Rendered Fat Content


François Boucher: La Pêche à la Ligne (1757)
" …something deeper and somehow more permanent than just another pedestrian passing."

Shortly before we left our exile in Colorado, I searched for someone to remove a tree on our property. Not personally knowing anyone in the tree removal business I resorted to a Google search which connected me to a service which reminded me what I despised about exile. Without even clicking any links, I had apparently been spotted searching. Within minutes, I received three calls from tree removers volunteering to stop by and provide a free quote for completing the work. I agreed to one fellow's offer and a few minutes later, it couldn't have been more than a half hour, he was in my yard inspecting my tree. Shortly after he left, another guy drove by and, seeing me in my yard, stopped to introduce himself as an expert tree remover. I asked how he found me and he clued me in. He subscribed to a referral service called HomeAdvisor® which provided him leads, at twenty-five bucks a pop. I replied that I'd not requested any service, that he was the second tree remover to just show up. This pissed off the tree guy since he was out twenty-five bucks for a false lead. I promised to call someone to complain for him, but when I called, I connected with just another victim of the pyramid scheme, who worked innocently following leads from he didn't know where. He received a cut of something for each lead he passed on. The whole system seemed astoundingly anonymous and bloodless, relationships without all the bother of relating to or with anyone else, hands-free handshakes.

I decided not to remove the tree.
Since then, I receive daily, often even more frequently, fresh notices of people anxious to perform work for me. I have not figured out how to stop the notices. For a while, I received phone calls touting various services from the same operation. They're worse than the C I-freaking-A, sticking their uninvited nose into way too much of my business. I encountered similar 'services' everywhere we lived when in exile, or they somehow found me. I'd occasionally agree to hire someone to perform some service but I usually kept my distance, deciding I could either do that work myself or forego doing it at all rather than enter into another bloodlessly anonymous transaction with another so-called service provider. I came to rely more upon suggestions of a trusted neighbor than anything I found on the much-vaunted internet, or anything that found me there.

Back home now and SettlingInto the place, The Muse reminded me how things work here and always have. We rely upon those we know and trust to refer us, not the damned internet. If we don't know anyone providing a needed service, We call someone we know and ask after their experience. Within a call our two, we usually find the perfect person to do the work. The contractor who will be working on our floors is the son of our next door neighbor. He stopped by after The Muse put a bug in his mother's ear, starting a special kind of rumor which led him to our door. Shortly thereafter, we'd invited him to do the work. He was pre-qualified by his pedigree, his parents and entire family being completely decent and honest. One of their other sons trims our trees. In this small city, people seem connected by something much more powerful and effective than the internet. We actually know each other or, if not, we probably know their mother. ConnectingInto just sort of happens, but one's gotta trust that they probably already have the connections they need. The Yellow Pages (do they even have those anymore?) and Yelp seem relatively worthless if one has a brother and a neighbor nearby, life-long residents who, between them, know pretty much everybody, even you.

In exile, we watched in awe as others—we called them locals—just seemed to know where to go to find everything. We felt disadvantaged by our lack of history and also by the fact that it really takes a lifetime to make those connections and we knew, like they knew, that we were just passing through and therefore irrelevant in any longer term. One does not go to the bother of building relationships with those apt to just disappear and we knew we were never not disappearing. You have to have already been here to matter, and we came from nowhere and would soon be returning: shadows. The internet works well for those inhabiting that shadow culture. Connection can be made like speed dating, with little thought about tomorrow or even the following day. Transactions replace relationships, but poorly. Like everyone now, I maintain an active social media existence and it's easy to project those connections outward but more difficult to build a sense of deep relationship because that requires focused effort, not simply nods in passing. Sunday, while The Muse and I were planting flowers in the front yard, a woman happened by. We greeted each other. She reported that she'd considered buying this house back when we first looked at it. She asked if I was David and introduced herself. "I follow your writing on Facebook." Sure enough, she is a member of my private FB group. We shared a premise. The Muse took her on a tour of the yard and we chatted for several more minutes, ConnectingInto something deeper and somehow more permanent than just another pedestrian passing. The exile's really over. We're ConnectingInto what we were already connected into again.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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