Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Choices – Part One, Time vs. Money
A long time ago, I went to dinner with an Austrian friend. When the waiter came by our table, my friend ordered an entrée that came with a salad. “What type of dressing do you want with that?” he asked her. “I have a choice?” she responded. “Yes,” he said and proceeded to rattle off a litany of options longer than David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. She was overwhelmed. She quickly chose a vinaigrette, shooed the waiter away, and said to me, “All of these choices, it’s too much!”
It was just salad dressing, but it was a telling comment. Even a fellow first worlder was overwhelmed by the number of choices we have in North America. Today, these unlimited options are starting to spread around the world when it comes things, but not necessarily when it comes to how we live.
In contrast, when traveling through LatAm in the winter I met a woman in Peru named Victoria. Victoria was educated; she was a teacher in a small village and we met on a collectivo (bus). She was a small woman, with graying hair pulled back into a bun, her real age a mystery as she heavily wore her years. When I told her I was traveling around and learning Spanish, she marveled at the luxury of being able to do something like that and how much it must cost. “Well, my life had gotten too hectic, ” I told her, “I had no time and needed a break.” She replied, “We have plenty of time, just no money.”
The choice between time and money - welcome to my old life. Choice is at the heart of being a first world white girl and everyday I am reminded about how many I have and that I live my life so differently because of them. And in case I ever forget, I just remember Victoria.