Occupying Small-town Alaska
About 30 of us showed up in the cold rain for the Occupy Haines rally Saturday at noon. Mike Denker organized it. He works at the fuel company. He had called me earlier, and said he just thought we should do something about the state of our country, no matter what our politics are, and support the Occupy Wall Street anti-corruption movement. We don't have big corporations in Haines, or overpaid CEOs, but we do send our children to public schools, a lot of us pay for our own health care, and we all pick up our mail at the post office. After the rally I headed over to mail a package. The counter is open from 1-3 on Saturday, and that's the only place you can pick up or mail packages. The line was out the door. I was there for 45 minutes. Everyone joked a bit about the wait, and agreed that it wasn't clerk Steve Daly's fault. With the cuts in the system he's the only guy working on Saturdays now. There was nothing he could do, but take each slip and then run back and get the box or boxes, put stamps on an outgoing package, and repeat. He kept up a cheerful banter. I waited so long because my package was important. It contained my master's degree thesis. It is all done except the binding for the University of Alaska Anchorage library. It's taken me four years and I wanted to make sure it got mailed. My line mates said "I'm always super sweet to Steve on Saturdays" and "This has to be as frustrating for him as it is for us" and "It's not his fault." Once inside the main room, I found myself next to Gary Hess. The last time I saw him was about three weeks ago moose hunting. (He still had on his camo jacket.) His brother Duck had shot a little bull right next to our camp just before we arrived for the weekend. When we got there they were hauling it whole to a boat with the help of some other hunters. It was harder to move than a field dressed moose would have been for them, but nicer for us, since leaving a gut pile near our wall tent would make a stink and attract bears and wolves. We helped them winch it in the boat. No one mentioned that Duck's wife was running against my sister's husband in the upcoming borough assembly election. At the post office, Gary smiled hello and asked if we got a moose. I told him no, but not for lack of trying. (His sister-in-law had campaigned hard too, but my brother-in-law beat her.I didn't point that coincidence out.) He said the little bull Duck shot was real good eating, and I said I bet it was. Then he asked how many bulls we saw, and I told him about six, but non had legal antler configurations. He said last year they saw 21 bulls that didn't make the grade either. The one he thought was legal was scared off by a squawking walkie-talkie he forgot to turn off. As much as we like our moose, we are both law abiding. We follow the rules. Some years we get a moose, some years we don't. This all got me thinking that maybe the reason it's taken so long for people who depend on institutions like the post office for our mail to complain, is that by nature and nurture small-town folks aren't whiners. We assume the people in Washington who are in charge are like clerk Steve, doing their best to serve us. We assume that they play fair and follow rules. But that's just not so, is it? That's also why regular people are demonstrating from New York to Alaska. Maybe it will make a difference. I do know that if politicians had to wait in line to collect their bundles of campaign checks they'd improve the delivery system. Then again, it might do them good to wait in line for a half hour on a Saturday afternoon. They'd no doubt get an earful about the gut piles they're leaving everywhere.