|By Anthony Taber|
“Want a reliable road to emotional and spiritual suicide? Spend your life trying to fit in.” ― Brandon Mull
Square Pegs, Round Holes
Living voluntarily on the edges of society - on the water, on the road, or anywhere outside the platted grid - we at least have a shot at a joyous non-conformity.
But try to interface with that society on an official level, and joy fades. Time and treasure flush down the drain of trying to fit in, at least enough to further our cause.
Here's a sample story:
Anke and I had made our first move from land to sea, gratefully letting go our apartment and all its attendant bills and expenses. We were now living aboard! Our dream coming true!!Hooboy! This was our first introduction to being square pegs to the round world of bureaucracy and commerce. Passports, PO Boxes, occasional taxes, fishing and driver's licenses, I.D., voter registration. And mis-representing one's self to the fine organizations behind these, albeit in an honest attempt to answer what cannot apply, courts heavy fines or even prison!
But that first boat needed to be paid off, and considerable work before we could sail over the horizon. To keep in contact with friends and family (pre-internet), we needed a PO Box. So we went to apply.
Oops. Our physical adress? We don't have one... that's why we need a PO Box. Gotta have one?? Um... we're right downhill about 300 yards. We can see the boat through your window. Not enough? What would it take? A bill to that address?? But we don't generate bills, anymore, and you wouldn't deliver there if we did. Can't we sign something? Leave valuables in hock? No??
Turns out, they cheerfully accepted Anke's parent's address in Germany (where she no longer lived).
Registering or ordering online present form hassles (shipping addresses get complicated). There are many vendors who seem to think that Alaska is some foreign country. That USPS somehow isn't available, but UPS or Fedex have an office in every hamlet (they don't).
NOTE: Evil, socialist gummint USPS is cheap and reliable; those fine, private free-marketeers gouge us deeply for extra hassles they call 'service'. Oddly, it's the free market forces who pressure vendors into exclusive service contracts from which we suffer!
National security has made it all much worse.
In the last bout with officialdom, the national headquarters were to assign an appointment date with our conveniently located local office (800 miles away by air, contact numbers a secret!), by snail mail (must be forwarded to another town and flown to our current, remote location) with two days notice (gotta fly out in winter, jet north and show up, or else... hefty fees forfeit and start over). Fortunately, human error gave us a human 'local' contact, and we were able to work it out.
Despite the fact that we don't live as expected, we've got nothing to hide as 'upstanding citizens'. The sole problem is figuring out how to translate a fringe lifestyle into their one-size-fits-most forms and procedures.
So, if you are considering a life beyond house-numbers, consider ways to maintain the appearance of conformity. A foothold with friends or relatives, a mail service, a business or property in your name? Develop a paper trail to support your claims.
I don't recommend fraudulent claims... each must be legitimate in some sense if you don't want official trouble to one day come stomping after you. Make sure that all involved on your end are familiar with the details, and present a unified front. Officials perk up at inconsistencies!
One thing to keep in mind is that, if legitimate, one has every right to expect success. It takes a while, but there are few bureaucracies that leave no way forward. Take the time to learn their lingo and ways. Be polite but persistent. Seek and find someone helpful and humane, take their contact information and deal with them directly for the duration.
For those of you already living off the edge, have you any strategies to share?