Sad Commentary on our Times


Today I was with my Mom, who turns 91 in a few weeks. She had arranged for a caregiver for Fred, and we hopped into my car and sped off to Joplin a few miles from her home. Mom had a list of places to go – Michaels for some framing, the bookstore, and a department store we will call Chrisman’s. It’s name isn’t Chrisman’s, but after what I tell you, let’s allow that name to stand. First, we had to go to the women’s area and return some underthings she had bought the last time, changed her mind about before putting on, and wanted a refund for. Then we went to the men’s department, in another store location in the mall.
Fred needed undershirts. So first, Mom was eyeing the Ralph Lauren shirts, which sold for $10 each. Then we noticed a different brand that were packaged three to a bag, for less; in fact, they would even sell a second bag for half price. We noticed a lot of things were on sale during this excursion, but there weren’t many shoppers. The man at the counter was very helpful, and explained that the brand we were considering were actually better than the Ralph Lauren shirts, and cheaper.
“You can buy a Ralph Lauren outfit for $145 here that was made in China for 25 cents,” the sales clerk said. “We don’t have much in the store that isn’t made in China.”
Then we got to talking about the economy. The clerk, a man who appeared to be in his late 30’s or early 40’s, said he used to work for the railroad as a conductor; but he lost that job when the railroad cut costs and eliminated jobs. The one he had was the only one he could get.
“I was working on an MBA at Pittsburg, but I had to stop because I needed to work,” he said. I asked him if he missed wearing the conductor’s uniform, and he came alive; I could see in his eyes that this had been a dream job for him.
“I never wore the overalls and the cap, but I wore a suit,” he said. And then he told me about posh trains frequented by the “big brass” and what that was like as a conductor.
We talked about work opportunities. I told him I was also laid off last year at the local university due to my job being eliminated, and was working on a Ph.D. while looking for a job. I also told him about the University of Phoenix, and suggested he consider continuing his education there while working. He sounded interested. Then he said, “If you know anyone who needs a job, tell them not to work here.”
Isn’t it sad that a man who used to have a job he loves, being a train conductor, is now reduced to working at a department store selling goods made in China? And why is this the case? We are all to blame. We should be ashamed of ourselves for allowing our manufacturing base to go overseas. Stores who sell goods created off shore may be be able to sell the goods cheaper, but in the end we all pay a huge price for the “bargains.” I hear people all the time complain about having to dial 1 for English when they make a call to businesses. But these same people think nothing of stocking up on merchandise that is ruining the American way of life. What will it take? Does the light have to go out of all our eyes before we get it? Do we all have to hit bottom before we are willing to change?

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