by Reid Fitzsimons
Jarrod is in his early 30s and in a heteronormative marriage to Mindy, also in her early 30s. They are both products of middle-class suburbia and college-educated. Actually they met in college, where she studied art and computer technology and he eventually obtained a master’s in communications. Somewhat to his surprise, Jarrod transformed his college degree into a job with a tax-exempt group, eventually making a salary in the low-$100s with the title of Communications Director. The organization he works for has something to do with “advocacy” in a variety of areas including domestic violence, gender and race preferred small business opportunities, and community development. He discovered he has a knack for interacting with state and local politicians and has captured quite a bit of grant money for his organization. Part of him wonders why their offices are located in a nice high-rent area and the executive level salaries (including his) are not insubstantial, considering they are ostensibly advocating for the disenfranchised, but generally he convinces himself he is worth what he makes.
Mindy established a home-based web design company and usually does quite well money-wise; she’s not the primary breadwinner but supplements their income nicely and has time to work in her home art studio. Jarrod and Mindy have two children, fraternal twins (a boy and girl) who are eight and in the third grade. They bought a 5-bedroom/3-bath house in a quiet suburban neighborhood. It cost quite a bit more than the old standard of not spending more than two and a half times their annual income, but they were able to obtain a low money-down mortgage and can make the payments. They consider themselves to be environmentally aware and realized a 3,800 square foot house is perhaps more than they really need (lots of empty space to heat and maintain), but they talked about someday using the extra room for emergency respite for battered women or perhaps a homeless family, and that thought made them feel okay about the size. Besides, the walk-in wine cooler and landscaped back yard with fountains are really neat. They view themselves as enlightened progressives as evidenced by the Obama-Biden 2008 bumper sticker on their 2007 Volvo wagon they never got around to removing. Jarrod knows they are well off but he certainly doesn’t consider himself rich by any means, and in his mind he holds the “1 percent” in contempt. Maybe they have a few big-ticket toys they don’t really need and a credit card balance on the uncomfortable side, but they make the minimum payments and for the most part don’t think about things in this regard. Life is good.
Recently the family made a pilgrimage to Disneyland. They flew into Orlando, rented a car, and stayed in a hotel on the premises. They hit all the major attractions, did some local exploring, and all in all had a good time. Somehow, though, Jarrod thought something was missing. He nostalgically recalled road trips with his family while growing up and the idea of a recreational vehicle popped into his head. He had always thought they were a bit wasteful and excessive, but he did some research and deep thinking and began to convince himself maybe this was something to consider after all. Sure there would be costs up front but he was confident he could shop around and find a good deal with a doable financing arrangement.
The intangibles suddenly became irresistible- instead of flying over the country like on the Disney vacation, they could experience things firsthand- real family togetherness. Unlike a trip in their cramped SUV (their other car) where they are beholden to hotels or hauling around a bunch of camping gear, their home would be wherever they happened to be. The idea even began to make economic sense- no more hotel expenses, less need to depend on restaurants, etc (there must be an etc there somewhere!). Jarrod was convinced a RV would not just be a fun thing, but a necessary addition to their family and lifestyle. There was a small, barely acknowledged part of him that also contemplated the idea of equality- some of his classmates from college, neighbors, and friends had RVs and it kind of irked him, but it was a question of fairness, certainly not envy. He had some discomfort from a “green” standpoint but this was assuaged by his use of reusable grocery bags, some CFL light bulbs, and the “Reduce, Refuse, Recycle” bumper sticker on the hybrid SUV (an impressive 29 mpg, proving his green credentials!). Now he had to convince Mindy.
The Proposal, Floor Debate, and Vote:
Jarrod tended to be the dreamer and idea person and Mindy the pragmatist. With some trepidation, Jarrod opened with the traditional, “Honey, I’ve been thinking” approach. He told her he had considered not just the cost of the initial outlay but also expenses such as insurance and upkeep, and these concerns did enter his thought processes in passing. He even wrote down some figures that made it look feasible. Once he was done with his version of the practical aspects he emphasized the emotional- e.g. family togetherness, more opportunity to experience the Road Less Traveled, less pressure to “get there.” Mindy responded with little enthusiasm, asking him specific questions about campsite fees versus hotel costs, gas mileage, warranties, and whatever else she could anticipate, but he was able to respond with apparent certainty, even if he really hadn’t considered all of her points. He even acted a little indignant that she would suggest he hadn’t thought through any potential negatives; hell, there weren’t any as far a he was concerned. Mindy was wavering and he knew the time was right for the clincher- the Children. The memories they would create, the life experiences they would accumulate, the diverse cultural and multicultural opportunities that awaited them. How could they not buy an RV if they really cared about the Children? No way could Mindy allow tedious facts and figures to overrule the great benefits to the Children- what kind of a person is she! Of course, once the specter of the Children appeared she had to capitulate. The votes were cast and the ayes won.
