Editor’s Column – Where is the Money?

Elsie Denton

It almost feels redundant to write a column addressing how insulated we are at Colgate. Everyone knows we are out of touch; we even have a term for it, which I will neglect to mention here because it is worn thin around the edges. The stock market crash is an excellent case in point. While the rest of the nation founders in financial crises and subprime mortgage hoopla, we are still riding high on our hill. The reason, of course, is that the economy really doesn’t affect us. Money woes are our parents’ problem; they are footing the tuition bill, after all. Or if they are not, we can at least put off thinking about such distasteful matters until after we’ve graduated and those pesky student loans start demanding that we pay them back. If we happen to get a few bucks in our pocket we might buy a slice of pizza at the COOP or order a cute top online. Even these funds might be of parental origin, since some Colgate students are loath to cut their umbilical cords. Really, only those poor, unfortunate seniors who are planning to enter the job market after school instead of tackling some form of graduate studies need worry about the iffy economy. With so much padding between us and the outside world it takes a serious jolt to take down the blinders and make us face up to reality.

Late Sunday night I took off for the Finger Lakes to get my van some much-needed first aid for its brakes. I made it as far as Pompey before the car died. First the radio flickered on and off a few times, then my blinkers quit and my headlights dimmed to the point of being nonfunctional. I managed to get the car pulled off in front of a gas station before the engine quit all together. It was 1 a.m. I spent the next hour on the phone troubleshooting with my dad, but to no avail. My phone ran out of batteries at this point and I’m not sure what I would have done, if a friendly cop hadn’t pulled up and offered me a jump and use of his cell.

The car started up, but I didn’t get too far. The van died again, just 10 miles down road, right after Lafayette. I gave up and called AAA. Thus began my wait. I wouldn’t see a tow truck until after 3:30 a.m. Fortunately I spent the interim period safely inside a warm police car chatting with the kindly cop. It was an enlightening conversation.

I don’t think much about how far afield I wander. I may be from Oregon, go to school in Upstate New York, and have spent last semester in the Dominican Republic, but that is normal, right? Or not. The police officer was flabbergasted by how much I had moved about. He was born, raised, went to school and now works all with in the same 40 mile radius. Even though I would say both the cop’s family and mine are part of America’s broad middle class, his is the part that is just getting by. The part you hear about on the news but forget actually exists.

When my tow truck finally arrived I was in for another cultural encounter. My driver was at least in his sixties. He was a Vietnam vet and owned a car body shop. He’d taken up towing as supplementary income to put his daughters through college. Late night jobs like mine weren’t really a problem since he hadn’t really slept since coming back from the war.

The first thing he asked me upon finding out that I was from Oregon was, “How are the taxes out there?”

I admit I don’t pay much attention to taxes. I still let my parents do them for me, one of the joys of still being a financial dependant, and basically just bob my head in acknowledgement every time I notice that money has been deducted from my paycheck here at school. I wasn’t exactly prepared to answer the question. The best I could muster was babbling about how Oregon doesn’t have a sales tax so we make up for it in our income tax, though I don’t think that really addressed his question.

The message I seemed to hear from both my saviors that late Sunday night, or early Monday morning, was money. Where is the money? How do you make ends meet? How are we going to get by?

It was so much more potent to hear of economic woes from real people. It made America’s problems meaningful to me; something more than disembodied TV slogans and catch phrases. Perhaps nothing will come of this. I might store away these people’s stories like so much other useless knowledge in the back of my brain and forget about them. But for the moment at least, I’m more connected, more aware of what is going on in the world beyond Colgate.