Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Rich, The Poor, And The Attitudes


Back in the late 90s, during one of the times I was trying to get out of this nasty music business, I drove a truck for Big Brothers and Big Sisters for a couple of years.  Our job was to pick up donations from people who were contacted by our “solicitors”.  They would leave their donations in a conspicuous place in front of their residence or business, and mark it, “BBBS”.  One of the glaring things I noticed, and this was consistent, something that happened no less than 99% of the time, was that in the more affluent neighborhoods, there would be a lot less addresses to stop at, and the ones that did agree to leave a donation, many would not leave anything, and the ones who did, it would be a pair of used socks, ONE used t shirt, or, in many cases, plain and simple junk that should have been thrown in the trash.  I remember one house I stopped at – it was in the rich part of town, looked to have 8 bedrooms or so, two story, huge two car garage, big yard both front and back.  Well, they had a folding table set up in the front yard, near the sidewalk, with a few pieces of junk sitting on it.  It was used, rusted out pieces of metal, wadded up balls of rusted out wire, and other miscellaneous stuff that was totally useless.  When I pulled up, there were maybe 7 or 8 of these things on the folding table.  A young-ish woman came out as I approached the house, and said, “Ok, here’s your stuff”.  I started to load in into the truck, and when I returned for the next armful, she has brought out a few more items and put them on the table – more junk.  I took my next load to the truck, came back to find that she had brought even more junk.  This went on for about 45 minutes, my truck was about a third full of this woman’s useless trash.  By the time I was done loading up all this crap, I was fuming, called into the main office and vented a little, only for the lead driver to tell me to “calm down”.  Needless to say, all of her stuff went straight into the dumpster at Savers (, similar to a Salvation Army store, where we delivered all the donations to).  The rich neighborhoods usually did stuff like this, but not usually quite that bad, and quite that sneaky.  This woman was obviously ready for me, and ready to trick me into hauling that junk away – instead of calling the city refuse people to come and get it.  I figured she probably tried this once before, but just had the whole load of junk sitting out front, at which time the driver told her he was not obligated to haul away her trash.  So, in order to get even, she pulled this, and I had the misfortune of being the one to be her stooge.  Funny, in the poorer neighborhoods, there were many, many stops, and most of them would leave bags and boxes of donations – most of which were in good enough condition to be sold at Savers.  We’d have the occasional sourpuss, but most were pretty good about all of it.

Back even further, around 92, I made a trip to Nashville, I really had no business being there, with all my personal B.S. that was happening at the time, but, while I was there, I got shanghai’d into working for the Kirby Vacuum Cleaner Company.  I was only there a short time, but I was there long enough to see a pattern.  In the more affluent neighborhoods, the people were rude, condescending, and sanctimonious.  There were a couple of times when the people who lived at the house would tell me which room they wanted to have cleaned, and then get in their car and leave me there by myself.  This is the way Kirby advertised – they would offer to clean and shampoo one room, and that would be the demonstration for the machine.  Of course, these rich people knew that, and looking back, they were doing nothing more than shaming me, ridiculing me, and probably snickering the whole time.  As with Big Brothers/Big Sisters, in the poorer neighborhoods, the people were always attentive, sometimes apprehensive, and sometimes even a little angry, but they would sit through the demonstration.  I only sold a few machines, and you get three guesses which people bought them – hint – they  were certainly not in the rich parts of town.

There’s more.  When I was in Austin in the mid to late 2000s, I had a little hula company, we did live Hawaiian music and hula.  The thing that comes to mind first is this one black woman who called to book us for her party, she dickered and dickered an dickered over the price.  She got us down from $300 down to $250 – that’s fifty bucks, for the arithmetically challenged.  We get to her house, and it’s a mansion – four stories, each level being its own house with 6 or 7 bedrooms, 4 or 5 bathrooms, huge living area, huge dining area, and at least two of the levels, there was a huge, full kitchen.  This house was right on Lake Austin, complete with swimming pool, Jacuzzi, concrete statues around the pool area, and a nice sized boat tied to the launching dock right outside the gate that went to the lake.  The husband sat there for the first 20 minutes of my being there after I got done setting up the sound system, telling me all about his multi million dollar business, his huge house, his cars, etc.  And these people just HAD to save the fifty dollars at our expense.  It was the same, poorer people treated us very well, made us feel welcome, made sure we had something to eat, and were happy when they handed us the check at the end of the show.  I don’t need to tell you how much hassle it was when we played for the Rich and the Ruthless.  I remember one in particular – huge ballroom in an upscale hotel, huge first class buffet, bunch of uppity people at the party.  Before we went on stage to do the show, somebody came to us and said, “Follow me, we have dinner for you guys”.  They took us into a room that looked like it had been hit by a hurricane, and pointed to a table that had a bunch of brown bag lunches – sandwiches and potato chips, and we went to the drinking fountain to wash down our food.  Back in the mid 90s, I did a bunch of luaus in Hawaii – mostly for lower income people on the west side of the island – the families would get together, pitch in, set up, cook, and there would be anywhere from 100 – 300 people.  Not only did they NEVER try to question our price, but they always made sure we, the entertainers, ate as much as we wanted – they would wait on us hand and foot, making sure we were comfortable, always felt so welcome by those folks.

This is no coincidence, this is a definite pattern of behavior.  I’m sure there are exceptions, and I’m sure they’re very rare.  In my lifetime I’ve noticed this, the “Haves” are very selfish, self serving, greedy, and they treat folks less fortunate than them like they are lower forms of life.  My own step dad is one of ‘em, I had the misfortune of going to restaurants for dinner with him and my mom on a few occasions over the years, and let me tell you, I was beyond embarrassed by the way he treated the wait staff, and this jerk was not even rich (fairly well off, but no rich), he was more of a put on than anything else – and one of those sleazy sales type guys who would go to parties and make the rounds, selling everybody on his latest pyramid scheme product – form Super Bluegreen Algae to the water ionizer to the Chi Machine to the Hothouse, on and on and on.    I have tons more of glaring examples of this, but hopefully you get the idea.  And, let’s not forget that most rich people see poor people as the reason for all the ills of the world, and that we are nothing more than a bunch of lazy people who have no ambition, and who only have our hands our expecting free stuff.

As with most things, I have no answers, only observations, and lots of disgust.  Sorry, but that’s my reality.

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