Wednesday, November 18, 2009


I consider myself a Liberal progressive, even more so since the "L" word morphed into an epithet, courtesy Rush, his dittoheads, and their AM radio talk show host brethren.

But two similar events, one before the Will Rogers' watershed age of 40, one after, instigated some self-assessment. In my early twenties, I worked as a daily newspaper reporter for a substandard salary as a daily newspaper (which involves a seven days/week work regimen, late night meetings, early morning deadlines) in a medium-sized town, ferreting out red-banded produce and subsisting on a pasta-heavy diet out of necessity. Once, in the grocery checkout line, a woman leaned over me to ask the cashier if she could buy lobster with food stamps. Lobster! I looked at my cart filled with blue boxes of mac and cheese, black-spotted bananas, and store-brand oatmeal…and had a recalibratory moment.

Fast-forward to today. I still live modestly and work hard. I have a demanding job running an engineering program at a big university, and I often work late at night at my technical editing consulting business. Sometimes I come home so drained it's all I can do to feed my animals and fall into bed. I bicycle to work, mostly brown bag it for lunch: still frugal after all these years. Luxuries are few to nonexistent. My only vacation in years was the road trip to Arizona for a wedding.

Into the rental house next door moves a couple. She told me she does not work, just "sits at home and gets fat." And smokes. Cigarettes are an expensive habit. This couple apparently have not paid their utility bills for several months, although it appears that he works. Their gas was cut off. On one of the few days I drove to work (as I have to carry in seminar refreshments), before I even shut the door of truck, she was out her door and halfway up my driveway, asking for a handout, lit cigarette in hand. I had been working until 1 a.m. that morning on a technical paper, worked a hard 10-hour day at the office. In addition, the day before, I had overhead her, without provocation, speaking about me to a neighbor using words prevalent in Rap lyrics.

I refused to give her money, both out of exhaustion and hurt feelings. I referred her to restaurant within close walking distance—my former employer—which was looking for waitstaff. She, with no intention of following up, whipped out her cell phone and demanded their number. When I said that she would have to apply in person, she again demanded their number, with no intention of ever following up. From where does she get this sense of entitlement?

Is it rebellion against societal slugs that turns otherwise rational people into vituperative Conservatives?


1 comment:

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