Friday, September 26, 2008

I barely made it through the week. That day off I had anticipated early on was just a brief delusion, wishful thinking. Now I'm behind schedule on next week's big order, which puts it in the league of everything else I've been meaning to get done before Halloween -that holiday that looms as a Spectre of Eternal Responsibility. My costume has been chosen: "DAD". Don it and the zipper breaks. The costume never comes off.

There is no Big Home Show this weekend, which is good because I'm not sure I can set up and tear down those bundles of aluminum again. It's not just me, it's that the dented things won't hold anymore. The temptation is to just scrap it and replace it, but that will cost a pretty penny. I should probably just piecemeal the thing back together for the next Show, and live with it until we're in a good place to buy a new one. Or I could call the dealers and hammer them to foot the bill, since I'm the one bringing them the business. But I divide my sales between the dealers, because they serve different options at different prices, (we're a satisfy-the-customer outfit who will design at the beckoning of your whimsy.) The dealers know this, and want ALL the business, so there's a certain reluctance from them to give up their wares for advertising and display purposes. "Then increase your product-line!" I say. In this wobbly-kneed economy? Forget it.

I think I just made an analogy for the current economic crisis. What do I know about the economy? Next to nothing. But I am a moderately-successful business owner and I know my flaws and failings as well as my strengths and successes. I'm one of these guys who thinks the economy can all be dumbed down. It's not like particle physics, where it's all theory and principle and stuff you can't see working on a molecular level (the Large Hadron Collider is down for the season, by the way. The discovery of God and ultimate destruction of the planet has been put off until next spring. Seems they're having problems with the magnets. I ask you: when you were a kid, weren't you convinced that all the mysteries of the universe lay inside the magnets? Quantum physicists overwhelmingly agree.) Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, the Economy. No, the economy is all about workers and bankers and capital and the price of money. I know that they shouldn't have lent me all that money to buy this house, but I was willing to accept the risk. I've been good on it. Others weren't so smart, or so lucky. The banks probably shouldn't have done it. People probably shouldn't have taken the loans. There should have been more governmental oversight. Politicians didn't act. Some bankers pretended nothing was wrong and exploited the system. Now? Well, we're all going to have to pay. And those of us who worked harder and made sacrifices to be good on our debts are ticked off about it.

I've always thought "banking" was just "sales," and if you want to be a successful salesman and make as much money as possible, sell the most expensive thing because the commissions are higher! And what's the most expensive thing? Money. And every salesman pretends their product is worth more than it is -this makes the customer more satisfied and the salesman more money- but it's a very fine line between honesty and deceit. It is no less true with the bankers buying and selling all these loans. The funny thing is, the banks are going out of business, and everybody else will just go back to work -at least until their business needs to borrow money to expand, or their customers can't borrow money to buy their product, and then there will be less work to go around. Does this affect me, lowly aluminum patio cover installer? You bet it does. Why would someone want to borrow money to build a patio cover when that loan's gonna cost them so much. Better to wait. Save it. Now, throw in the world market and its international investors and the panicky greedy types on Wall Street and the Fed messing with the rates every other day and a certain lack of policing the system and a certain lack of consumer confidence and you have a Perfect Storm trickling down on all of us. Get out the plywood for the windows. Hang on to your hats.

Here's an interesting piece on the current solution. It distills it pretty well and dumbs it down enough for the proletariat to grasp.

Like the politicians, the Little Ditchman is obsessed with "change", too. A few weeks ago we showed her a piggy bank and tried to teach her what the coins were: pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters. She still thinks five pennies is better than one quarter, but now when I come home from work, she hears me jingle my keys and shouts "change!" and demands whatever loose cash I have on hand so she can run upstairs and put it in the piggy. Seeing her joy at the reception and dance of the coins is worth whatever it costs at face value -literally every penny- and a quarter only goes in once, while five pennies go in five times and get five smiles. So five pennies is worth more, and such are the economics of family. I was saving the change for some new corals for the aquarium. She saves it because it's neat. We both get more than our money's worth when I give her every last nickel I have.

If you think the American Economy is more complex than all this, well, it is. But if you think I'm being too simplistic, then what are we all really worried about? Inflation. A drop in business. Losing the house. But let's keep some perspective here: we can afford to lose the house.

The home we take with us.