more youthful greed

This second story of my American Greed peaking through at a young age can probably answer my questions. I put myself through hell for my apartment, my car, my clothes and my money for status. We desire status. Knowing we all (supposedly) have an equal shot at obtaining the big boss baller lifestyle at birth we relentlessly pursue it for the status and the ability to roll down your window and say, “Yea, I played the game and I won. Now let me shit all over you.” Or something along those lines.

Anyway, back to my second example. When I was 16 I lived in a dry town. That means they can’t sell liquor  Like a lot of high school kids we drank at parties and other social gatherings, but on top of being under age (the drinking age in The States is 21) the whole dry town thing made it next to impossible to get liquor.

We had a pretty clever method of getting our hands on it though. Let me take you into a night of acquiring high school currency–liquor.

Three of us, myself, Stevie and David pile into a car. Stevie is the driver, David the lookout and I’m the runner. You see, I was a bit of a track star in high school, providing me a great advantage in acquiring wealth.

We drive through subdivisions in a town near ours, searching for open garages. Finally we spot a street with a high volume of open garages and I jump out. I sprint from house to house, creeping into the garages. The first thing you look for is a fridge. The Midwestern dad needs his beer and his wife needs her liquor to get through the week. Their house fridge is much too full for all the cans and bottles though, which is where the garage fridge comes into play.

If the garage fridge isn’t there a quick peak into any boxes near the door could potentially hold a case of beer or wine. If there’s nothing I dart out, on to the next house. By the end of the street my arms are full. The final garage has a couple bottles of whiskey and a champagne. I have a pretty nice date lined up for the party later that night so I take the whiskey and champagne, leaving a case of beer in its place. An odd surprise for my victims I’m sure.

With our trunk nearly full we leave the subdivision, but the last house on the right, in perfect view, as if taunting us, has an open garage and a huge garage fridge. We stop and I tell the guys to stay put, I’ll do a quick in and out.

You see, there’s a trick to entering a garage. Newcomers are almost bound to get themselves caught without proper instruction. I was taught by another track guy and I taught the track guy below me. Unfortunately, after huge, flawless success early in the night I made a rookie mistake on this last house. Maybe it was the idea of making it a quick in and out or maybe I was just distracted by the amount of liqour we already had, but regardless I made a terrible mistake.

The trick is that you have to leap into the garage. Some garages, not all, but some, have a light sensor going across the entryway about six inches off the ground. Knowing this it is always wise to leap into the garage just in case you run into a light sensor that could alert the homeowners or neighbors to your presence. On this night, on this last house, I didn’t leap in.

I sprint straight into the garage and trip the sensor. I freeze immediately in place, unsure what to do. I make a quarter turn to leave, but realize the owner probably doesn’t even know I’m there. I take another couple steps for the fridge, arm outstretched and I see the light flick on beneath the door connecting the house to garage. I freeze again, hand inches from the fridge door.

The door to the house opens and a short, stocky man in his early forties looks me right in the eyes. SHIT! I sprint out and he yells something about me being a punk and follows in pursuit. I get to the end of the drive and yell at the guys, “Go! Go! Go!”

They peel out and I turn back up the drive, narrowly avoiding the owner and sprint toward the back yard. He hesitates, debating whether to go after the guys or to follow me. I know that all I have to do is keep moving in one direction and I’m home free. There’s no way he can keep up with me and this is before cell phones were molded to our bodies.

I sprint across an empty cornfield and finally stop to look back once I hit a country road. I see nothing, but suddenly car lights are right on me. I jump off the road into the deep irrigation ditch. The car stops and idles for a minute and I peak up to see what’s happening. I notice the make is similar to Stevie’s and I ease out of the ditch, but they start pulling away.

I wave them down and they stop and I hop in and we pop the bottle of champagne, much too young to drink whiskey straight.
Why did I risk my track career, my education, my youth for a couple bottles of liquor? The answer is clearly status. When I showed up at that party as the liquor supplier I was immediately elevated into a status above a majority of my peers.

