Even on the lowest of days, Julie Andrews never fails to inspire an uplifting song and inevitably a lighter heart. “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music is the penultimate remedy for a blue day, followed closely by a chick flick and a bowl of popcorn. This week, I need a little Julie Andrews in my life, because I’m feeling particularly sensitive about some of the side effects of our current economic climate. I’ve had this constant, nagging guilt about my own abundance, like a fly stuck in the living room…I’ve heard the buzzing, but haven’t quite been able to find the source.
A few of my (least) favorite things have been contributing to this:
My Local Real Change Agent
No longer known as My Local Real Change Agent, because last week I introduced myself to the ruddy-faced, jovial homeless man who faithfully stands outside RiteAid each day peddling his $1 leftist local papers, whose name is Frenchi. Each time I stop in the store (an alarming 3 – 4 times a week) he’s there, and because I’m obviously not going to buy the paper each time, I wanted to make our greetings more comfortable. However, I’ve begun to wonder what I could do with the money I’m spending at RiteAid to better serve the less fortunate than I. I give when I can, and contribute monthly to the Market Foundation (supporting local service programs for underprivileged individuals) but when I retire to my warm apartment with my loving pets at the end of one of these trips, I look outside my 2nd story window and see Frenchi standing there in the cold until the store closes for the night, and I have to close my blinds to block the guilt that sweeps in like a strong wind.
A beautifully built and designed nail salon that opened up 2 weeks after their proudly displayed 08-08-08 grand opening and just before the economy hit the skids, this shop makes me sad each time I pass. Located on the same corner as the transient Belltown Inn and across from the scummy Irish bar (where I’m pretty sure a large homeless contingency spend its meager alms on cheap booze) on 3rd Ave & Blanchard St, this place didn’t stand a chance to begin with , and continues to limp along in this distressed time. I noticed they didn’t advertise a discount coupon in my ValPak last week, and I’m now concerned about their survival. Every time I walk by to the dog park I see the faithful owners just sitting in an immaculate empty shop, and I vow that my next pedicure will be at this place that so bravely continues with only a few customers to keep them going. And yet…I still haven’t been, because I’ve been giving myself rather lovely pedicures at home, and can’t justify the expense.
I don’t even own a home phone anymore; however, that doesn’t mean I can’t expostulate about this, because the situation goes deeper than the feeling of annoyance from the recipient of a 9PM solicitation phone call. When I do pick up a solicitation call, I am always nice to telemarketers. Always. Why? Because here’s the thing: those annoying telemarketers are doing jobs NO ONE WANTS TO DO. Those people are paying bills and providing for families with measly paychecks and a work environment that allows no room for deviation from the script, no room to connect with the customer (even if the customer wanted the services offered) and little personal reward at the end of the day. I don’t agree with solicitation calls…that said, I don’t think individuals should be blamed for the faults of the system. Because, really? While other Americans who “can’t find a job” are collecting unemployment, these individuals go to work as denizens of one of the least respected jobs in this country, and bring groceries home. Perhaps not proudly, but with their own paychecks all the same. The next time you’re about to speak rudely to a telemarketer, ask yourself if you would deign to be on the other end of the line…and politely hang up.
I know there’s always another side to the story. I know that maybe Frenchi drank himself homeless, and maybe the Spa Hop owners have a large fund somewhere from early investments in a thriving startup and this shop is really a side project, and perhaps telemarketers are lazy, fat low-lifes who hold these pathetic jobs because they’ve never aspired to more. But I can’t help but feel that in our economy, we’re all feeling a growing sense of dread about how we’re going to fill our basic needs – food, shelter, protection – and my heart goes out to everyone who’s trying to do so.
At the end of the day, this is the source of that buzzing guilt: the people who are struggling more than I, and the fact that I can sit here blathering about it online when others can’t even afford a cable connection. I don’t feel “entitled” to my abundance – I feel fucking lucky. Which makes me wonder when the other shoe is going to drop.
Julie Andrews’ silly song continues to lift my spirits on a blue day, only I’ve taken the liberty to replace “raindrops on roses” and “whiskers on kittens” with “the love of my family” and “abundance in strength”. I know, those phrases don’t rhyme…but there’s truth and strength in those words, and those are some of my favorite things.