Extra, Extra, read all about it...the economy still sucks. Didn't need to hear the latest "unexpectedly" bad news from the Labor Department about a new surge in
unemployment filings to know just how many of us are hurting, and how
No, all it took to "rub it in" was a trip to my local Home Depot here in Southeast Florida - a trip I made with some degree of trepidation.
As a middle-aged, self-employed guy with a family, I've suffered the slings and arrows of this economic meltdown, trying to keep my video production company going, trying to keep the old head above water - even as my crazy, inflated mortgage sank right under it, just like it has for so many others in Florida and nationwide.
So when my wife and I decided we couldn't put off replacing our broken, unusable garage door any longer, I headed off to Home Depot in search of a sale - and an increase in the credit line on my Home Depot credit card, which would let us pay this big ticket item off over a year, with no interest.
Unable (unwilling anyway) to wait any more to have proper access to our garage and its - ahem - "significant" amounts of stuff, my wife and I stitched together a Plan B on the phone, while Robert waited patiently. We were finally able to lock in the sale price of about sixteen hundred bucks - including installation - for our new gateway to whatever the hell is in that damned garage.
It took quite a while to get the details of the order squared away, entered into the system, printed out, and when we were done I smiled and thanked Robert for his time, patience and effort, joking "That's why they pay you the big bucks, right?"
"Really? How long have you been here?" I asked.
"Almost two years."
I looked at this tall, athletic, tired-looking older man, probably pushing sixty years old, his lively, intelligent eyes peering up at me now through those foggy spectacles, a sad smile on his flushed face.
"Are you able to get by on the twelve bucks an hour?" I asked.
"No. But I'm lucky, I'm single now...and my brother helps me..." Long pause before he looks down, shuffles pile of papers and says very quietly, "But I still just had to take most of the money out of my retirement accounts to pay all my bills"
I didn't say anything. I wanted to say, "I'm sorry to hear that", but I
couldn't quite get it out - and wasn't sure he wanted to hear it anyway.
"I came out of school with a degree in Political Science - lot of good that did me - then I went back and got an MBA, a Masters in Business Administration. Finally got a good job at Northern Trust Bank. Five weeks before I would've been vested for my pension, they fired me. After that, forget about it...age discrimination, a guy in his fifties, forget about it...damned banks"
I felt like I could jump in now. "I know, it's incredible the way the big banks and corporations just keep sticking it to us and getting away with it..."