So we whisked up through Southern California at the end of our vacation, running the gauntlet of the Los Angeles area freeways and highways and byways, which are way too congested. Worse than a pneumonia patient on his last legs. Though, one really shouldn’t be walking on freeways such as the 405. Stay in your car. Better yet, take a different route.
As the drive was too long for one day (and for three small rascals in the back seat), we paused for the night in the Ventura area. Checked into a hotel, slept, checked out. As we were packing that morning, I took the soap bar and tiny shampoo bottle that we hadn’t used. Put them in my suitcase, well-conditioned by my parents who have always done this for the past fifty-plus years (which has resulted in a bathroom cupboard full of tiny bottles and tiny wrapped soaps that nobody uses or will ever use–I imagine they’ll be parceled out in their will).
A sort of melancholy reverie fell over me as I appropriated the diminutive soap and shampoo. I realized that I was looting the hotel room. Looting within the legal structures of our hotel stay, of course, but a sort of looting, nevertheless. I became aware, then, of a long tradition within human civilization (and near-civilization), stretching back from me to the Vikings pillaging England and other parts, the Ottoman Turks despoiling the Mediterranean, and Atilla the Hun and his hordes looting their way west across the Russian steppes.
True, looting (the non-Ferguson style) has become rather civilized. I looted a small bar of soap that I had already paid for, not several farm animals, a sack of coin, assorted females, etc., from the burning wreckage of a Slavic village. Perhaps in such diminution, we, as humans have diminished in certain ways as well.
Still, there’s a small bit of Atilla in all of us. Even the business-attired, bespectacled, pasty-faced travelers hurriedly checking out of the Marriott each morning in order to drive their rental cars off to whatever meeting or airport or next cup of Starbucks coffee awaits them in their future.