Thursday, May 18, 2006

Curse of the Middle Class

This is what "middle-class" looks like in San Francisco: I just finished lunch -- a frozen (vegetarian) corn dog, popcorn and a Coke. It is 63 degrees in our house. I am debating whether to go put air in the tires of our 1998 Subaru Outback, with its 105,000 miles and persistent fan belt rattle, or to stay here, look for potential homes for my inactive clients, and listen to my favorite baseball team, the Seattle Mariners, get trounced by the local Oakland A's.

I am sitting in a house almost entirely devoid of fruit. Earlier I went to my usual go-to fruit source, the blue bowl, only to find one sad, lonely lemon inside. I am not the type to just eat a lemon. I left it alone. No pretzels, either. Not even the Jawa's sub-par tiny twists, useful only when we have run out of my superior honey wheat stick things. Fortunately, we had convenient, 100 calorie single packs of popcorn on hand. Please hold the transfat.

Most of you know that Sandra Bullock is very successful. She has been in her industry since 3 weeks after college graduation and has traveled a steady path of promotion since then. Her latest promotion made her a Director at her company. And yet she drives our paint-peeling, fan belt-rattling, 100,000+ miles-having Subaru to work each day. "The BMW guy who parks next to me noticed that my tire was low," she said to me last night, so she left the Subaru home for me today.

National polls and various statistics that I will refer to but not back up in any meaningful way will try to convince you that we are wealthy. According to this web site, Sandra Bullock's salary puts her among the top earners in the country. And yet, if I were to go out right now and buy a $15.99 CD, there would be real trouble when I got home and revealed my contraband purchase to the rest of my family.

Sandra Bullock and I both usually wear clothes that are several years old, except for the ones we get twice a year when Ken Dunque slips us the passes to the GAP friends and family sale. "This t-shirt is older than the Jawa," she will sometimes point out. When she does this, I assume and hope, she is not drawing attention to my lack of earning capability. Instead, she is ironically noting that, in most of the country, regardless of what pennies I can manage to earn, her success alone would translate into a comfortable lifestyle. Perhaps we would live in a sprawling, 3,000 square foot home, drive not one but two autos with less than 100,000 miles on them. Our child would attend a comfortable, non-scary public school and we would take vacations when we chose. People would find it refreshing to see a family where to mother made the money and the father was the "primary care giver."

Meanwhile, back in Glen Park, the wind whips through our aged aluminum frame windows. We San Franciscans make these sacrifices to live in our progressive, liveable, open-minded city. It is, after all, an "E" ticket ride. We can't imagine living anywhere else. Most of us, anyway.

6 Comments:

Anonymous flush puppy said...

There's still 17th AVE...Think of the porch we could have beers on THERE! but why italicize those words in the final paragraph? Like the rest of us live in a non-progressive, non-livable, close-minded city?

2:40 PM  
Anonymous gedalya ben Yitzhak said...

Fan belts don't rattle. Water pumps rattle. But the water pump should have been replaced when you replaced the timing belt. You did replace the timing belt?

5:59 PM  
Blogger Bud and/or Marsi said...

my wife buys our produce at the .99 store. it's different every week, but you can't beat the price. hey gedalya - do corollas have timing belts?

8:19 PM  
Anonymous zelda said...

okay--so i was not sure what you meant about your dad using his Hebrew name but i think i've got it figured out. todah rabah, gedalya, for the example :)

in today's writing, you bring up a fascinating argument: dollar value vs. emotional value. $ vs. heart? yes. as the primary wage-earner in my one-person family i make more in dollars and cents here in san francisco than my father, a fully-tenured professor at an acclaimed midwestern university, does in one of those dozens of states in the middle of the country starting with "I" (incidentally referred to by people here in california as "back east"). this causes him incredible consternation once each year, about a month before Christmas, when i call specifically to haggle with him over splitting my ticket to come home for the holidays. "nine years after you moved out there, you still can't afford to come back?" he wants to know. um, no but thank you for pointing it out again (this is usually followed by some extremely sensitive and appropriate comment like "don't they pay you enough at that rich jew school?!" sigh...).

do i love the place where i grew up anywhere near as much as this place where i grew into myself? not even comparable, apples and oranges. the feeling i get as i walk down the C concourse to the united terminal at o'hare after a week in the midwest eating the dreaded, aforementioned trans fat when i finally see the sign above my gate that reads "SAN FRANCISCO" and i breathe a sigh of relief, knowing i am on my way home? whatever one's income, there is no price tag for that. so, i think i know what you mean...when the blue bowl gives you a lemon, eat it (with a veggie dog) in san francisco.

9:56 PM  
Blogger Lefty said...

good point there, z. have to remind myself sometimes that, in order to live happily in sf, you have to admit to being irrationally in love with the place. it's apples to everyone else's oranges.

2:08 PM  
Blogger Ken Dunque said...

Congratulations to S. on her promotion! You guys should have said something at dinner last night.

For me the SF v. home equation can be laid out something like this. Time to return home = (how lame your home town and city is)*(# of years you have been in SF)*(how effective your therapist is)*(your ability to forget/deal with the weather where you came from).

The good doc (aka Yo Ma Ma) and I are debating all this, I"ll let you know when we figure it out.

7:50 AM  

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