Traveling widely has always been a love of mine. Travel illuminates. Travel entertains. Travel surprises. It especially surprises when you realize how much status and class matter in other parts of the world. Without realizing it, you've walked into class warfare.

HIERARCHIES

In Kandersteg town deep in the Swiss Alps
the hotel needed a waiter young and cheap.
A strong back, a hard worker,
someone who spoke English American.
Me. Fresh out of high school
in New Orleans humid and hot,
jumping into the storied Alps
of European castles, and a culture
where each has their place
fixed. By family name,
by money, or by nationality.

The hotel hierarchy royal
brooked no dissent
from a snot-nosed kid American,
fresh from his democracy lessons Jeffersonian.
When he refused to stand behind the door,
out of sight of paying clients,
the Little Boss
struck him
on the chin, leaving a scar.

The kid didn't strike back.
After all, they had his money.
And there was half the summer yet to go
before he entered college that fall.
But he did not forget
about hierarchies European
and the rightful place
of serving class people.

The kid worked hard, slept little,
got shorted on his days off,
finally got paid at summer's end.
By that same manager German-Swiss,
so full of his place elevated.
The Little Boss leaned over the counter.
Met the clenched fist
of the kid waiter American.
the Little Boss sprawled back on a desk so proper
with papers all in their stacks ordered.

The kid grinned and said--
"We're even."

Not good enough for a Little Boss
who clings tight to his place
hierarchical. He charged.
Big Boss stopped him.
He nodded at the kid American.

The kid nodded back,
turned, and left
that castle ancient, filled with European
hierarchies so rigid.

He hoped Thomas Jefferson
and Ben Franklin
would have applauded.
No matter.
When you're an American kid
class don't matter.

--T. Jackson King, 1976

PAUL REVERE TODAY

If Paul Revere made today his famous ride
Revolutionary, what might he proclaim far and wide?

Mayhaps he'd decry
the bar code scanner at the local bookstore,
for it tells Father Computer
just what books you have been reading
all the year long.
Your income level, home and neighborhood,
gender and such, they're all grist for the scanner's gimlet eye.

Perhaps he'd say--"To Perdition with Call Waiting!"
After all, what Law says you or me
must ever be at the beck and call
of anyone familiar, strange or crazy,
who knows how to dial a telephone?
And yet, the answering machines, fax machines
and modems infernal all toll
their bells for thee.

For sure he'd burn at the stake
any direct mailer who sold your name
for profit to another.
Just because you bought once
a car, home, cycle, nightgown or constipation cure
so fine, is no request for national notoriety.
So let all the computer databases
be boiled in oil!

Without doubt the credit bureaus so intrusive
would share rail, tar, and feathers
with the tax man, and federal agents all.
For it seems nowadays the government may soon
demand the use of toilet paper white--
all in the name of saving the environment.
Won't do to have colored TP bespoiling the neighbor's trees.

The gun controllers I'm sure he'd put on the front lines
of crime control,
while economists who fear full employment
would surely dig the latrines.

Yes, Paul Revere would surely shake up things--
if his horse ever finds its tail light, head light and license
to cross state lines.

--T. Jackson King, 1994

Copyright retained by T. Jackson King 2009