This I Believe

Marie - Juneau, Alaska
Entered on August 23, 2007

I believe in inconvenience. I realized this a few weeks ago, sitting in an upscale sandwich shop with my in-laws, in their upscale hometown. The sandwich shop, with its vast choices, seemed almost desperate to please everyone. Frankly, the pandering made me nervous.

Maybe this is not surprising in light of my life. For the last 10 years, I have lived in places that are not connected to the North American road system. As you can imagine, inconvenience flourishes off the road system. A few times a year I would fly to Anchorage from rural Alaska and embark on a staggering shopping spree, shoving four months worth of groceries into boxes scavenged from liquor stores. Then I would haul them to the post office and ship them out. And shopping was finished for four months. I would hope I hadn’t forgotten an important detail; it was much easier to remember than get it shipped to my house.

Was the lack of access to goods and services inconvenient? You bet. But at the same time, I didn’t have to set foot in a grocery store for months. All the time I didn’t spend browsing the 25 toilet paper choices I redistributed to being outside, reading good books or keeping up with other demands.

I live in a much bigger town now, though it is still removed from the road system. This town has miraculous things like restaurants, fresh milk and lettuce every day. I don’t have to put my groceries in a box and drop them at the post office. Now I just pull into the driveway. More convenient? Sort of. But now I find myself “needing” to go to the store multiple times a week, wasting endless time in the process. When I lived in the Alaskan Bush, rarely did food go bad in my refrigerator. Now, a bunch of radishes softens and I don’t blink an eye; I can always get in the car and get some more. For me, the instant convenience devalues things, makes that bunch of radishes seem ordinary instead of the extraordinary, peppery little orbs they are. And I prefer the wonder and appreciation that comes with a bit of inconvenience.