Larry Banman: The journey of life should involve carpooling
March 16, 2009
How will your life change?
Will your life change?
The financial crisis over the past year has people using phrases like, “paradigm shift” and “fundamental change” when describing the culture of America.
It has been intriguing to watch the reaction of people as they have watched their accumulated wealth disappear. As that wealth has dissipated, almost daily in some instances, people have been forced to evaluate their lives at a very base level. I’m not talking about the people who had to cut back on their European vacations or sell one of the Bentley’s in the heated garage. I’m talking about people who have based their lives over the next few years and decades on the money they had in their 401(k) retirement plans and the equity they had in their homes. I certainly was not immune to speculating about what I would do with the difference between the principal I owed on my home and the market value of that home in late 2007.
I have noticed some changes in the way people are perceiving the future and their role in that time frame. I don’t hear much talk of early retirement anymore. I do hear people wondering about taking on a second job. I don’t hear a lot of talk about vacations to Mexico anymore. I do hear about getting away for a weekend to Montrose. It has made me wonder about other changes which people will be making as they try to stretch their paychecks to the end of the month.
In times like these, you see people paying attention to small details that might save a dollar or two. Lights are being turned off, thermostats are being edged downward, vehicles are being driven less, phone calls are being cut short, the top cuts of meat are left and substituted with a less expensive option. Value becomes more important than luxury and you hear words like bargains and coupons and sales.
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I wonder about other changes. Will we carpool more? As a people, particularly those of us in the West, we value our independence. We want to be able to go where we want, when we want and with whom we want. Heaven forbid that we might have to carpool and be subject to the schedule of another person. Next time you drive, look at how many people are either alone or with one other person. Unless it is a family, the backseat may as well be removed.
Has service improved? I hear anecdotal evidence on both ends of this issue. It is logical that retailers would treat each and every customer as the most important person on earth. You would think that the people working would be so grateful to be among the employed that they would be tripping over themselves to lend assistance to a customer. I have also heard that retailers are cutting back on expenses (payroll) and there aren’t enough people working to adequately serve the customer. I have experienced more of the former than the latter.
To use a politically correct term for a politically incorrect topic. What about undocumented workers? My first thought was that it will be easier for companies to hire workers that are undocumented as people start to value all types of jobs. As a result, there will be less of a demand for undocumented labor. A friend of mine thought of a more sinister possibility. Will people without jobs look at jobs held by suspected undocumented workers and turn in the offending employers?
On the whole, it does appear that the economy may be stabilizing a bit. People are adapting somewhat to a new reality. If that is the case I, personally, don’t think we will see many fundamental changes. As a whole, our country will have received a little scare that rocked our boats but didn’t throw us in the drink.
I have to admit that some of the conversations I am hearing have been encouraging. People are trying to define what is really important as they realize the ethereal nature of material wealth. There are beginning to think that there are other things of more importance. On a personal level, it has been frightening to tighten the belt further than I thought possible. But, it has also been liberating to narrow my focus as it has become impractical to be concerned about everything. For years, many have talked about the need for a reordering of priorities and that, I believe, is what has been happening. Perhaps our culture needs to spend a little more time in life’s woodshed.