For a short time, I had a humorous/observational column in a local magazine called Upstate Women. Unfortunately, the magazine is no longer being published. I enjoyed the experience of writing a column so much, that I would like to continue writing in that vein. So once a month, I will offer a new column about something that bugs me in some way that may strike a chord with you, too.
Several of the columns you will see have already been published; the others were written after the demise of the magazine. The column will be called "Inanities" because I feel that is the word which aptly describes the things that make us want to smack our heads in frustration. Please let me know your reactions to these columns as I would enjoy hearing what bugs you, too. You can reach me at email@example.com.
THEY'RE GOING TO PUMP . . . YOU UP
by Nancy Rechtman
Inflate: (verb) Definition #1: to expand with air. Examples: blowing up balloons, beach balls, bicycle tires, kids' wading pools. Many people (read: males) believe they have enough hot air in their lungs to expand these objects with their own inflationary techniques, but using a pump is strongly suggested in order to avoid a trip to the emergency room.
Definition #2: make something appear larger. Examples: the importance of the boss's son. The egos of various wannabes in any industry. Silicone breast implants.
Definition #3: increase prices or money supply. Aha, that one is right on the money! So to speak. Have you made a trip to the grocery store in recent days? We were warned that the price of milk is about to blast off into the stratosphere. And I truly hope the struggling dairy farmers will reap the benefits of this price increase since they are the ones who actually deserve the money. But suddenly buying milk, cheese, yogurt and ice cream has become an exercise in stretching our budgets as taut as a worn-out rubberband.
We have been fortunate for the past few decades that we have not suffered from inflation the way we did back in the 70's when prices for all goods leapt exponentially higher on a daily basis. Along with dairy prices heading for Mars, we have been getting socked in the gut each time we go to fill up our gas tank. The fact that we do pay less for gas than those in other countries has led to the proliferation of the Paleolithic gas-guzzling monstrosities known as SUV's. When gas was only around $1.20 a gallon (remember those days?) people didn't think twice about buying a car as large as a house. Now, suddenly they are bewailing the fact that they need to take out a second mortgage just to fill up their gas tanks.
And the ripple effect of these prices has also affected air travel. I checked on airfares last month for my annual trek up North. They were somewhat higher than what I had paid last year, but still in the realm of reality. I checked the prices again last week and felt my blood pressure rise higher than a wayward parachute. They had practically doubled since last month! Not only would the same trip now involve writing a check almost as large as one for a new car, but we'd probably have to forget the kids going to college as well. What the heck is going on here? Yes, gas prices have gone up about 1/3 from where they were last year. But doubling the price of a short flight in the span of one month?
And who are the people who can afford to fly at these prices? Certainly not the people whose jobs have been outsourced to the far reaches of the world, and no longer available in America. (outsource: (verb) subcontract - to buy labor and parts from a source outside a company or business rather than using the company's staff or plant.) I hadn't been aware of the extent of outsourcing until each time I dialed an 800 number to try to get information about anything lately, I got someone on the other end with an almost unintelligible foreign accent. And, even then, I was assuming (we all know what happens when we assume, don't we?) that these people were actually located in America! Imagine my shock when I discovered that most of our information technology is now being handled by people oceans away. Well, I have a question. Why aren't we giving American companies incentives to keep the jobs here? There are plenty of hard-working people right here who need the work desperately. Why are their jobs streaming overseas? Why is it easier for these companies to hire people they will never see rather than keep the work here, especially in these difficult economic times? If people who have jobs are having trouble paying for food and transportation, what is happening to those who are desperately seeking work? If overseas labor is so cheap, perhaps we should outsource the highest executive positions of these companies, too, since an obscene percentage of the earnings made by most businesses goes to the inflated salaries and bonuses of those at the top.
I wish I had the answer that would solve these problems. But then I'd have to inflate my ego to gargantuan proportions and outsource the solution to a government that might actually care.
Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved. Small excerpts of the column may be republished as long as appropriate credit is given. To request permission to publish larger portions or the entire column, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.