Saturday, October 11, 2008

Black Friday

The economy is something I cannot begin to understand. I read reports, ask knowledgeable friends questions, listen to debates, but most of all, I get my feel for the economy by how much money I have left over (or rather how much more I owe) after the necessary expenses are taken care of. According to this system, the only system I can pretend to comprehend, after the bare essentials and one bi-monthly luxury item, my first since May came this past Wednesday so now that is becoming more of a biannual thing it would appear, I can afford to spend about $90 a month. I am someone who has reached a 5-digit salary only once in my life (and even then I literally just broke it) yet I have amassed a 6-digit almost entirely from my absurdly expensive education. While outstanding, my education has made me, I am estimating, about $15,000 in its totality. That is $12,500 for teaching and $2,500 for various writing jobs. That number, as depressing as it is, is about the same as the jobs I have had that require no education or even frown upon it. For example, the summers or 1999 through 2001, when I worked as a lifeguard, I made about $2,500 each year. The summers I was in college I made even less at J.C. Penney’s and landscaping, which was more accurately described as getting high and smashing things with a shovel, that goes for both of those jobs. In those summers I made around $1,500 and then did not work one of those years instead taking summer school. Out of college, post-academia, I did some internet database updating for some company, worked with my mom for a while, had a few sales jobs which I was terrible at and technically lost money, spent two weeks in advertising, and did a brief stint with FedEx. In sum with those odd jobs, I made something like $3,000. Now working in the service industry, don’t get me started on how badly I hate this job, I have probably made about $3,500 in the last three months.

I am not going to add all this up, it is too depressing, but I bet they are even keel. Plus if you count the year I was technically unemployed, a year I spent working for a bookie and gambling, I guess my main source of income that year would be picking NFL winners, filling out March Madness tournament brackets, and getting unbelievably lucky in basically blind draws with the sport of kings (horse racing), I would be better off, financially speaking, if I didn’t even go to school. Because starting in 1999, my schooling has cost me[1] an intimidating six-digit-number that overwhelms me just thinking about. And I have yet to even dent it. Two years at Park Tudor at $12,000 a year, plus four years at Kenyon totaling among the nation’s highest (#2 when I went there which is boasted as though it were something to be really proud of)[2] [3] with a whopping $38,000 price tag (that I consider well worth every penny [it at least in the time I was a student there] and upon my deathbed will probably consider the four happiest years of my life), though no one, save for Colin and Joe F. who are very well off but compared to some of the families there are practically beggars, and in full disclosure, I paid less and than half of that number, and then Wake Forest, in a program I am not even going to finish, I took out over $20,000 in student loans. I am actually starving here, I have lost over 50 pounds in the last year, where am I gonna get that kind of money?

I probably won’t. There are friends of mine here in a similar predicament as mine but are more responsible and these people actually know something about economics. They are basically saying the crisis will probably help us out because with all of this student debt that is going unpaid yet must be paid, the gov. will likely devise a new plan/strategy to deal with it. Our prosperity literally depends on it. Or so they say. Maybe that is one of the reasons the crisis doesn’t seem to scare me all that much, I am a survivor, I live simply and will continue to do so. Even if someone were to say, “Yo, AB! You the bomb! Here is a MacArthur fellowship for your bitchin ass! Have at it,” I would probably give most of money away and with what is left over start some sort of literary journal. I don’t own any big ticket items. The most expensive things I own, my car (which I inherited from my grandpa when he died, worth around $6,000 dollars though I take shit care of it and currently rock a donut as one of my tires) and my watch (my parents’ gift for graduating college which is an unbelievably beautiful and tasteful Swiss made Tissot worth about $600)[4] are things that were given to me and not things I would have spent money on myself to own. Its all just stuff and I pride myself on having virtually nothing.

So the point of this little musing, I guess, is to say that I see people freaking out all the time about this damn “Depression” and it doesn’t really scare me. The big-wigs macking it hard will still mack it hard and the poor are still gonna be desperately poor. Can’t people see that the system is incredibly fucked and one-sided and always going to end with inequality and oppression?

This “Black Friday” stuff I heard all over the radio today—from NPR to local rock-block to ESPN—has got people obsessing. My female companion talks about how scared she is about what all this is going to do to her credit score. Sometimes she gets pretty freaked out about it, especially when she starts inquiring about my debt and my credit, which I know nothing about other than it just has to be terrible.

