Thursday, December 11, 2008

It's the Stupid Economy

I sure wish I could figure out who the idiot was that screamed fire in this crowded theater we have come to know as the economy, or at least figure out whose bright idea it was to simply stampede for the exits on hearing what well could have been a false alarm because I would get some small satisfaction out of throttling them, though certain I am that this would now have no positive effect on the vicious cycle they've wittingly or not--it makes no difference--unleashed upon us all.

Business at the restaurant is literally half of what it was last year at this time. I'm not to be quoted on this, as I've not seen any numbers and, as readers of this journal may well know by now, I am not to be trusted when it comes to the reporting of numbers in any case. This, therefore, is merely apocryphal and second-hand at best.

But as I have written of before in describing the Waiter Index, or WI, there is some crude, yet clearly visible measure of politics and the economy of the whole to be found in a waiter's tip. It is, perhaps, more accurate to speak of the average check size, or the percent of seats occupied on any given night, especially the weekends, but no matter how you measure it, the blind men will all have to agree that there is now an elephant in the room. It's the stupid economy.

We are seeing this phenomenon causing stupid changes here at the University as well. For example, here in our Office, I have forever been accustomed to going down to the vending machine and buying a bag of chips or a candy bar, then getting a soda from the Office fridge for a mid-morning pick-me-up. On my more frugal days, I'll even bring the chips or cereal, etc, but I always expected to be able to take advantage of what is my 'perk' here in our office, a free soda when I want one.

Well, that may I say modest expectation came to an end last month, when I discovered a sign on the door of the fridge allowing us the privilege of bringing our own sodas in and storing them gratis in the fridge, but disallowing us the privilege of taking one of the fifteen-cent cans for our personal use. I have been told that we may continue to offer them to guests, so I urge you, if you plan to come visit me at work, to come by around noon, as that is when I am the thirstiest.

Sadly, I may not, however, offer you a trailmix bar, as the large glass container in the conference room that used to be full of them, also serving as an occasional treat for a screen-weary web warrior, is now empty. No sign is needed. There will be no more treats, for me or you.

Nor will there be the electric car that our Office just purchased. It is deemed extravagant, though it does mean people will be using hydrocarbon powered--ok, gas--vehicles at least in part. That there will be more walking, there is no doubt, but to what end? Appearances can be deceiving, even when they are meant to be sincere. The motives for closing the barn door after the horses are out need some serious examination.

I know that I for one, will not remain silent in a meeting if called on for cost-saving ideas. I'll suggest that we quit cutting false corners and pretending to save money by plucking it from the pockets of the staff and address the issue of over-hiring of faculty and lack of facility planning on the part of previous administrations, here unnamed. Releasing a single--or even, heaven forbid, two-- faculty member from a long-term commitment might be enough to ease the pressure of both staff and the limited facilities--ie classrooms and offices--at our disposal.

Stupid economy.

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