The Have-Nots Are Down to Their Last Not

The train into Manhattan was ten minutes late the other day and to my surprise, a few people started talking. This was noteworthy because these people take the same train every day at the same time and stand in the same place each morning and sit roughly in the same area, and yet conversation is rare.
Perhaps because the weather was warm and there was nothing else to do, a few commiserated over how poor the Metro North service has become.

One gentleman, dressed in a custom-tailored Italian suit said, “Metro North has the money to fix these lines, but all the money goes to pensions. They’ve got to break those contracts.”

I’m sure rail workers have fabulous pensions and benefits, but it’s difficult work and dangerous: every couple of years someone dies on those tracks. When I think of Metro North issues, pensions don’t jump out as the reason for old trains, rickety tracks and delays. But no doubt pensions are a problem for lots of public operations, including Metro North.

I was tempted to jump in as these banker types bemoaned the wealth of these working folks, as if they were making millions illegally through insider trading. What are the odds each of these execs have a contract that is guaranteed even if they get fired?

But I’ve learned you have to pick you times for such engagements, and this didn’t feel like the time or place.

Someone needs to tell these folks that when the rules for the haves are different from the rules for the have nots, sooner or later the have nots are gonna rise up and make a big stink.

The haves are more disconnected today than ever to what’s really going on with folks who simply get by paycheck to paycheck. If this economic gap continues to grow, that will be a problem for all of us.






Gas @ 27 cents/gallon with Green Stamps to boot!

There’s one gas station in Westport that’s 5-10 cents cheaper than any other in town (if you pay cash). It’s an off-brand corner site with a convenience store crammed with cigarettes, lottery tickets and five-hour energy drinks.

For the past year I’ve driven past this station and virtually every week the gas price has gone up. There have been times when the price changed several times in a day. But last week, for the first time in ages, the price dropped.

I heard on the news that gas dropped nationally 15 cents. Not here. The price at my place is $4.03, down from a high of $4.09. Plenty of stations in the area are still north of $4.10.

I remember my dad filling up for 27 cents a gallon. A fill-up also got you green stamps or a gift. I remember collecting glasses with baseball team logos on them. Does anyone remember the Green Stamp Redemption Center?

It costs me over sixty bucks to fill my tank nowadays and there’s no gift or stamps. Fortunately, I don’t have to drive far these days, but how do families on tight budgets afford it?

And yet, because I always pay cash to save the 5 cents or so per gallon, I can’t help but notice the sorts in line when I go in to pay. Most are buying lottery tickets in bulk and cigarettes at $9 dollars a pack.

How on earth can they afford that? I don’t want to profile by their disheveled appearance, but I’m hard pressed to believe their mattresses are stuffed with cash.

My mattress doesn’t even have a dime, but with gas prices inching down, perhaps the costs of everything tied to gasoline (which is basically everything) will also come down. Somehow I doubt that will happen, but if we could just stop the increases, that would certainly make a difference in my world.

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