Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Filling the gap to survive.
One of the more interesting facets of living in my country where the majority of the people are poor, is finding out just how people manage to survive in a day to day basis. You will be surprise at the amazingly creative things my countrymen do in order to put a little rice and fish in their bellies.
For instance, there is a whole genre of people who have created a work for themselves where technically none exist! We call them gap fillers. Like flowing waters that naturally finds its own way, seeping in wherever there are cracks, they fill gaps that society leaves open and make something out of it for themselves.
In essence many are middlemen or brokers. Sometimes they perform a much needed service like preventing you from having to worry where you are going to park your car. They will carry your bags and save you from ruining your back. They can find things you otherwise may never find.
Of course, since this level of society works without any specific rule book, there’s that chance of getting fleeced. Good or bad though, these people fill a need, or simply make one up. They put themselves into position to get in the middle of some transaction, in hope of lifting cash from whatever deal is about to go down.
A perfect example is the people you meet every time you stop somewhere to park your car. As you drive up looking for a place to park, they always appear out of nowhere and flag you down, waving you into space. The more entrepreneurial of them will open the door for you and ask if you want the car washed. Either way, watching your car is a given.
The weather often creates various gaps which never stay open for long. There are window washers who appear at busy intersections as soon as it starts to rain. Or a plank where pedestrian can cross to avoid their feet getting wet by dropping a coin in an empty tin can readily available. Or an umbrella man ever ready to assist people to get to their rides without being drenched by the rain. There are literally hundreds of other examples of people filling gaps. But why, you may ask. The answer is simple: pure unadulterated survival.
In my country competition for survival is intense. In fact there’s not just competition from other humans, but from everything else including the dogs, cats, rats, ants, and cockroaches. Every hour of everyday, everyone and everything is competing for survival.
There are no welfare handouts in the Philippines. No social safety net. No free meal kitchens. In my country people often have to do some seriously creative things just to get a meal.
See the contrast?