Saturday, December 25, 2010

Chapter 37: In Which I Discuss Mutual Aid

So I live in a hippie house. It's chaotic sometimes, which is to be expected. Tonight was not chaotic, however, with the various and sundry roommates at home for the holidays. I was in the kitchen, talking with whatever housemates remained about life in general, eating figgy pudding that Food Not Bombs donated to us. I tried to lead everyone in a rendition of Queen's "Thank God It's Christmas," but that failed. At some point, a random girl who was friends of a friend of a friend came in looking for a party that was supposed to be happening. She found no party. Ten minutes later, a man who none of us could identify came barging into the kitchen. I'm going to paraphrase what he said during his 5-minute introduction.

SQUAT GUY: I live at the squat down the street. Right now we are entangled in a legal dispute with the person who owns the property, the details of which I don't wish to go into right now. Our water's been shut off and we need water. We did the calculations on how much a gallon of water costs in the Bay...

ONE HOUSEMATE: I don't have any change on me.

SQUATTER GUY: It came out to fourteen cents a gallon. We need twenty-five gallons. So we pooled our resources together and I have...three dollars to cover it.

ONE HOUSEMATE: Cool. Just put it on that pizza box over there.

SQUAT GUY: I heard there's a party going on here tonight. There's a bunch of us right outside. We brought some wine.

US: Bring the party over here!

We have no idea who this motherfucker is. He ran outside, and I was left to wonder if I'd stepped into a Mad Max movie, with post-apocalyptic survivors going to great lengths to secure water. I go to the window to see about this group.

OTHER HOUSEMATE: He's bullshitting. There's nobody here.

ME: There's a whole fucking squad of people.

Indeed, there were six or seven black-clad strangers gathered outside the gate, whiskey in hand, waiting for our word on this water. And they looked like they stepped out of "The Road Warrior." Grabbing their shopping cart and plastic water coolers, they come back around. We attach the hose to the spigot.

SQUAT GUY: How long has this hose been in the sun? I'm concerned about plastic erosion and plastic getting in the water.

So they poured it straight from the spigot. In the interest of responsibility, I stood outside and monitored. All of the squatters came from different places. Oregon, New York, Poland. We BSed about life in the Bay. I watched as the Squat Guy informed one of our couch-surfers about the government oppression on environmental activists, prefacing it with a 5-minute long description of the World Bank protests in Seattle '99 to set the scene.  At some point during this chaos, one of my more straightlaced housemates came over, and I informed her that there was a horde of spangers out back taking our water. This upset her, and she informed them that no house decision had been made, so they could not do this.

SQUAT GUY: I am so sorry. If you feel this is violating the consensus method, we'll only take so much water that we have, and come back when you have your house meeting to explain our position.

ME: Well...they did pay. Three dollars.

Seeing that she was outnumbered by insanity, she acquiesced. The squatters took their twenty-five gallons politely, and I promised to inform them of the next time we had a house meeting, whenever that would be, and some of them used the bathrooms and charged their phones, and I was left to wonder if I'd accidentally taken a dose of acid. In all seriousness, there is such a thing as mutual aid. It is real, and it's wonderful when put into practice. Water for three dollars. Hell, water for nothing. Love and joy come to you, and to you your wassail, too. Merry Christmas...from the hippie house.

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