Finally in the real world and I was still risking things–relationships, my health and sanity all for status and the ability to roll my window down, cock my head and say hell yea I played the game and I’m killing that shit.

The last thing I want to leave you with is a question I often ask myself. When people in the future look back at this history books what will they say about the things we did as a society? We look back at the 1700’s and earlier and speak about how disgusting and wrong slavery was. We look at the Roman times and speak about how disgusting and wrong it was to have gladiators. Years from now, say 200 years from now, what will people say about us? Will they say, “The people of the 2000’s were so infatuated with productivity and status and wealth that they worked their people to death. They took stimulants to get through the day and to remain as productive as possible.”?

I often asked myself what societies in the future would think about track and field athletes, too. What would they think of any sport, really? We already look down on gladiators, will they look back and say, “Wow, they treated their people so poorly. They made them race each other and bash each other while wearing little padding just to score a point and they did it all for entertainment.”

There’s no way to tell, but if history repeats itself (and it tends to) my guess is that the people in the future will probably look at numerous pieces of our society in shock and disgust, so why not try to weed those actions out as soon as possible?

Until next time.

-tck

youthful american greed

I’ve been thinking about when it was that I became so infatuated with the idea of being a baller and I can’t do it. I’ve come up with a couple conclusions, but the most logical is simply the fact that I’m an American and being a baller is part of The Dream.

You know, The American Dream. Yea, the one that says we should get a degree, get married, buy a house and have a kid. Keep working and amassing more wealth until we can retire and finally enjoy our wealth once we hit 70 (or 80 depending what generation you’re coming up from). Yea, that American Dream.

I don’t know about you, but just writing that out like that and reading over it makes me realize how ridiculous it is. Back in the day it was a pretty legitimate life philosophy, but now it just seems ridiculous. In order to afford a house and earn enough to actually retire (without some amazing investment luck) you would need to work an insane amount for such an insane amount of years that it can’t possibly be worth going through it all to finally enjoy the fruits of your labor for the last 5-10 years of your life (if you even make it there after working 50 hours a week for 50 years).

But, I don’t want to get into this debate again. Read my first post if you want more of an explanation on the outlook I’ve adopted regarding the working world. I want to try and place my thumb on when I learned about the working world and the socially acceptable way to approach it.

I think they obvious answer would be my parents. I think most parents try to instill in their kids (at least my generation, maybe more parents of kids 10-15 years younger than me (kids born in the 2000’s) have realized the American Dream is a bit far fetched, but I don’t know) the idea of gain a solid education and work hard and progress through the workforce.

My parents and my friends parents encouraged us all to go to university and find a mate, settle down, get married, get a job, work hard and provide for your family. I can only hope all these people with student loan debt that aren’t working (50 percent of the people graduating university are unemployed) didn’t take their parent’s advice. If they did we’re going to have a lot of hungry children and delinquent mortgages on our hands.

Yet again I need to stop going back to that discussion. Again, refer to post one for more on that.

The first instance of my taking up the greed associated with the American Dream is when I was in Sixth Grade so about 11 or 12 years old. The fad at the time were Krazy Bones. They inch tall plastic sculptures that you took turns flicking. If you knocked your opponent’s Krazy Bone over you got to keep their piece.

Anyway, my parents always refused to buy my brother and me any of the fads of the day. We didn’t get a YoYo during the YoYo crazy of 1998. We didn’t get to wear ultra baggy jeans that same year either. We didn’t get Pokemon cards and we certainly didn’t get little plastic figurines to flick around the playground.

Realized I was missing out on an important status marker among my classmates I devised a plan to earn Krazy Bones. I asked to borrow one of my friends and challenged the most wealthy kid in the school. He put my inferior piece against his most sturdy, keen to make a quick steal for his collection. While he was explaining the rules I had my brother, Kelly, ask him to check his pieces out. While I was playing and losing my friend’s piece Kelly was pocketing as many of his pieces he could.

