Sal does the paperwork for one of our local neighbours. He can read and write, of course. In fact, the fellow is exceptionally intelligent and extremely well-read. But he has lived the vast majority of the last 40 years living mostly alone and usually ‘farther out’ than even us. He is as close to a mountain man as one can be living on the coast not going into the mountains. Grizzly Adams Goes Sailing.
He is not a hermit but has been one at times and would have no problem with it all. He is very comfortable being alone. In fact, he is a bit like a hermit within this small community.
His socialization skills are more-than-adequate (he’s a great guy and very funny) but they do not extend to the specialty subset of bureaucrat-speak. He does not fare well when dealing with government in any of it’s forms. He just doesn’t seem to ‘get it’ when they are speaking to him. It’s like a deaf-spot. And they can’t mail anything to him – he has no address. He is a blind spot, too. He even has trouble interacting with BC Ferries (something I can relate to). So, Sal does the paperwork chores for him.
The thing is, we wouldn’t think that anyone would need to do much ‘paperwork’ or government interaction out here. And they don’t. But they do have to do some. Once in awhile. Even if it is just because they may end up in the hospital now and again.
And, as their years and the role of government continues to grow, more and more of these ‘invisible’ people are being overlooked or, well, marginalized in some kind of way unless they have a ‘person’ who can speak for them.
That is kinda crazy in itself.
One of the guys out here hadn’t done his income taxes for thirty years. T’wasn’t a problem, really. He hadn’t made anything. He literally worked his whole life just for food. A neighbour did his taxes for him so that, now, at almost 70, he could get Old age security. How he survived without virtually any regular income whatsoever was a complete mystery. And he never went to the doctor. I think that part might change. He is now 70, after all.
The point? Well, one tends to think that we are all numbered and tracked. We tend to think we are all monitored in some sort of way. Counted and categorized at the very least. But it is not true. Some people are missed. Some people go missing. And some people actually ‘hide out’. There are more than just a few people who are ‘off the radar’. And some of them are out in the woods.
Of course, we all know of the urban ‘homeless’. We know of the poor ‘crazies’ who were ‘set free’ from the asylums so that they could live on the streets. We know of the ill and illegal who also share those same shadows. But there are also some pretty healthy, capable, uber-independent sorts who opted out so long ago and maintained their estrangement that, for all intents and purposes they, too, are no longer ‘in the system’. They are ‘out’ and not likely to ever get back ‘in’. They have dropped off the face of the earth.
They may be the new noble savage.
My guess is that we have four or five such ‘invisible’ people out here. All really old guys living way beyond the margins of what are already considered the margins – almost like hermits. All of them (well, maybe one) are sane, pleasant and have significant capabilities. What they don’t have is a fixed address, a conventional lifestyle or a partner. They don’t have money. They don’t have stuff. They sure as hell don’t have much of a wardrobe. In fact, they don’t have much of anything except acceptance.
We ‘accept them’ and they are part of us.
Frankly, I see them as kind of noble in an independent, do-no-harm, natural-living kind of way.