1 jul. 2005

Last December




Last yearI wrote this bit as an X-mas greeting for friends and family overseas :


commuting Christmas musings

12/23/2004

Dec. 23rd. Streets are flocked with people hurrying with their packages under their arms and their eyes peeled for the elusive perfect present. Confetti litters the streets in rememberance of the nightly celebrations in the pedestrian mall where shoppers and thieves both rejoice in their respective loots. Christmas carols, cumbias and "chiqui chiqui" music blare out of stores, competing with each other in an attempt to lure in the biggest spenders.


I'm not innocent of consumerism by any means; as I climbed aboard the bus I also had a InStyle magazine for myself and an esscense burner to send to my brother in the US. I settled down to my glossy pages of vapid models, flipping through scents and fashion statements and gossip, when I was attacked by a dog. It bopped me on the head several times and then poked my arm for a bit. The owner of this white balloon-ey beast turned out to be a 2 year old sitting behind me. Diagnosis: christmas shopping overload syndrome. Feeling like the grinch these holidays have made of me, I shut my magazine in a huff and stepped out of my chair to the one across the aisle where I then plopped myself beside a woman I'm sure was precociously celebrating having a whole 2 seat set to herself. The bus continued to fill up and as the bus pulled out of the bus stop, a stooped and wizened superannuated man with a combination Santa-over-Panama-hat combo pushed his waist high bongo on board. With a gap-toothed smile he presented himself as the "Llanero Solitico" or the "Loneliest Ranger". He began his performance with a greeting to the ladies on the bus and started his one man musical performance. With no rythm and even less tempo, but lots of good intentions he began singing a romantic balad.

His lyrics were peppered with la ra la ra las and as he went on and on, oblivious to the reactions of the passengers on the bus, my brain started churning and thinking about what would bring a very old man to decide that singing and slapping a skin while on a bus was what he wanted to do on the day before Christmas Eve. I thought of what his need and drive could be, and imagined how for anyone his age, making those extra colones at Christmas could be challenging. Pensions don't stretch that far, and in a country with no unemployment benefits, reaching retirement age is dreaded by many. He probably has children at home who may or may not realize that buying those pretty things in the stores is difficult, but not being able to buy them even when the need is greater than the want is harder. Maybe this Loneliest Ranger lives with his grown children and feels like a burden: he can't help but overhear the muttered conversations where christmas bonuses, debt and expenses are discussed. Maybe this shall be a surprise for his family: being able to buy a little something to woo his equally weathered wife who's been with him through thick and thin, or not. Maybe it is for that new woman in his life, venerable and charming. I could make millions of stories about who this man is and why he is on a bus.


People don't climb on a bus to sing and drum in the Holidays for themselves. After his musical number, he began telling jokes. Some were pretty good in that slap your forehead way, others were timeworn and passe, but he finished each one with a very convincing giggle. Outside on bus stops along our route you could see people pointing at the "man with the drum" and grinning. Punchline after punchline accented with a flourish of his hands over his drum and a giggle. Ta da dum dum, "Ji ji ji ji ji". Finally he pulled his hat off his head and used the red santa felt to wipe the sweat from his hands and face, and thus concluded his presentation. He requested donations in the name of Art, Humour and Music. Almost as an afterthought he added "And for my family, who make a living out of your support to these three necessities of life". As he came my way, balancing his own weight with the bongo and stretching out his hat, some dropped coins, others turned their heads, others unconsciously mirrored his gaze and stared down at their purse-clutching hands. My stop was coming: A coin tinkled in his upsidedown hat and I returned his gap-toothed smile with one of my own as I wished him a Muy Feliz Navidad.


I hope the Loneliest Ranger gets a good homecoming tonight. I hope however much money he made today is enough to get what he has his heart set upon. I hope his mizzus has a warm meal and an even warmer hug waiting for him at home. I hope his Christmas is merry and jolly and all it is supposed to be. May all of your Christmas celebrations be filled with joy and friends and memories and family and loved ones and laughter and twinkly lights. So if Christmas this year is going to be celebrated in front of a television nursing loneliness and a drink, try to think about this: maybe it could be improved by a drumroll and a giggle.

Merry Christmas. ta da dum dum, ji ji ji ji.

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