I’ll begin this with the moral of my story: It’s always the economy.
My current office is basically a small apartment. If I needed to, I could just about live there. I have a 26 cubic foot fridge, a range, two leather sofas, and rooms with doors. I am also the only person using this office. I moved away from the main office for logistical reasons.
One of the people who works for me calls it Camp David.
So he comes down to my office to get away from the world. Even if only for a few minutes.
“I don’t know what’s going on,” he tells me after the shootings in Florida. He takes a seat on one of the couches. His beard takes its familiar spot resting upon the top of his stomach. I’ve never been able to see his lips through the white mess he’s grown. “When I was a kid,” he continues, “if I did something wrong, my mom beat me. I think we’ve gotten too soft. We need to beat our kids more because when I was a kid and when you were a kid there weren’t all these shootings everywhere.”
I expect nothing different from several months of unfiltered conversation with him. He and I have often been the only two people in the office on any given Saturday. He isn’t afraid to say how he feels.
“Maybe it was less the style of punishment and more that your mom was home,” I suggest.
We’ve had enough conversations that his responses become somewhat predictable, but we engage in them regardless.
“I didn’t really have a home,” he starts. I know this. He was in a military family. He moved often. He then joined the military and raised his family drifting through other countries and other states within this country.
I interrupt, “Your home was wherever you lived and your mom was always there.”
“You didn’t dare try to get away with too much right under your mom’s nose.”
He nodded again.
“That’s gone. This age of two income families being a necessity makes it impossible to instill any kind of structure. You were lucky. I was lucky. There was somebody there to help us along in life. Current generations don’t have it as good.”
I could tell he needed to think about that. His eyes looked up a little and would be looking past me if there wasn’t a wall immediately behind each of our couches. He tries to gracefully change the subject.
And he goes down a path he’s been down many times. It takes a minute to get there. The moral is always the same.
“My son,” he tells me again, “puts a thousand bucks into that dumb car of his each month.”
His son is about ten years younger than I am. His son shares an apartment. Both of his sons share an apartment. Separately. His youngest doesn’t drive. Refuses to be responsible for that kind of expense and responsibility.
I know what his next line is. He’s said it many times.
“I drive a P.O.S. and I’m just fine. Anybody can drive a P.O.S. if I can.”
My car is parked just outside the glass door we are sitting beside. I purchased it brand new a few years back.
He dresses the same nearly every day. Under his ZZ Top style beard is a polo shirt. I imagine his closet being a series of these polo shirts. Several colors. Lined up. He was raised to be practical. He was raised without any political correctness. He was raised completely blue collar. He is tolerant. He can’t stand Trump. But he has a lot to learn.
His standard issue Dickies shorts finish off his attire. He wears those daily as well. If I hadn’t seen his sons wear the exact same shorts day in and day out as well, I might argue that he doesn’t wear them for any other reason than they are practical.
One of his feet is larger than the other in order to create support. The ankle on a prosthetic leg hasn’t been perfected. At least not on his. Diabetes took his leg a few years ago. It is far easier to get ready with these shorts than to try and pull his foot through long pants.
I look out at my car, “No. We don’t all have to drive a P.O.S. like you. You’ve made that decision and that’s good.”
I pause and think about a person I worked with a decade ago. He once told me that he always buys $30 shoes from Wal-Mart and always will. This may be a generational thing. I’m not sure. It’s worth it for me to spend money on shoes which will not destroy my feet. I’m on my feet much of my day and I have wide feet. I won’t skimp.
“It’s about quality of life. I understand what you’re saying, but let’s be realistic. Things aren’t the same. There’s no retirement for me. There’s no retirement for your sons. Wages are stagnant. Shit is more expensive. Opportunity is slim.”
He nodded. I’m assuming his surgery and meds and prosthetic leg and whatever else didn’t hit him as hard it could me someday. Or maybe it did. I’m not sure what the military provided him. How much his health care covered.
I looked at him, “I’m considering getting a new camera. I may never be able to truly afford one and maybe I have no business spending my money on something like that. But taking pictures is something I truly enjoy. If it improves my quality of life, at my age, I’m doing it.”
“I’m not sure how the cameras have changed since I owned one with all the lenses and shit.”
I could tell the conversation would end there. And that was fine. It didn’t need to continue. But I believe I can end every single conversation with one idea.
It’s the economy.
I heard somebody on the television use the term “theater of the absurd” about the Trump White House. Captain Chaos. They have all sorts of descriptions which get passed around from commentator to commentator.
I turn on the news and look up on occasion as I edit some pictures taken with my camera yesterday while listening to music. I look up and there are rows of boxes each with a head in it reacting to the words of a head in another box. All the heads in boxes putting on a puppet show about Russia’s influence on the election.
I don’t think I’m wrong. I still believe that we cannot be offended when corporations drive our elections and the news cycle. Many of these corporations have investments in other countries. Wal-Mart used its influence to make it easier to import from other countries in order to increase profits while keeping costs down.
Amazon is striking tax deals all over the country while they are getting close to being worth one trillion dollars.
Teachers are striking for better pay.
Nazis are rallying in a Southern state.
And while I’ve written this I would be ashamed to know just how many people were shot dead as my fingers danced across the keyboard.
The theater of the absurd is in front of us every single day.
The theater of the absurd is blaming the election on a handful of memes and social media.
The theater of the absurd is on every channel all day.
There’s a presentation to it and we all sit and watch. We all take it in so seriously.
But we all seem to miss the point.
The theater of the absurd is everywhere. We should be providing people with basic human rights. We should not be doing everything in our power to repress 80% of the population.
There is no such thing as simply working hard to achieve your goals anymore.
I’m not sure that ever truly existed.
It’s always been theater.
It’s always the economy.