Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Avoiding a Depression

There’s an old expression that says a recession is when your neighbor loses his job; a depression is when you lose your job.

Recessions build one job—one small job—at a time.

Now that I’m home full-time, would it be so hard for me to mow the lawn each week instead of the gardener, or clean the house instead of the every-other-week housekeeper? I already do the laundry, so the added burden of dusting and vacuuming wouldn’t be so great. I even volunteered to cook and relieve Gilda of that chore when she comes home from work.

So far she has resisted my overtures. I’d have to buy a lawnmower and other equipment, and besides, I wouldn’t do a good job weeding, Gilda says. As for cleaning house, she doesn’t see me cleaning the toilets properly. And though she’d like relief from having to cook, she’s not ready to entrust her stomach to me (neither am I, to tell the truth).

Cooking aside, her ambivalence to my gardening and cleaning has real economic repercussions. Taking on those chores would reduce the income of our service providers. I don’t want to sound like we’re flush with cash or the most benevolent, altruistic people in the world. But the fact is, even though I’m unemployed we can still afford to have someone else cut our grass and clean our floors.

I’ve already seen what a decision to cut back on car service transportation to the airport, by me and countless other travelers, has wrought. My car service guy, who owned his own company with some five cars, now is a process server, bringing notices of foreclosures and evictions to those even less fortunate than him.

Yes, we’re in a recession, and we should carefully consider all of our purchases. But it would send me into a real depression to know that I’ve negatively impacted another’s livelihood when I don’t have to. At least for now.