by The Cranky Media Guy
Something's ass-backwards in America. All I've seen in
magazines and on-line for the past two weeks is articles about the
poor dot commies who aren't going to be able to cash in their stock
options for millions of dollars. NASDAQ has dropped and the
companies they work for have gone down in value. Some are even
going out of business. The dot commies are disillusioned, they
feel cheated; one article I saw talked about how a guy whose stock
fell might actually have to cancel the private airplane purchase he
had planned! Boy, that's gotta suck, huh?
For me, part of the irony--there's that word again--is that many
of these same publications were just recently touting the incredibly
wonderful, ever-expanding New Economy. You know, the same New
Economy that has now disappointed all those poor wanna-be yuppies
who had their hearts set on those nice duplex loft apartments in
Tribeca and on the edge of the Tenderloin. Just a few weeks
ago, Time had a cover story about how "Everyone can be a
star on the Net". Star today, bum tomorrow, I guess.
Meanwhile, I stumbled across a news story that said that
Winn-Dixie (a large chain in the South) is closing 114 of its
supermarkets, a move that will throw 11,000 people out of
work. I look in vain for a story, just one, about how painful
this must be for these people and their families. Gee, can't
seem to find one anywhere. No hand-wringing pieces about
"what this all means" in the newsweeklies.
No one goes to work at Winn-Dixie thinking they'll retire a
millionaire by age 30. It isn't glamorous work and you don't
get to bring your dog with you. At lunch, you don't have a
cafe au lait; you toss back a Dr Pepper. You don't live in a
loft; your house might even have wheels under it. No one grows
up wanting to work a cash register in a supermarket; it's just
something you find yourself doing to make ends meet. It isn't
illegal, immoral or fattening, though and no one should be ashamed
of making an honest living.
Media today is about trendiness and glamour, though and there's
nothing trendy or glamorous about being the guy who answers when the
PA says, "Spill in aisle five!" So, the twenty-somethings
with the sparkle in their eyes and greed in their hearts are
elegized in Time while the poor saps who mopped the floors,
stocked the shelves and bagged the groceries at Winn-Dixie just
shuffle off into obscurity.
Many of the e-businesses that are folding were castles in the
air; a large number of them didn't have a viable product or business
plan to begin with. It wasn't hard to see that a lot of those
companies were little more than pipe dreams and wouldn't last.
To a cynic like me, the only surprising thing is that they lasted as
long as they did.
A supermarket, however, is a necessity. It sells milk,
bread, cat food, soap--real objects with real value in the real,
non-cyber world. Why are we crying over the fact that
companies that made things that no one needed or wanted are out of
business while we totally ignore the fact that thousands of people
who supplied us with the necessities of our lives will soon be
unemployed? If they were just named Randy and Courtney instead
of Edgar and LaVerne; if they had straighter teeth; if they listened
to "alternative" instead of country; if Winn-Dixie was an
"e-supermarket", maybe we'd care. They're not, they
don't and it isn't, so we don't.
Randy and Courtney will get interviewed about how
"disillusioned" they are that they aren't rich yet.
"Our dream is spoiled," they'll whine into their lattes,
and it will all be taken down by a reporter on his steno pad to be
immortalized on Page One of the next day's Life section. Edgar
and LaVerne will turn off the lights at the Winn-Dixie for the last
time, lock the door behind them and go home to the trailer park,
unnoticed and unmourned.
Randy and Courtney will go to work for another start-up with an
impractical business plan. Maybe this one will be able to BS
the stock market a little longer and they can cash in before it goes
belly-up. Edgar and LaVerne will hope the Piggly Wiggly is
hiring. With luck, they'll only make four dollars an hour less
than they used to. Like I said, something's ass-backwards in