Monday Musings: This Wasn’t What We Planned

bakery The following two stories are true, and have occurred in this past week. The names have been changed to protect everyone, some, quite frankly, who don’t deserve protection.

Welcome to the latest of Perspectives’ new “regular features”: Woman Warrior Wednesday, Fashion & Finds Friday are now joined by “Monday Musings”, a weekly look at the human condition from medicine to politics, from gender issues to the environment, and everything in between.

Musings are defined as thoughts or meditations. The recent situation in Washington has given all us plenty of reasons for both of those. If we look past one of the worse displays of political dysfunction in our lifetime, what we’ll see is the reality of people who are suffering beyond the Beltway: People for whom life is turning out nothing like they planned.


There was a nice looking couple we used to see occasionally at social & community functions. They were friends of friends so we knew them casually. He was a successful medical professional and she was a very attractive, stylish, stay-at-home wife and mother. I heard through the grapevine that he was involved with another woman and was seeking a divorce. I know nothing else about the story except when I walked in to my favorite bakery the other day; I caught a glimpse of someone who looked familiar pushing a rack of bread toward the front of the store. Her blond hair was bound up under a net; her face was pale & drawn. We made eye contact. It was painful…for both of us.

She said her former husband’s practice had suffered from the affair and his finances were, possibly deliberately, in disarray, and she had not been able to afford high-powered legal counsel. She had tried to return to her original career in fashion and merchandising but after being out of the work force for so long, and with 9.1% unemployment, here she was, in her mid-50’s, pushing a bakery cart.

While on my usual shopping rounds of framers markets and grocery stores last week, I noticed some of my favorite faces were out place. The knowledgeable young man who always makes sure I get the freshest fish and the middle-aged woman who lost her business and then found a job she loved demonstrating new products were not in their usual spots. I found them both doing other, lesser jobs: The fish monger was handing out samples of fruit and looking very embarrassed to be doing so. Both told me a new policy was in place designed to hold down the need for new employees, so everyone had to be willing to do whatever job they were assigned. As one said to me, “What can I do? I have to keep this job.”

I’ve always been one of America’s greatest boosters: A Ronald Reagan “Shining City on the Hill” believer that we are the greatest nation on earth. But there is no longer any doubt that our country is in serious trouble from which it will likely take decades to recover. And for a generation for whom recovery time has run out, a generation who grew up thinking that if you worked hard and followed the rules, life turned out like an episode from Ozzie & Harriet…this sure wasn’t what we planned.

What Recession? Go Away, You’re Bothering Us

winter hatI’m about to enter the dreaded “new car zone”…that black hole of fear and uncertainty, where we wander aimlessly until we emerge on the other side with more horsepower and gadgets than we need having spent more money than we intended.

I go through this exercise every 3 to 4 years. This time I was looking forward to it. After all, we are in a recession; the government subsidized programs have expired, I should be a valuable commodity…a qualified customer who is serious about driving a new car. I’ll be treated like a queen.

More like a peasant with the plague.

This past weekend I pull in to a local dealership. (I’d love to name them, but I’m going to restrain myself) I’m driving a 4 year old mid-level sedan…it was even clean; I’m nicely dressed…for a weekend; My hair is combed and I have make-up on. There isn’t much more I could have done to appear “legitimate”.

Five salespeople were sitting in a circle shooting the “breeze”. I stood in the showroom for nearly ten minutes before anyone came near me. When someone did, I momentarily thought I had wandered into Cabela’s: The person was wearing one of those hats like you see in the movies on the head of the crazy husband who murders his wife and puts her body through a chipper. 

I spent the next ten minutes trying to convince the salesperson that one of the models I was serious about acquiring was what he had on the showroom floor. I opened the door, sat in the driver’s seat, studied the dashboard display, even asked a somewhat intelligent question about whether it had 17” wheels. Still nothing.

Out of sheer frustration at my continuing inspection of the car, the woodsman took me to his sales manager who was perched high on a dais. Peering over the edge, like a judge at a recalcitrant criminal, the manager asked me how much I was willing to spend. The answer didn’t seem to please him and he told me that he had just sold a similar car to a very elderly couple; I knew I should have bought that skin tightening cream, and they had paid $100 a month more than my price range.

As hard as it is to believe, in this economy, or at any time for that matter, I was allowed to walk out of that showroom without ever having been asked my name or  how to contact me, without being presented a business card, and with no offer of follow-up.

Just as soon as I have a new car from a dealer who values my business, I’m going to reprise that scene in Pretty Woman where, after having spent a fortune on clothes in another store, Julia Roberts walks back in to the Rodeo Drive boutique that wouldn’t serve her the day before, and says to them, “You work on commission, right?” I was in here before and you wouldn’t serve me. Big mistake.”

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