What $300,000 can buy you in Boston

11 06 2009

The Boston Globe today ran a gushing story about the sale of a parking place in our fair city’s tony Back Bay neighborhood.  The sales price?  $300,000.  That’s right.  Three….hundred…thousand…dollars.

Now, the reporter DID point out that that is a tad more than folks pay for their homes, but the no-nonsense (and blissfully clueless) agent who sold the space brushed that query off by saying “There’s only so many parking spaces available in the city.”

$300,000!?!   To park your car….outside, I might add.  I guess it’s a cool million if you want garage parking.

At first, I this story made me laugh at how proudly folks still flaunt excess…in the midst of the worse recession since the Depression.

Then, when I went to the grocery store a little while later, the story pissed me off.

Here’s why.  I was in our local Roche Brothers.  A very suburban grocery store in about the very suburban part of Boston (they offer parking for free in this part of town!).  Bottom line:  it’s the kind of grocery store that my Texas friends would be comfortable in!

So, I’m zipping around from aisle to aisle and I come to a screeching halt behind this elderly couple that was moving at whatever is slower than a snail’s pace.  They were so hesitant–stopping, turning, picking up cans, looking at them, putting them back, over and over–that I, and several other shoppers turned my cart around and went the other way down the aisle.

I ran into them about three more times while shopping.  Always, they were blocking an aisle.   Poor things, I judged.  They must be losing it.

They ended up behind me in the check-out line.  I turned around and could not believe that their cart–after all that pain staking, slow effort–had exactly 6 cans of chicken broth in it; 4 cans of green beans, some juice and a carton of eggs.

Then, I looked in the wife’s hands.  She was holding coupons…and food vouchers.

It all made sense.

They weren’t senile.  They were trying to stretch their vouchers. And, like so many Americans, they had come up short.

Suddenly, I was taken back to my days as a kid after my parents got divorced.  We never had to resort to food stamps, but my mom did have to make a $90 a week salary feed and clothe my sister and me (not to mention my mother).  She never said anything when we kidded her for being so obsessive about coupons.  And she’d distract us from the reality of not having enough money, by challenging us to find “deals” when we were in the grocery store.

The couple I saw today was too old…and too beaten down..to make stretching the dollar into a fun game.

You could tell by looking at them that they had worked hard their entire lives.  Raised their kids.  Probably served their country.  Most definitely went to church.  Bought a home.  Lived the American dream…only to have that dream crushed by the greed of  their fellow countrymen, right as they were walking, hand-in-hand, into the sunset of their lives.

As I was seeing all of this, the woman and I exchanged glances.  She smiled the most beautiful smile I’ve seen in a long time.

“They’ll be just fine,” I thought to myself.  They have each other and I bet they have good kids and lots of faith.

The rest of us?

If we continue to live in a society that places greed over values, I wonder how long the “American dream” will last.  If things don’t change, I wonder how long it deserves to.

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One response

14 06 2009
sus

This is so sweetly sad. Thanks for sharing.

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