Two Faces of a Daily Coffee Run
As the U.S. Economy steadily grinds down and straight toward the direction that many European nations are already facing, one can tend to ignore the signs of economic and social decay if not personally affected by them. Likewise, the more obscured signals of decline can easily go unnoticed if we simply don’t take the time to look and interpret what is happening all around us.
Each weekday as I make my way to work, I stop at the local Panera Bread to pick-up my morning coffee and often, a bagel. Like most other Panera Breads, this one is situated on a busy avenue in a plaza full of stores, shops and small offices. Between the people who rush in and out on their way to work, retirees hanging-out, and well-dressed marketing reps picking-up breakfast treats in volume for their customers, it’s a bustling place. It’s so bustling in fact; that I usually park all the way in the back of the plaza, as far from the crowd as I can get. That way; not only do I prevent having the shiny red paint on my car dinged-up by careless doors, but it also positions me to take the quick route out by exiting through the little-used alleyway behind one particular row of businesses.
Parking in the rear of this otherwise nice plaza reveals the neglected and less visually-attractive areas of the stores and shops that naturally place the bulk of their efforts out-front and indoors in the spirit of efficient resource allocation. But the more eye-opening aspect of being there is that it has given me a more rounded perspective on the state of the economic condition in America. You see; just as I’m a regular at Panera Bread, the other regulars who are still able to enjoy a nice cup of coffee and maybe breakfast, come in, often nicely dressed and well-groomed for the day ahead. However, life in the back of the lot paints a very different picture from the one up front.
There I also encounter a few daily regulars. But these regulars face a far different circumstance from the ones in front. Theirs is one of ragged-edge day-to-day survival. Far back in that lot I regularly encounter cars that are parked overnight, having become a home of last resort to the homeless. I have actually pulled-up to find people awakening from a night of sleep, and others scrounging the dumpsters for whatever they can find that will help the immediate situation. For some, that means anything of value that can be sold; like metal or cardboard. And for others, yes…it can mean food. While this may seem overly analytical; I find it a paradox that these two stark contrasts exist not in different areas of the same town, or even on the same street…but on the very same parcel of property. Essentially, they share the same taxable footprint.
As I ponder what it must be like to be in the situation that these people have found themselves, I can’t help but imagine the difficulty of lifting oneself from that level. Just consider some of the things that we take for granted in our society that go into becoming gainfully employed. A computer, nice laundered and pressed clothing, access to good basic grooming, some operating cash, an established address and perhaps a checking account. And there’s more of course. Once the basics that most of our parents would normally start us off with become undone, it must be pretty difficult to climb back in the game.
I think that a close look around us, not only at the nicer areas that we all prefer, but also in the more obscure and less desirable spots, will teach us something about what’s happening socially and economically, and the rate at which it is happening. For those of us who are still afloat, it’s probably time to become proactive, if you aren’t already, in order to minimize the political and economic damage that is being inflicted upon us as we speak. Awareness and a proactive plan will lower your chances of going in the dangerous direction that many of us are being led.
Pablo Ortiz is a creative writer in marketing and a regular contributor to GreeneWave.com. He writes out of Lakeland, Florida.
Topher Morrison is the editor and a regular contributor at GreeneWave and creator of his own blog at PurpleSerf.com. He holds B.A.s in Political Science and Philosophy from Arizona State University. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.