Monday, January 15, 2007

Paper or plastic?

See that little bitty mailbox on the gate in my last post? It never gets junk mail. Getting a letter is a really big deal. And thank you for those Christmas cards which are still arriving! Mail service is a little slow down here. In fact it was suspended for a week in December because the postman’s brother died. Banks and utilities usually hire their own delivery services to send out bills and statements– every other month. Paper is expensive.

In rural, tropical Mexico, plastic reigns. In a humid climate that devours cardboard and covers metal with rust, where textiles become limp and faded, masonry left unattended becomes dark with moho, and any soft wood must be defended against termites, plastic is your best bet. It lasts. And it doesn’t require a deposit like glass bottles do.

I don’t know how people down here functioned before there was plastic. Yes, I do! One of my early childhood memories of Mexico was watching a paper straw unravel in a bottle of Squirt. Now, You want that drink to go – para llevar, amigo? It’s dumped in a plastic baggie – with a hard plastic straw. Buy a taco or a torta or a tostada from a stand on the street (see previous post: The nearness of food) and it’s served to you on a hard plastic plate, covered with a disposable plastic bag. And the idea of buying a BOX of plastic garbage bags in the local super is unheard of. They are sold in bulk, by weight. Pick out how many you want of whatever size. Outdoor furniture that lasts is plastic. Sandals that last are plastic. Funeral flowers on gravesites, on crosses by the side of the road, on shrines in little houses: plastic says “forever.”

But you pay for everything with paper -- peso notes of various colors and sizes -- rarely crisp, usually limp, damp, and wadded. Have you ever felt you wanted to wash and iron your money? Even when we had to buy a washing machine from a local appliance store, they did not accept “plastic” of any kind -- not credit, not debit. We stood in line – several times – at the ATM. Taxes: you pay in person, in cash. Same with the water bill. Construction crews need cash -- great stacks of it.

So what about records? Records? We don’t need no stinkin’ records! Well, that’s not exactly true. We save our electric bills. They’re proof that we actually live down here. But we don’t need four filing cabinets. Anybody want to buy a paper shredder, cheap?

1 comment:

Emily & Luke said...

Nice blog Susan! Keep the posts coming with pictures too!