A Latin American writer describes a single moment in time in Miami, where the sad contradictions of American culture were on full display.
MIAMI — The other day I saw a Lexus stop at the intersection of Miracle Mile and Ponce de León in Miami. For those unfamiliar with Miami, it’s one of the city’s — nay the world’s — wealthiest districts. High-end boutiques such as jewelry stores displaying Rolex and Cartier watches are all over this district. Furniture stores here sell couches that are more expensive than a condo in Marbella.
There is an enormous Barnes & Noble bookshop here, always full. These days, some books die alone for lack of readers, but the Barnes & Noble on Miracle Mile is flourishing. And while a book store is not necessarily a symbol of material prosperity, in this Barnes & Noble customers buy a lot of art books — you know, the ones that cost hundreds of dollars each.
There are restaurants with outlandishly expensive menus. Pedestrians are well dressed, men in the sharpest suits and ties, and women with both the budget and taste to make them look like they belong in Vogue magazine. Many of these people work in law firms or with multinationals whose U.S. headquarters are here, in Coral Gables.
Sometimes you’ll see someone walking his dog, always a thoroughbred like a French bulldog or Maltese. Elitist dogs owned by elitist people. That’s the environment here. It’s a kind of Beverly Hills in Florida, without the occasional film star but not without women pretty enough to be in Hollywood. And yes, as I was saying, there was the Lexus man.
The traffic light was red. The Lexus driver was an older man, driving alone. He wore a dark suit. He suddenly takes out a hamburger and practically devours it an instant – two ferocious bites, like a giant shark gulping down a seal. He then lowers the driver’s window and throws out the wrapper and more paper from his favorite fast food chain.
The wrapping falls onto the road — all this in the short time before the traffic lights change to green. A few seconds, definitely less than a minute. When the light changes, the man steps on the gas and speeds away like a bullet train on Miracle Mile.
Inexplicably, I feel sorry for the man. He is in a hurry. Life is hurried in this country, and desperate. I recall Henry David Thoreau’s adage that most men live lives of quiet desperation. I don’t recall the context of that remark, but it may be irrelevant. I imagine the Lexus man to be desperate. He eats fast food in a luxury car, while rushing to some place.
I don’t understand why I felt such compassion for this stranger in a Lexus. Perhaps I see in his haste a sad reflection of my own frenetic, crazy lifestyle. Then I see the greasy food wrapper left on the road. I don’t understand why I find fast food wrappers so repulsive. I seem to find them more unpleasant than the junk food itself. Especially when I see them thrown onto the road like that, then squished or whipped about by cars driving by. Flying from here to there.
I am suddenly disgusted. The inexplicable compassion for the Lexus driver has faded as quickly as it came. Oh, who am I kidding? I hope he crashes into a street light, without injurying anyone. Just to wreck that piece of shit Lexus.