Today for the purpose of research (and perhaps a little for the benefit of my own vanity) I visited a solarium. I was charged $12 for ten minutes standing sweaty and uncomfortably in a noisy, vibrating melanoma-making machine. I also got a little bit of colour - so yay. I was happy to tag along with my roommate as I hadn't tried it before - and I'm a sucker for a new experience - apparently even when I'm fully aware it's extremely detrimental to my health. We also had less sun than we'd hoped for, and I'm supposed to keep it on the down low - but this is our Bali tan, okay? Don't tell anyone.
It was probably one of the most uncomfortable ten minutes of my life. After applying my $5 accelerator cream to my less than toned post-holiday physique I stood with a feeling of unease in the death trap trying to keep the towel on my face while the broken built-in fan blew out of control. When I finished my solarium I realised the switches on the fan were reversed after noticing the ineffectively placed sign posted outside the machine.
I don't really have much more to say about the solarium in particular. Except that I now have a white patch over the mole on my chest that I'd dabbed with sunscreen - you can't be too careful, you know. But after intentionally burning my skin to a colour of suitable bronze I joined my roommate and a few other patrons in reception to find the lovely little solarium attendant being abused by a leather-skinned succubus.
Some trouble with her loyalty-card had prohibited the woman from getting her tan on as soon as she'd liked, and she was obviously upset by the horrid ordeal. She continued to harass the receptionist who was attempting to work the matter out with her superior via phone, but the harpy went on to make her feel worthless, shaking her head and loudly stating what would be happening - whether or not it was okay with the attendant's boss' policies. I stood there for a moment, observing the situation. The attendant was becoming more and more flustered, the people behind in queue were standing docile and watching the scene, while this awful woman laid into her over a solarium. A goddamn solarium. At this point the attendant started to cry. And I couldn't stand by and watch any longer.
Okay, so admittedly in a fairly dramatic fashion, I stood next to the attendant so I was facing the woman and interrupted the whole confrontation. I told her in some words or other she was being ridiculous, that she had unnecessarily made the girl cry over a solarium, that there were starving children in the world while she's carrying on about getting tanned, and that she should be embarrassed. The woman piped up in rebuttal a few times but in the end she wouldn't look at me and you could see the embarrassment on her face, and I felt proud that I'd won a moral battle.
It shows how good we must have it if the battles we fight are for a receptionist being abused by a solarium-obsessed patron whose details were missing from the system. Having just come home from third-world Bali, where Indonesians who earn $40 a month get paid a pittance to serve greedy, rude materialist slobs - it really defines the popular new phrase 'first-world problem'. I met a lovely Indonesian woman named Marcini at the spa I visited in Kuta for a $4.50 hour massage. On our one-week Indonesian getaway my roommate and I had visited this same spa a few times - it was a couple of dollars cheaper than the other spas and the ladies were kind and obliging. Ok, so they were extremely obliging everywhere but the couple of dollars savings was apparently enough of a sale-point.
I learned that Marcini worked away from her two children and husband, who lived away in Java, a four hour bus-trip from Bali. Marcini worked seven days a week, for 14 hours a day. She was able to visit her family maybe twice a year, when she could afford to take the bus trip and some time off. I listened to her story as I waited for my nails to dry and was disgusted...in myself, and in every other tourist throwing money at things they don't need. Food we're not really hungry for; clothes we buy to make us look good (there's a small percentage of people that actually look good in their clothes), and services that a poor man would never imagine spending his valued earnings on. And yet here we are, too stingy to part with our coins for a donation, and living in rooms full of dust-covered momentos whose price could have bought a family food for a week. Materialism is what's wrong with this world. The woman in the solarium was just one of it's victims.
I gave Marcini my own donation that day. I said to her I wanted her to have a day off with that money, and I was heart-broken by her story for the rest of the evening. But what made me even sadder was how hard it was to part with that money. I like to tell myself it's because I need to choose carefully where I donate my money, there are so many worthy causes and if I were to donate to all of them I'd become one of them. But I think the sad truth of the matter, and what I realised that night is that I am just as bad as that woman in the solarium...I too, am a victim of materialism, and escape is near impossible.