Them’s that got shall get. Them’s that not are screwed.
Another episode of That’s Our McMegan!:
On CNN today, I heard Suze Orman answer the following question: "We have no money and considerable credit card debt. Should we dip into our paltry emergency fund to pay for Christmas for the kids?"
What a sad commentary on our culture. No, you should not spend money you might need for food on a transformer. How do we live in a society where this is even a question?
I have no doubt that that parent is miserably thinking about how her kids will feel when all their classmates have new Christmas presents, and they have nothing to show. What makes me mad is that we’ve created an environment where the most magical thing that can happen to a child is to be given a few pieces of plastic glued together in China.
The only good thing that I can possibly think of about this financial crisis is that it may break the rat race of constantly ratcheting consumption, which has surrounded most Americans with nice things that don’t really make them happy. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with buying whatever you want, when you have the money to afford it. But when you start thinking that you need toys and television sets to have a happy life, we’re all in trouble.
Apparently the lines have been forming at the New York Apple stores for "days" (or so one correspondent reports), but when I drove past the Clarendon Apple Store around one, there was no noticeable queuing–indeed, the store seemed pretty quiet. Nonetheless, Peter Suderman and I will be camping out in the line tonight, bringing you the latest in liveblogging from the Apple hype machine. I feel no desperate urge to get my hands on one of the VERY FIRST 3G IPHONES, but I can’t resist a spectacle. Presuming there is one, that is. They don’t call me "Miss Zeitgeist" for nothing . . .
I was awoken at 6:15 by a nice man from the Apple Store explaining what documentation we needed (driver’s license, credit card, knowledge of our social security number–things without which no American is legally allowed to leave the couch these days). By then Peter had already woken up, gone to Starbucks for coffee, started blogging, and presumably, saved several Guatamalan orphans from an earthquake. He looks fresh as a daisy. I look like a candidate for Extreme Makeover.
Early this morning, the Apple folks appeared with water for the needy liners
I imagine this is what it feels like to be a refugee–you sleep outside, and then smiling people in uniform hand you supplies whether you ask for them or not.
While I was buying the iPhone, they pulled me aside for a credit review. Since I have good credit, this was shocking–and humiliating. For a middle class American, telling your two friends in the store that the AT&T folks are having second thoughts about giving you credit feels a little like confessing that you’re a criminal. This is even though I know plenty of journalists with bad credit, the vicissitudes of the industry being what they are. I found myself earnestly protesting to the store clerk that seriously, I really do pay my bills on time, and I don’t run a credit card balance.
It turns out they just wanted to look at the activity on my account, since I’ve just applied for a car loan, and bought a Verizon broadband modem. But in a way, it’s a reminder of just how obsessed our society has become with borrowing money.
Of course there are irresponsible profligates who borrow money they’ve no intention of repaying. But most of the people I know with awful credit histories have rather more understandable explanations: a divorce. An unexpected illness. Trouble finding a job when they emerged from graduate school with hefty loans. Freelance jobs that took too long to pay–or went bust without reimbursing sizeable expenses.
The worst part is that the profligates are immune to the shame (or seem to be). It’s the decent people, the ones who were overtaken by events, who cringe when the store clerks motion them aside.
Maybe the parents (the decent ones at least) who can’t afford to buy toys for their kids this year can explain to the disappointed little tykes that Santa went John Galt this year. Then they can explain to the little parasites that they should be working and creating instead of expecting toys to just be handed to them, and that those visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads are only so much irrational altruistic/collectivist hoo-hah.
Now who wants some iPhone packaging to play with? You can draw a face on it, pretend it’s a sad bitter puppet and then both of you can go down to FAO Schwarz on Fifth and stare through the window together for a Christmas memory that will last a lifetime…