The Goldberg Variations: The Upside of a Down Economy

It has come to my attention that the current economic downturn has resulted in a reduction of global warming gases in the United States.  The recession has led to a smaller economy and less energy consumption, which, in turn, has led to cleaner air.

This is good news to be sure, but I don’t know how much enthusiasm I can work up for it. “Silver linings” are tricky things, and there is sometimes little comfort to be had when a benefit results from a massively gloomy situation.  If I found out that I had only weeks to live, my reaction would not be “Well, at least I don’t have to hear another word about those damn Kardashians,” although that is certainly the bright side of a tragic and untimely death. Similarly, clean air is nice, but can it really make us care less about worldwide financial ruin? I don’t know the answer to that, but in the spirit of glasses being half full, I offer this list of dubious advantages to a really bad economy.

  • Pleading poverty is the new get-out-of-jail-free card. Don’t feel like wasting an entire afternoon antiquing with the ladies? Don’t want to go to a fancy restaurant with the most boring couple you’ve ever known? Claiming you can’t afford it is the new way to get out of everything. And no one will dare try to talk you out of it.
  • Everything is on sale. Seriously. From cashmere sweaters to cocaine, from condos to Caribbean vacations, everything can be had at a discount.
  • The general public has caught up with me and now people everywhere distrust the fashion industry. I am no longer alone in feeling that there isn’t a sheath dress on earth worth $1,700. As more and more women are forced to keep wearing the clothes they purchased in 2007, they are disinclined to slavishly follow style makers who decree that the new fashion “must haves” are bolero jackets, harem pants, and anything chartreuse.
  • Comfort food has made a comeback. Belt-tightening has brought depression-era food back in style as consumers lose their taste for extravagantly whimsical restaurant dishes. Fewer and fewer eateries feature main courses that ascend 12-inches into the air, the main components of which are jicama, white truffles, and beef cheeks. Restaurants that want to stay in business have begun re-thinking the appeal of $22.00 appetizers, opting instead for meatloaf, fried chicken and artisanal ring dings.
  • In related news: Maitre d’s and hostesses in fine restaurants have become noticeably more polite. Gone are the days when restaurants had unlisted telephone numbers and bad-tempered models worked the reservation desk. Eating out is still expensive, but it is now possible to dine in nice restaurants without sleeping with or giving birth to the chef.
  • Due to the obscene expense of taxis, it is far easier to hail a cab in Manhattan. Conversely, it is next to impossible to find a seat on the cross-town bus.
  • Plumbers, electricians and painters who would not return your phone calls five years ago now send out holiday greeting cards and call to solicit your business.
  • The recession has put a significant and well-documented strain on relationships. On the bright side, it has also raised the value of gold. So your marriage may be breaking up, but you will probably get a really good price if you have to sell your wedding ring for scrap metal.
  • In order to make themselves more marketable, and better able to find jobs in a down economy, young people are getting their tattoos removed – as mothers everywhere rejoice.

Editor’s Note: Susan Goldberg is a slightly lapsed treehugger. Although known to overuse paper products, she has the best of intentions – and a really small SUV. Catch her column, The Goldberg Variations, each week here at EcoSalon.