Tuesday, October 11, 2005
Each day I come to work and drive through the gates at the entrance to this community. I have a small barcode sticker on my car window which allows the gates to open for me, as they do for the residents, however, I am not a resident, nor will I ever be. My barcode is the only thing I have in common with the people for whom I work.
The barcode is a privilege awarded to those who can afford to live here, pay the club dues and the maintenance fees every quarter, and to those who work for them for more than 90 days. Occasionally they feel generous enough to bestow barcodes upon their very close family members and friends as well, but of course these are all people who could also afford to live here too if they so chose, and most of them live in other similarly gated, well landscaped communitues in the area. The city of Basura, Florida consists almost exclusively of these types of places. To the residents of this Club, the barcode is one of the most important things in their lives. Without the barcode they would have to wait in line at the gatehouse, with all the common people, who must have some sort of permission to enter, and this is intolerable to them. They cannot be made to linger behind the exhaust pipe of the landscaper's pickup truck, with five Guatemalan migrant workers leering at them from a mat of palm fronds in the bed of the vehicle. The reason behind this is not so much the inconvenience of the waiting in line and having to speak to the guards, as it is the feeling of entitlement and esteem that comes from having achieved some special permission to bypass the gate, and thus be separate from the workers and non-residents. The barcode makes them special.
To these people, being special means everything. They must feel at all times as if they are elevated enough in status to bypass lines and prove their identity.
I don't know if they realize that employees get barcodes too. I imagine that if they were aware of this that they might be unhappy, because none of them ever want to think that they share anything with someone who would work here, or for that matter have to work anywhere. That is not to say that none of our residents work, because they do. They are just doctors, lawyers, executives, inventors, investors and extraordinarily successful criminals. We don't have many nine to fivers in here.
The barcodes make up a large part of my job. I have to give them out, stick them on cars, record them all, keep track of them and file them. They take up a lot of my time at work. I guess it could be said then that I hold a certain power in the community where the barcode is such a powerful device. At any moment, with no warning, upon any whim, I can make the barcodes entirely useless. With a simple swipe of my keyboard I can turn them off, rendering them powerless. We do this to punish people. If you speed in here, paint your house the wrong color, aggravate your neighbors or let the dog run loose, I'll turn off your barcode. They tell me to do it. They being the board members, or the members of various and elaborate committees the residents have created to make themselves feel even more important and powerful. They are the ones who exact the judgment on their non-compliant neighbors, and they hate non-compliance. This is not the place to live if you are an individual. This is a place for followers. Even their leaders are really followers.
What matters most is what other people think of you, how you look to others. If you have to wait in line, somebody else might see you there with the Haitians from the kitchen, the housekeepers in Pintos and the landscapers. And that is why you absolutely have to have a barcode and one that works.