The Bill is Signed:
The big day had arrived. Okay, he hadn’t figured the sales tax would be so much once he actually saw it on paper but he was exact with the added insurance costs so he felt pretty good. The salesman mentioned at the last minute some options at additional cost, which annoyed him a little, but the Towing Package probably would come in handy someday. He kind of hoped Mindy wouldn’t find out and went ahead and signed the contract. Jarrod proudly drove his new RV off the lot, anticipating the excitement the kids would show once the Big Surprise arrived (they had been keeping it a secret from the twins).
The twins were excited and they all slept in it the first night. As an added surprise he had purchased the satellite service and they were able to watch TV on the 32-inch flat screen- money not specifically budgeted but worth it, though Jarrod perceived Mindy was not pleased. Fortunately she didn’t say anything.
The first Big trip was planned- they had always wanted to visit the 1000 Island region of NY and Ontario, Canada; lots of history and breathtaking landscape. Overall he trip went well. Jarrod hadn’t anticipated the higher gas prices in other regions and somehow that promised 15mpg proved to be more like 12. He hid his frustration when he discovered full hook-up RV sites cost almost as much as a medium quality hotel. That little backing up incident in the parking lot of Whole Foods wasn’t going to lower his insurance rates, that’s for sure. And crap- who knew a single RV tire cost $500! Nevertheless, the kids were animated with less bickering, they were able to attend some ethnic street festivals en route, and they even seemed to become part of the RV community of sorts, even though they observed some anti-progressive bumper stickers on some of them. As long as they could put the unexpected costs out of their minds, the experience really was everything they hoped it would be. Jason and Mindy had done quite of bit of camping in the early days and this reminded them of those happy times, only now they could watch DVDs at night and have wine chilled in the RV fridge.
Once they were home from that first RV vacation the credit card statements came and they weren’t pretty. They hadn’t realized they ate at so many restaurants, and those admission fees to the roadside attractions added up, a lot. Jarrod started to sweat but with a little accounting wizardry he was confident they would stay on the right side of the precipice. He wouldn’t admit it to himself or Mindy, but at some level he perceived his original optimistic scenario wasn’t being realized- the RV simply cost a lot to operate. This translated into only local overnight trips in the RV and not too many of those. The kids did enjoy sleepovers in it and their friends liked hanging out. A little superficial kid related damage was okay. Once Jarrod suggested to Mindy that a little more money-earning website design and a little less sculpting and painting as a hobby would be helpful, but this sentiment was not well received and subsequently existed only as a thought in his mind. Unfortunately, the economy cycled downward as it is apt to do, or at least never really rebounded from the last downturn. The government grant money to Jarrod’s tax-exempt employer decreased and an agreement was made to trim the salaries. Jarrod was quietly irate because he willed himself to think he was worth every penny of his significant salary and more, but he was smart enough to accept the terms. With Mindy’s encouragement, so to speak, they sold off the jet ski, ATV, and other former necessities, but the RV became an immobile feature in their driveway- too expensive to use but too depreciated to sell in a buyer’s market.
Being progressives, they found solace in the idea they had somehow been screwed by The Banks, Big Corporations, and Rich People in general. They muddled through, took advantage of some government subsidized refinancing programs, and eventually the government grant money to Jarrod’s “advocacy” tax-exempt employer picked back up, and he even got a raise. They had been victims but had weathered the storm and once again life was good, proving that money and material things is what truly matters in progressive America.
Addendum: Unfortunately Jonathan Gruber, the highly paid ObamaCare policy wizard/genius, was correct when he admitted they counted on the stupidity of the American voter to get that particularly pernicious law passed (though he didn’t count on his own stupidity in the publicizing of his comments). Like Hillary repeatedly falling for Bill’s promises of no more affairs (which almost certainly did happen, at least in the past), Americans will support anything, no matter how expensive, noxious, or counterproductive, as long as the claim is made, “It’s for the children.”