Saturday, June 9, 2007

Spoiled, Drag Racing Teens, Or, A Quick Snapshot Of the Future Debt-Ridden

"The thing that impresses me the most about America is the way parents obey their children."

King Edward VIII

The man we bought the car spoke broken English. He was in his mid-fifties, healthy looking. I was standing on the curb with him as the ever lovely and fiscally sound Bianca drove the car around the block.

"My son," he said, shaking his head.

I thought he was addressing me. "Yes?"

"No, my son's car." He pointed to a late model Acura parked down the street. The axle was visible and the tires skewed at weird angles. "He is nineteen. Racing with friends. Around curves. Hit roadside, flip around, thank God no fence or poles."

"Kids," I said. I looked at the Acura. It looked brand new. Did I just say "kids?" I thought. What am I, sixty?

"My daughter, when it time to buy her car, she say, 'Father, I must have new. Must be new car.'" He sighed. And looked down the street. It looked like he was afraid Bianca was into her fifth donut turn in the parking lot of a Wendy's. "Now," he said, "she says to me, 'Father, you were right. I not need new car.' She cannot make the payments, you see. But I love my daughter. What she asks of me I must give."

"I see," I said, though I didn't.

There was a long moment where we just stood and looked down the street, trying to will Bianca and the gray car to appear.

"Your wife, she is very beautiful."

"Um, thank you. "

"I don't understand these children. They must have everything. I work my fingers to bone at my shop," he said, now getting really worked up. "Seven days a week, so that they can have what I didn't have. Now I must sell my backup car to pay for new underparts for son's car. " A real panic came into his face. "Now what happen if my car does not work? What happens if I cannot unlock door of shop? Me, my family, all dead. Dead! Because of racing with friends and smoking funny pot."

I did an eye opening look of shock. "Wow."

A noise came from down the street and the gray car came into view, Bianca smiling. So much for bargaining, I thought.

Later I was thinking about the man and his kids. Here's a guy who had sacrificed so much for his family. Took great care of his belongings, to the point where he owned a 1989 car with an interior that looked no different than if it had just come off the line. Contrast that with his son, hasn't worked for anything in his life, fat doobage hanging from a slack lip, doing seventy in a thirty-five and striking a curb with a 2006 Acura he has no respect for. A daughter, his "baby girl," who cares more about how she appears to strangers than her own family or financial well-being. It was strikingly clear and laid bare before me: this is America. Right here. From hardworking immigrants to careless, culture-drugged morons unable to form one thought of gratitude for anything they've been lucky to receive.

Now take this down the road. Two, three generations from now. Generation Z 1a, or whatever they'll be calling them, lives literally nothing but noisy and beepedy-boopedy technological distractions from morning until night, spoiled by crap bought for them on credit by strapped out parents looking for the easy way to gain love.

Jeez, I'm talking like I'm sixty.


ladydoughgirl said...

Right on, Basil. This is America. I'm 36 years old but if you sound sixty then I am ready to play bingo with you in the old folks home.

I think that the culture is a big part of this but that also really takes the parents off the hook. Isn't it a parents job to lead by example but to also set limits? I see this happen all the time. No one wants to disappoint their kids and doesn't want their kids to have to go through what they had to go through or to be unhappy. I think this is a big mistake. Obviously gets even bigger when parents are willing to risk their own fiscal health to be able to give their kids the latest gadet or doodad or car. What would happen if people said no to their kids? What is the worst that would happen really? The kids would be disappointed?

I remember last year when I nearly lost my mind about where to send our girl to school (the whole private vs. public school debate) I had all these spreadsheets with calculations. We couldn't afford it but I somehow felt like I should be able to figure it out. I remember telling my friend "I just want the best for my daughter." And my wise friend with kids older than mine said "Well, is it really about giving your child the best or teaching your child to make the best with what he or she has?" I Think about this often. This was a pearl of wisdom that reminded me that I needed to make choices that are responsible for me and do the best given the entire picture.

Basil Bizarro said...

Thanks for commenting! If you read closely, I implicate the parents completely, especially in the second to last paragraph.

Saying no is huge. And I've seen parents with absolutely no ability to say no to their children. None whatsoever. Hell, I've seen people with DOGS they can't say no to. And dogs can't talk!

Culture, and the components of it that involve billions (BILLIONS) of dollars in annual advertising, is certainly a contributor to the big picture. It's a multi-faceted problem, one I'm reading a lot about and will be disseminating in my usual worthless, rambling opinions.

Thanks so much for sharing. That's a great story and I agree with you and your friend wholeheartedly. It's great you have someone in your life to step up and lay it square for you.

ladydoughgirl said...

thanks basil,
i really enjoyed the story and yes i could tell what you really thought without you spelling it out blatantly (which i tend to do!). me and my manifestos.

you're right that i'm lucky to have honest friends who aren't afraid to call me on faulty logic. those wise friends always help me gain perspective. i really enjoyed your story and i love your blog.


FrugalBabe said...

I couldn't agree more. We don't have children yet, although I think that might change in the near future. We am determined to raise our children to be grateful people without a sense of entitlement.
I see so many parents these days who just can't say no to their kids. They have no idea how to discipline their children - the kids are running the house when they're three years old, because the parents want to be "nice." They aren't able to control their kids behavior, and they aren't able to say no on a regular basis. This translates directly into a 14 year-old who has never experienced boundaries, and is getting into all sorts of trouble - while the parents wring their hands and say "oh, teenagers..."
I know, I know, I sound like every other holier-than-thou person who doesn't have children yet. But I already live a frugal life - and having a child will probably only make my frugal instincts (which I've had all my life) kick in even harder. I want to teach our children that joy and happiness don't come from owning the most expensive stuff. I want to teach our children the joys of the great outdoors. I want them to know the meaning of the word 'no' from an early age - if you hear it on a regular basis, it makes 'yes' sound so much sweeter.

Medicated Money said...


Interesting post! It truly is amazing the financial lengths others go through to "provide" for their families.

I can still remember my Dad selling one of our many used cars to a guy who was buying the car because he gave his car to his 16 yr new driver daughter. Here he was giving her a 2 year old car and buying a 15 year old car because he wanted her to have a "safer car!"

Granted the one he was buying was a small American tank that's top speed was around 50mph. The best part was that they arrived in his now daughter's car, a nice small german automobile.

I can still hear my Dad saying after they left, "She may be your age, but you are still driving the "blue baby" if you want to drive!

Now, one should note that the blue baby was a 1981 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme; bought for $600 (half by me, half by my father), that had $175,000 on it when I took over the wheel.

Funny thing is, I treated that car like it was a Bentley! And until this day, it still was one of the best cars I ever had!