Thursday, August 27, 2009

"Daddy, Can I Have One of These?"

We've been hearing about "the economy" for a long time now, and it is visible in so many ways. At the school where I'm employed, the staff is receiving a one percent pay increase for the coming year and we're grateful for that because we know that some other independent schools have no increase at all. In fact, I know of a school where employees were "asked to take" a decrease in salary.

Joe's work started to fall off a year ago, and is only just now starting to show some signs of recovery. Like everyone else, we've had to think hard before spending money. We certainly would not have gone on our March cruise had it not already been booked and paid for. A blogger friend has taken an additional job; I've inferred that it is because her husband is "between positions." When I asked a woman I know about her summer vacation plans, she said that they were not going away this year. "Philip isn't working right now," she said.

Yesterday I stopped at my favorite local grocery store to pick up some odds and ends for dinner. All three cash registers were open, and being in a bit of a hurry to get home, I got into the shortest line and quickly realized why there was no one else in it. Ahead of me was a young father with three little ones in tow. On the counter were piles of quarters, dimes, and nickels sorted out; there was a mixed heap and the cashier was counting out another dollar or two (or three) from it, trying to avoid the pennies. The small stash of groceries was further down on the counter; nothing was going into the bag until it was clear that there was enough cash to cover the purchases. The cashier seemed frustrated; she wasn't used to having to count that much change.

"I'm sorry," the man said to me. And all at once my impatience vanished. "Take your time," I told him. He counted, she counted, and I waited, silently hoping that nothing would have to be returned to the shelf. It took a while, but I really didn't care anymore.

At the end, all of the groceries went into the bags, and there was enough left over to add a Cow Tale for each of the kids.


11 comments:

PattiCakes said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
blushing rose said...

I'd have probably bought the wee ones a treat, on me ... & been very patient. TTFN ~Marydon

Nancy said...

This post touched my heart. Bless you for being so patient. This economy is going to give many children and adults (myself included) hard lessons.

Karen said...

It was so refreshing to read your post that was written in such a compassionate point of view. I know my first, selfish response would have been complete annoyance : (

Reading your post made me think that I would want to have offered to pay for their order.

Keep on writing, Nancy. You are making our world a better place to live.

PattiCakes said...

My heart goes out to that family. As tempted as I would have been to offer help, that might have stripped away even more of their dignity. Your kindness was merely in lessening what had to be an awkward moment.

I manage a staff of 20 in a medium-sized company. Many of my staff are women who are working mothers, with kids of various ages. Salary increases are limited to a max of 2%, with most being less, and managers getting increase at all. The husbands of 4 of my staff members were laid off during the past 8 months, and none have been able to find new jobs as yet. Not only are these women the only bread-winners in their families right now, their jobs are what provides health and dental insurance for their families. Several other women are working primarily for the benfits the job provides -- their husbands are self-employed and their families would not otherwise have health insurance. Health insurance, I might add, that the state of Pennsylvania now wants to tax. Much of their salary goes towards child care, transportation and work clothes, but they need those benefits. The office chit-chat isn't about where everyone is going for vacation, or what new shoes they just bought; it is about how they have stopped using paper towels in favor of washable rags in order to save money, or are shopping in thrift shops. Everytime I schedule a team meeting, I need to tell them up front that I just want to discuss general work issues, and NOT downsizing -- they are that paranoid, and just seem to be waiting for the axe to fall. Me? I'm 63, have already been through one down-sizing, and see no retirement in my immediate future because of the state of my pension; it's a hell of a thing when your company death benefit is greater than your company pension. But I am lucky because I still have a job.

Counting coins in the check-out line? Yep, tell them to take all the time they need. And say a prayer.

Nancy said...

I get so angry with cashiers that get frustrated when someone uses something other than a debit card or dollar bills. Money is Money, no matter how it is presented. Whether it is a senior citizen using the last change of the month or a child spending money from their piggy bank, lets all be as patient as you were when we are behind them in line.

Jan said...

What a lovely post! Times are difficult for so many folks right now, and I do believe that the current state of the economy will change the lives of many for years and years to come! So much has been lost by folks who have been saving for so long. We're down South in FL and it has taken a terrible, terrible beating; and our business is no exception. It's been extremely hard and I'm not quite sure we'll pull thru ... I will continue to lift all the folks that have been effected daily in my prayers and that includes the nice family you ran into :)

StitchinByTheLake said...

Oh that breaks my heart! I feel so blessed to be retired and getting a retirement check - I know there are many in the same position of the man you saw. I've stepped up my giving to the homeless shelter by clipping every coupon I find and using them so I can buy extras. blessings, marlene

Tanya said...

Yes, I noticed this year when I was in the States how poor the economy is. More stores (big ones) had closed down or changed hands. In Japan too, the town I live in is like a ghost town with all the shutters down. I am thankful that there is still work for me to do that pays some of the bills...

dot said...

I probably would have offered to pay for the groceries. Hard times bring out the best in people. I will pray for this young father.

Debra @ Life is a Stitch said...

It is hard sometimes. But makes you realize that you are thankful for what is your "enough"...