When The Well Runs Dry

His debt has become ours, and that’s not fair. His cavalier mentality is like that of the younger brother who goes to the county fair with the family and keeps blowing money on games, food, and rides. Every 20 minutes or so he returns to Mom and Dad with his hand out. “I’m out of money again,” and Mom plops another $20 in his hand, which he promptly wastes and then returns for more. When Dad finally says, “That’s enough,” the son starts crying uncontrollably on the midway, having a meltdown because his demand exhausted the supply, and he now realizes he should have been more careful with the expenditures. It’s all spilled milk.

Party Over

I know this is a giant oversimplification, and I am sure anyone who has been laid off or fired in the last few years is boiling right now because it is “different” for them. Let’s be honest here. I think all of us bear some of the responsibility for what’s happened–not the economy, not the politicians, not the market place–just us.

We knew deep in our hearts that one day the party would end, but we plowed forward as if it never would, ignoring that little voice that said, “That’s an awful lot to pay for a car” or “You know, if one thing goes wrong, this huge mortgage will blow up in our face.” We swatted that Jiminy Cricket away from our ear as if it was a summer picnic fly.

How To Be A Man

InBerea,Ohio, where I was born, three streets triangulate the center of downtown, thus the distinction of having a “town triangle” instead of a “town square.” Locals are proud of that unique trivia. In my youth, Schneider’s Drug Store, Whitey’s Army/Navy Store, Art’s Men’s Shop, and other quaint businesses adorned the triangle, and on the “away” side–next to the hardware store and across the street from the pool hall–sat Pappy and Uncle Mike’s Barber Shop. Pappy (my mom’s dad) learned the trade of barbering around age 40 when the country no longer needed men to haul chunks of ice or coal into a house.

This small town was full of men with character, pride, and responsibility. They took great care to live in a way that made their families proud. They minimized risk because they didn’t want to appear needy, and, as a rule, put themselves last.

On Saturday mornings, Pappy would take me to the shop, where he would re-shave my “Princeton” haircut. I’d read comic books, sneak peeks at the girlie magazines he kept in the back, and just hang around until Dad whistled from across the street for me to join him for a hamburger for lunch at the pool room. It was a simpler time, and I saw each day as a privilege. From the customers at the barber shop who gave me hard candies to the pool-room men who gave me dimes to play the pinball machines all afternoon, there were constant examples of “how to be a man.”

Here’s one I always remember. Pappy used to keep $1 bills in his left pocket and $10 bills in his right. When he had 10 $1 bills, he exchanged them for a $10 bill. When he had 10 $10 bills, he exchanged them for a $100 bill, which he promptly added to a rubber-banded roll hidden in a cigar box in the basement. Eventually, he would count the money and then drive his current car tointo the local dealership.  He would choose a new car, offering his current car as trade plus the cash he had in his hand–title, license, and tax, out the door. In this way, he was always driving a car that was never more than 5 years old, and it was one he had selected, on his terms–one he saved for, waited for, and planned for.

If we had thought more like that several years ago, wouldn’t we have avoided some of the “terrible way the country is treating us?”

Ron Ciancutti is the Purchasing Manager for Cleveland Metroparks. He is not on Facebook, but he can be reached at rdc@clevelandmetroparks.com.

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