Sunday, May 31, 2009

Show Me the Money--Please!

This is my latest experiential lesson in Economics 101. Perhaps more apt than bare trees (you know, the ones that money grow on!) would would be a a chain of dominoes set to fall...representing the zillions of chains of expected payments for bills.

No one ever says, "The check is in the mail." Hardly anyone uses checks or mail as done in the US to pay bills. Bills are often arrive late by mail and get paid even later. An incredible percentage of transactions take place in person and in cash. I've shocked several people by paying my bill early (but some refused to accept it as they had no way of recording it properly!).

Even so, the credit crunch seems to have hit. Where has the money gone? The guy that delivers chlorine for the pool comes by personally. And he is okay about waiting for the current payment while I wait for a steel company and a computer wholesaler to pay me for translations. . . and they are waiting for their customers to pay them. . . and so on.

Roberto would like to pay a couple bills, like health insurance, but he's waiting for the non-profit group Cooperanza that rents his house to make the next house payment. . . and that group is waiting for health insurance companies to pay them for taking care of handicapped children...and the insurance companies are waiting for their clients to pay them.... Cooperanza is also waiting for a major government subsidy--which is more than a year overdue. (One jaded person said the payment would come the week before the late June elections.)

Meanwhile, life goes on. The local grocer and pharmacist keep a running tab for the neighbors who are waiting to get paid as well. . . and the other day I was a couple pesos short, and the veggie delivery guy said, "next time, no problem." (I can't imagine Wegman's supermarket letting me walk out the door with a dozen oranges on the promise to pay next time!)

These are just a few of many examples I could give. This week two people told me stories of how the feds have paid some of their bills to individual citizens or companies with bonds that mature in five or ten years! Can you imagine a defense contractor for the US agreeing to that one? I hear that one of the steel company's subcontractors got so fed up with months of delayed payments that he held one of the steel company trucks hostage in his own parking lot by locking the gate until he got paid...and he did get the cash that day.

At least we are owed more than we owe, we're on top of most everything, and so I just try to keep tabs on it. . . and go on with my day, enjoying my work and play time. . . It will all work out eventually. . . or not. . . and life will still go on. . . without the justice or security one would want. . . but with enough beauty, joy, and love to make it worthwhile.

By the way, that tree is in one of many beautiful groves of an old estancia, now a School of Agriculture, in Zavalla, outside Rosario, in the province of Santa Fe. Just in case you wondered. As for me, I wonder what species it is. . . any ideas? They look like something out of Hogwarts!


Wanda said...

Is it a fig?

cachandochile said...

Hi Gayle-
Things are tight here in Chile, but apparently not as tight as in Argentina... Life rolls on!

Katie said...

Though times are tough right now, I view what you wrote in your post as an advantage - that folks in the small towns perceive you to be a person "de confianza" and will let you slide a bit on certain things. I think that's an acknowledgment of trust and of community that you wouldn't find just anywhere.

The One and Only Gaborg said...

"At least we are owed more than we owe" - I can't believe you just described my life in one line.

The thing with Argentines and financial crisis is we don't really know any other state of the economy. After two centuries of perpetual SNAFU, crisis becomes status quo and, yes, life goes on.
Stability down here is like peace in the middle East - a temporary thing, a respite, a truce.
On the upside, it's also something to look forward to and work for... and relish while it lasts! =)

I love your thoughts. Always refreshing, and always a way to see ourselves in a different mirror.

The One and Only Gaborg said...

Oh, and that's a knuckletree, Knuchlis Arboreus Horribilis. Cross my heart.

Gayle said...

Thanks, tree identifiers Wanda & also Gaborg. Alas, Google won't take me anywhere when I put in Knuchlis Arboreus Horribilis (sounds Harry Potter-ish!). . . but it is a real tree, so it must have a real name... would love to confirm it. Any references?

maria said...

wonferful blog! I found on google! so now I am your new follower!