By Don

I was aimlessly wandering the streets the other day, as I sometimes do, when I came across a very nice little neighborhood park. Perhaps “aimlessly wandering” is not quite the right term to use here. I did have someplace to go, but I had some time to kill. So, of course, some aimless street wandering was in order.

The park was quite attractive, and quite small. I’d guess it was no larger than an acre or so, if that. It had some nice grass, picnic tables in the shade, and a softball diamond. The park also had these huge palm trees, about 30 of them, and some actual oaks, rare to see in Tucson. There were two water fountains, one of which worked and one which did not. There was only one other person in the park with me, so I settled in to kill some time.

The thing that really interested me was not the park, so much, as the neighborhood which surrounded it. It was very affluent – rich people obviously lived there. And you know those kinds of neighborhoods. They almost look too perfect. Nothing is ever out of place, the yards are well maintained, and you’d certainly never see anything like an old car up on blocks or a busted TV set or raggedy old couch sitting out on the front porch. There are no real people who live here.

As I was walking to the park I noticed the mailboxes. Rich people obviously have way too much time to spend worrying about their mailboxes. And it’s a contest to see who can erect the most lavish and most outlandishly expensive mailbox. I saw one that was like a huge cast-iron sailing ship. That had to have set the rich guy back a few thousand bucks, maybe even more. There was a cute rabbit, where you’d raise up his ear if you had outgoing mail. There were a few dog mailboxes, a pig, and a clown. I don’t know, but I just have an ordinary standard-issue mailbox. Sort of a boxy thing, and mail goes in and out through there. It seems to work.

I was there fairly early in the morning, around 9am, and the whole place was a beehive of activity. The servants were out doing whatever it is servants do (I’ve never had a servant so I’m not quite sure about that whole deal). There were three landscaping crews working the grounds of various houses, Magic Electric was out to fix an apparent electrical problem, and Steve’s Rapid Plumbing was busy unclogging a drain. There was a grocery delivery service which drove up and dropped off a bunch of food, and a pool maintenance guy cleaning a pool.

It seems to me that a lot of work must be involved in scheduling and coordinating all these servants. You know, the landscaping crew has to come on Tuesday, the pool boy works Wednesday, your food gets delivered on Friday, whoever built your fancy mailbox will install it on Saturday, your private chef will drop by on Sunday, and your masseur will be there Monday. How the rich people keep all that straight I don’t know.

I also discovered that having servants means you have to yell at them a lot. There was this one lady, obviously very rich, you could just tell by looking at her. She was literally screaming at her landscaping crew. Why hadn’t they trimmed that tree yet? Why hadn’t they worked in that corner of the yard? That was scheduled for a week ago, and it still hadn’t been done! And that new plant? She hated it! It must be taken out immediately and replaced with something more appropriate! It seems to me that being rich and having a lot of servants to yell at would be really stressful. I’m not sure I could tolerate it for very long.

I did notice that rich people seem to be really busy. The rich women, at least. The rich men were off working. They’re the doctors and lawyers, the car dealers, and probably some politicians. Rich women play a lot of tennis, from what I could see, and lots of them go to a gym. They also shop a lot, judging from the numerous bags and boxes they hauled into their big houses from their big fancy cars. I always thought the whole point of being rich was so that you didn’t have to do much of anything. Obviously I was very wrong about that. Rich people are always on the move, and they don’t ever have any time to just relax and enjoy life. I wonder how much worry and angst is hidden behind the walls of those million-dollar houses.

Eventually I wandered over and said hello to my fellow park occupant. He was an old homeless guy. A pretty typical street bum – mid 50’s I’d guess, long white hair, scraggly beard, and dirty, as they all are. He was reading a novel, a Robert Lundlam thriller, and we talked about that some. Lundlam is not one of my favorite authors, and I haven’t read him much, but the homeless bum was very well versed in things like plots and character development, and he told me all about that. A very intelligent man, and very well-read.

The street bum told me he doesn’t sleep in that park. Whenever the neighbors see him there at night they call the police, and that’s gets old real fast, he said. So he’s got another park where he sleeps. But this park is the one he likes to spend his days in. The library is close by, so he’s got all the books he can ever read. There’s lots of nice cool shade, and there is the one water fountain that works. He said the park was just a really nice relaxing place to live out his life.

Overall the homeless guy said he was very happy with how things were going. He’s got everything he needs. A nice park, a few good books, and all the time in the world to enjoy them. Hard as it may be for some folks to believe, he said he wouldn’t change anything, not even for a million bucks – money he doesn’t need, because he’s got nothing to spend it on. He can eat at the soup kitchen, and he’s got a nice little park to spend his time in. He said he wouldn’t change places with the rich people who surround him daily for anything in the world.

As I left the park to go about my business I wondered who the real rich person here was.

August 2014

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