothing could slow them down as they’re already moving at a slow pace, but people were freaking out here. I mean, we still had electricity, water, heat, everything but cable and internet.

I guess the difference is that Americans are accustomed to having access to these things and when that access is denied, the loss is felt. Having cable/internet is a luxury and Panamanians are more concerned with the fundamentals like access to clean water and electricity.

Thoughts of privilege and poverty and education and experience and gratitude swirled through my head as I passed a local restaurant and wondered how their Comcast situation was working out and if all those customers had to pay cash because those bills were bound to be bigger than what people carry in their wallets these days, which is to say next to nothing.

I quickly found I had no more room left to think because all the germs in my body were congested in my head and so, I let it all go. Grateful my apartment had electricity, water, internet/cable, and smelled of clean laundry.

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