Monday, February 23, 2009

Welcome to 1932

In 1932, the phone never stops ringing. Everyone is reaching into the depths of their rolodexes trying to find new business. You hear the notes of desperation in their voices. "I'm not gonna lie," they say. "Things are slow right now."

In 1932, you've stopped picking up. You don't have any business to give and you're so tired of trying to say no in the face of dogged persistence.

In 1932, no one returns your calls, either. They have 25% budget cuts, too, and there's not enough money to go around.

In 1932, Linda's husband has been out of work for nine months. He used to do something related to research and IT. Now he thinks maybe he'll try being a personal trainer.

In 1932, you go to McDonald's and hear six people in a row order off the dollar menu. You are the only one ordering a "value" meal. Did it used to be like that?

In 1932, you forgot to sign a new lease several months ago but the landlord hasn't asked. Maybe as long as you keep paying rent he figures it's best not to rock the boat.

In 1932, R. is scared to ask for vacation. They'll say yes but what if they realize while he's gone that they don't need him? He's good at his job but he's only part time--easy to lay off.

In 1932, you print things up on the office printer. You make the copies yourself. You talk about new products to offer and you come up with ways to shave $50 off a $10,000 bill. You're letting all your professional memberships lapse. You try not to think about what will happen if everybody else does the same.

In 1932, your company is holding its annual meeting in Hawaii. It was planned 7 years ago, when it seemed more like 1925. Bad luck, that.

In 1932, you pray that no one will quit. If they quit they probably wouldn't be replaced and then you'd have to learn graphic design or how to sell ads. You especially hope the woman who sells ads won't quit. She works on commission. There's nothing you can do to help.

When you were little, one of your favorite things to play was to pretend that you were poor. In 1932, you pretend that harder than ever. You're still just pretending. It still isn't that bad. You read Material World and What the World Eats to remind yourself of how it could be. You ate oatmeal for breakfast and kasha for lunch and will have pumpkin pie and who-knows-what for dinner. There's chocolate in your bag and shoes in your desk drawer and clothes, so many clothes, in your closet. When you come home the bed is warm and your boyfriend is waiting for you. No, 1932 isn't bad at all.


Anonymous said...

Very interesting piece.. I think we'll learn a lot from this period..

Barry Ritz said...

A nice recount of 1932... there are bright spots amid all the gloom and doom.

Those with the resources should do more to help those in need. I wrote an article here about the rare breed of millionaires who help the poor.


Ken W. said...

I recently started reading Atlas Shrugged and, as a struggling business owner in Michigan, Ayn Rand's vision of a crumbling capitalist society hits very close to home. This post reminds me of it.

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Simple in France said...

Very inspiring posts. I've been kind of 'nuts and bolts' on my blog lately, but yours is creative and literary. Beautiful writing. I'll be back. And I love the references (and contrasts) to 1932.

It's weird watching the 'recession' from another country--you never know what it's like back home, but your post gave the impression that I know.