“At least Christmas is over.” Vetfaan rubs his hands together in anticipation. Boggel doesn’t open the bar on Christmas, and by now the collective thirst of the town is almost as overwhelming as the drought in the district.
“Ag, Vetfaan, show some respect!” Servaas – who shares the thirst, but feels he should set an example as elder in the church – wags and admonishing finger in the direction of the big farmer.
“At least we don’t have to put up with the bustle in the big cities.” Kleinpiet tries to change the subject. “I hear the people bought just about everything in the shops. Imagine that happening to Sammie? Well have to wait until next week for the lorry of Kalahari Vervoer to restock. Worse: what’ll happen if we drink Boggel’s dry? That’ll be a catastrophe.”
This is a serious question, which causes a shocked silence. Even Servaas has to admit – respectfully, but still – that the town without Boggel’s Place would be unthinkable. Sure, people drink there – and maybe sometimes a bit much – but this is where they gather to exchange news, talk about the drought, listen to each other’s hardships and small delights, and tell everybody next year will be better. Except for the brief chats in front of Oudoom’s church, this is where they share hope and joy and grief.
“It won’t happen.” Vetfaan is adamant. “I saw the extra boxes he ordered from Upington. It’ll last well past New Year’s.”
And Gertruida, who sits a little apart, thinks, yes, it’s all about boxes. Cities marching outward with little box houses, box lives, box schools, box churches. You either fit into the box, or you don’t; which means you won’t last. Millions upon millions of individuals, being taught that you have to fit into the mould. Radio stations, newspapers and TV stations telling people to conform to fashion, politics and religion. Think this. Wear that. Lip-gloss so. Vote for the right guy. Bank here. Go to the right church. Move with the masses and be safe. Artificial satisfaction guaranteed at the end of the queue for gratification. Come on! Be politically correct and environmentally friendly. Swim against the stream and some horrible fate awaits you: a label screaming: Not Normal!
Not long from now, she thinks, there’ll be surgeons paying off expensive cars with their ability to bore little holes in the rebellious skulls to make them all good ol’ jolly fellows en route to Valhalla. At least now, she thinks, some people still think for themselves – but for how long?
“You’re pensive, Gertruida. What’s wrong?” The little frown of disapproval creates a skew furrow on Precilla’s brow.
“Just thinking about Boxing Day, sweetie. About what people are allowing other people to do to them. How we are blind to Syria and sad with Sandy Hook. Mugabe and Zuma hammering the lid shut on justice. People boxed in by following stupid trends. thinking it’ll set them free. Small lives being governed by insecurity. And insecurity fanned on by fashion houses and politicians, to make you buy and spend and fit in with a constantly changing environment. The impossibility of a forced, homogeneous society. You know…everybody’s so boxed-in?”
Precilla nods – she knows better than to ask for an explanation. Gertruida sometimes has such outlandish ideas.
“Ah, here comes Boggel. Come on, Gertruida, let me buy you a drink.”
And Gertruida trudges along willingly, not keen to pursue the line of thought any further. The fate of those poor people…!
She’s right, of course. In Tokyo and New York and London and Cape Town, millions of people stand in front of overfull cupboards, uncertain what to wear for the obligatory lunch dates with the Trendsetter Family and The In Crowd. They have to fit in, you see? Their lives depend on it…