Yesterday, before I heard any of this business, I went to the bank in order to cash my pay checks from work and found a line that practically went out the door. Wha? It turned out people were freaking out about this whole crisis and running to the bank to pull out their savings—ah la It's a Wonderful Life—or so I believe though it was late in the afternoon on a Friday so who knows. The line, dominated by old people, which makes me suspect that the line did in fact result from the quote unquote “Black Friday” thing, was so decrepit that at multiple times when the teller would call out “may I help you” the hard of hearing senior citizens would stand there staring strait ahead until someone with a better hearing aid finally tapped them and pointed them in the direction they needed to go.

When my turn finally came, I lucked out and came to the same woman I dealt with the last time I was in this particular branch. The first time I had went in there, this woman, young, somewhat attractive, huge rack, tried to set me up with a checking account with them. I went through the motions but I had recently been turned down with another bank because I joined an account with my mom in my name that she had overdrawn. Lacking $400, neither I nor my mom can pay it off, thus I am to remain bankless, at least for the time being. But I was going through this then because the woman said she would waive the check cashing fees on all my checks and maybe it would like go through or something as she said. Then, in late July or sometime around there, she was flirty and accommodating and said that whenever I got a valid ID, don’t ask, I could come in there and she would waive the fees, anytime.

So yesterday, hoping to make good on that proposition, I went to her and reminded her of this exchange. The look she gave me was not the flirty, playful look I witnessed back in July but one of annoyance seeing me now as something of a burden, or so I interpreted. “I personally said that?” she kept demanding to know, also asking a rhetorical “Why would I say that?” that seemed to imply I was either lying or had greatly misunderstood our conversation. She then informed me that the checks would cost $6 each to cash, although that bank did not charge some businesses to cash their checks there. This is what happened to be the case with my employer and this bank. It certainly did clear things up for me then, what I assumed was this attractive and flirty young woman doing something nice for me person-to-person was in fact just doing her job, caring out a function that was as part of her routine as bringing a to-go side of dressing is to mine.

When money is involved it is hard to stay human and when money is tight it is harder still. On nights when I am in no mood to ask my tables what they want to stuff themselves with, as tonight I am sure will prove to be which I am already dreading, when a table of seven, one less than the number of people required to get an automatic 18% tacked on to the bill, spends $150 on food and drinks which constantly need refilling and leaves a $10 tip if I am lucky or a $1 tip on $80 and then say something like “you are an excellent server” and ask me “is that alright?” my job requires me to say “oh yes, thank you very much” instead of the obvious “no everything is not alright, you just gave me a shitty tip and I am working my ass off here” I certainly don’t feel like myself. On these nights, at that job, at any service job, there is no such a thing as being human. There is only the customer is always right and you have to live by it. To hell with you.

[1] My parents, barely making ends meet themselves, have not contributed a penny to my education unlike most people at the three wonderful and expensive schools I attended. Most of my peers were of families in the top 5% of yearly income, at worst, whereas my parents are more like at or below the national median making a combined $40,000ish annually. I tried to use the U.S. Census Bureau as my source here, then some other reputable agencies, but without any economic knowledge or skill, except buying things that are cheap, I couldn’t make heads or tales out of it. But hey, Wikipedia makes it easy, there I get the information I seek with minimal trouble, get class and money involved and information just disappears especially in an economic crisis. So anyway, here is my God damned source: Thus I have borrowed and worked, but mostly borrowed, seeing this education thing as an investment that right now is not paying out in dollars like I was told it would. But to be fair its not like I really motivated by moneys, I have never had and don’t really know what I am missing. Nor do I really care to know.
[4] Mom and Dad saved up for a year and half to buy me something special for I am the first one in my family to finish college—a family that is so large and reeks with so much Irish Catholic descent that to go through the names of aunts and uncles and cousins and second cousins and so on and so forth would be incredibly involved. So anyway, this is an item I love and I don’t really love stuff. I am in constant panic that I own such a beautiful thing and I am always thinking I will or have lost and I get complimented on about once a month, the most recent one being from a co-worker whose name is Jordan who I think is the type of chick it is probably good to have on your side and reminds you of every cheerleader you ever met, I am sure you get the idea, who said while I was pouring tea out of a bucket into a dispenser “Oh my God, you have a really, really nice watch…It is seriously beautiful,” which, you know, doesn’t suck to hear, but nonetheless, I love it but I could never justify spending that much on myself.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent post..! These days, saving a penny is just as important as saving a dollar you know. Especially that the economy is struggling we should know better. Black Friday shopping is definitely a good way to survive.