Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Sanford Syndrome

Growing up in the 1950's meant that, at least for us, we would live a different lifestyle than we constantly saw on TV.  We wouldn't know the joys of a color television until the early 1970's, nor have more than one television, or telephone.  We were the post-war generation, whose parents scrimped and saved to get us to adulthood.  I am reminded of this every time I switch on the television, and see ads for expensive new cars, computers, and electronic gadgets.  While as kids, we saw the ads for the latest things, but remember the ads for things our families could afford.  "See the USA in your Chevrolet" was designed to appeal to our patriotism, and convince us to buy a new car.  For most of our families, that was the impossible dream.  Instead, we watched commercials where the new car dealers tempted us with used cars.  How weird was that? We went to school in hand-me-downs, some of them from acquaintances, some from distant relatives.  
That's the point I'm trying to make here is that most people these days, have to make do with castoffs from the more affluent society.  Our wages just aren't enough to let us live the American dream.  It's kind of sad that the lives that our country promised us, have been replaced by a second-hand lifestyle.  Our wages have never kept up with the cost of living, and inflation has destroyed our buying power.  We can't even afford to stay the same, as prices keep going up.

And so we live our lives with the castoff items of the better off.  It's not just a small percentage of society that does this anymore, either.  It's not like I'm complaining, though.  I'm more than happy to buy used things at estate sales and thrift shops.  In fact, I feel smarter than those folks that paid way too much for an item, just because it was "in" at the time.

In the 1970's, there was a television show called "Sanford and Son".  It was about a junk dealer who dealt in second hand items.  We watched it back then, as young people who had the world by the tail.  We mocked those that would buy something second hand.  There was no limit to what we could earn.  I'm still in awe of the day I received a raise, and actually surpassed my father's income.  There was nothing we couldn't do!
Reality has a way of bitch-slapping you back to earth, though.  By the 1990's, we found that our money didn't go very far anymore.  We found ourselves having to make do with less than perfect things to get by.  We bought used cars, shopped garage sales and flea markets in order to buy what we needed at the lowest price possible.

It's far worse in this new millennium.  Nearly everyone shops the second hand stores and estate sales.  I have found myself in the position of being a "Fred Sanford" myself as of late.  I have been working for an estate sale company selling off the belongings of the deceased and passing along bargains in the process.  There is a certain cachet to doing this.  People tend to seek me out, asking me to be on the lookout for things they need.  I see most of our customers around town, so I am always in contact with them.  If I do find what they want, I'm always willing to negotiate a fair price for it.  This makes everyone happy, as they always know what the price is for a new item.  This is the "second generation American dream", I guess.  We have little chance of buying new, and have to resort to used merchandise.  I just try to make the experience a little more fun.  

We have learned to keep things longer, fix what we have to make it last, and do what it takes to get by in this new economy.  Hand-me-downs aren't so bad anymore, and junk has now become junque for most of us.  I'm sure not complaining, as now I've found my niche in the second hand world.

RIP Fred Sanford, your business is in good hands!

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