Sunday, I was working at the Kwik Fill, the local gas station where I work. It was slow, and I had time to get to know my co-worker, Zac. A man pulled up, and filled his tank, and came inside to pay. Zac and I were talking about the counterfeiter that has been hitting the local gas stations. She drives an Aveo, a gray car with New York plates. She is in her fifties, thin, with bleached blonde hair. We got a pretty good picture of her when she hit us up Friday morning. It was busy, and the manager was running the register. The woman came in and called out, 'I'll set the money for my gas right here, honey!' and walked back out. The manager picked up the money immediately, realized it was fake, and headed out the door after her, but she was pulling out of the parking lot and headed north. We have a lot of information about her, but she has yet to be caught. The man asked some questions about it, interestedly. I mentioned that my husband feels that as times get harder, these sort of things will happen more frequently. Hard times sometimes bring out the best in people, but also, hard times bring out the very worst in people too. Tim believes that many people in our neck of the woods seem to have this sense of entitlement, that somehow, they are owed a living. He believes these people will resort to stealing, and robbery, and counterfeiting, because they don't have a conscience. They do not believe that it is wrong for them to take what they are 'owed', according to Tim. Sometimes, I can honestly say, reading the papers, I think that he may be right.
Anyhow, this fellow said, in a very important way, that he was in town because he had been invited to address the local meeting of the Tea Party. He then began to hold forth on his views that raising the minimum wage had destroyed this country, made us unable to compete in the global market. I said, "I can see why you would believe that, but consider this, as well: The minimum wage is not a liveable wage. Can you live on $7.25 an hour? Truly. I can't." I went on to explain that both my husband and I were jobless, that I know lots of people who diligently work their minimum wage jobs, but are still grindingly poor, unable to afford health insurance, let alone keep food on the table. That is a fact. "Why," I asked him, "are the company shareholders for corporations like McDonalds entitled to obscene profits on the backs of the little people that have nothing, nothing at all but that minimum wage?" And he said to me that I was right. That wasn't fair. "However," he explained, "I'm referring to more to the manufacturing sector." He continued speaking, and it seemed as if he was suggesting that we have two minimum wages. I told him that my husband was a machinist. I told him that he was a very hard worker. The problem in my eyes is not the minimum wage. It is that companies are able to take their business overseas to third world countries and exploit those people. There are no taxes to make this option unattractive to these companies, so our country bleeds machinist jobs (like many other trades). He really, at some point, ceased to have answers but I do have to say that he was listening. I can get kind of passionate about things. I said, "Do you have any idea what it is like to have everything in the world going for you. You're planning for your retirement. You and your husband are working hard. Then all of a sudden, you've got cancer, and....(at this, his eyes widened. "You had cancer?!!" "Yes, I finished treatment at the end of last April.") I continued on, "and everything changes. Your husband's company closes up, and the insurance is gone, and there is no COBRA when your company simply closes its doors. His job is lost, and then he finally gets another job, but is laid off in a matter of months, and then laid off again. I lost my job due to State Budget cuts." I looked at him. "Neither one of us are lazy. We are hardworking people trying to do the best we can."
Mr. Tea Party looked at me, and I looked at him. There was no animosity. We were just two people staring at each other from different sides of the fence. He said, "Hey, if I hear of a job, I'll come back in and let you know." "Thanks," I said. "Have a good day!" He left.
Betcha bucks I never see him again. Still. He was the most interesting customer I had that Sunday afternoon.