Before we were caught we quickly ran around the playground challenging people with our new pieces. We won as many as we could and lost as well. When we were finally called out for stealing we returned his pieces plus interest and had built our own collection. I had effectively taken a loan from the playground banker and gambled it all to earn status.

What was it within me that made me do this? The Krazy Bones were certainly not fun to play with. They had no value beyond the playground. In fact just months later, having earned an entire gallon bag’s worth, the fad was over and we were left with useless pieces of plastic. We piled them into our microwave and watched them melt into a blob.

I risked punishment at school and by the pseudo banker for a blob of plastic. To this day I can’t explain why I went through the stress and planning and lying to amass those pieces of plastic. Just a few short months ago I had a similar realization. Why was I killing myself for these pieces of paper and clothes and huge piece of flashy metal on wheels? What was it all for?
Another story from youth will come tomorrow same time.

Until then.

-tck

the decision to flee

After much deliberation I still am unsure as to what my first post should be. There are so many things I want to tell you all about.
For those of you who aren’t from the U.S. may not know this, but people in The States don’t get out of the country much (Mexico and Canada don’t count). After being in New Zealand for a month I’ve quickly realized that by my age a majority of the people have been out of the country, not just to Australia, but they’ve really gotten out there.

This has been an incredible realization for me, because I’ve begun to realize so many American’s don’t have any idea there are different ways of life, different cultures, different outlooks that they could so easily take on. Obviously this doesn’t go for all Americans. I can’t even speak to all regions of Americans.

There are huge clusters of people (New York City, California, Florida, Texas) that have huge percentages of people from different countries. Clearly these people know about different lifestyles, the different outlooks on life that different countries and different cultures have, but in the Midwest, where I’m from there are vast majorities of people who have never really met a person from another country. They may have learned about different countries and their spiritual and cultural differences, but they could never come close to realize the subtle differences in the way people approach life in these places.

Many Americans don’t even realize there are states that actually have vast differences in lifestyle. Let me use a specific example. Out of university I lived in a city that had an incredible number of Fortune 500 companies per-capita. The entire city and surrounding cities began to take on this work first, the rest of your life second attitude. These companies were able to pay very little compared to cities like Chicago and New York City because the cost of living was very low and workers were readily available.

In fact, one company (a Fortune 500 bank), was quoted something along the lines of this city is a great place for a headquarters because people who grew up on farms are great, hard workers. This may be true, but did anyone ever stop and wonder what effect this way having on the worker’s health and mental well being?

I worked for that bank for two years. My first job was in collections, but they told me (and everyone else they hired) that after twelve months on the job, if my stats and attendance was good I could advance to any position I wanted. Just apply, interview and move where I wanted.

I worked my ass off in the collections job. I didn’t miss a day and I was in the top 20 percent of all collectors nine out of twelve months. I worked over 45 hours a week nearly every week I was there and I had the money to prove it. I made 12 dollars an hour, which to a majority of the U.S. with a university degree would sound like shit. Or not, who am I to say? I do know that 12 an hour wouldn’t come close to cover rent in NYC.

On top of my hourly rate I earned a percentage of my monthly pay based on my performance. For example, if I performed in the top 10 percent of all collectors I got a 30 percent bonus. Top 20 percent 20 percent bonus and the rest doesn’t really matter because I never performed down there (yea, I was a cocky S.O.B and I lived like I was, too).

I rented an apartment downtown for 500 a month. I tricked out my car. I bought expensive liquor and upgraded my wardrobe. Thank goodness for these Fortune 500 companies moving to my city, right? Hell, I was making all this money in my entry level job. Just imagine how much more of a baller I could be once I got my promotion.

For the first couple months I coasted through the job. Earning huge bonuses and additional incentives for earning most valuable fill-in-the-blank awards. I smoked a joint a night to forget about the sobbing housewives and infuriated businessmen I was calling throughout the day. I was constantly reassuring myself that these people deserved the harsh treatment I was being forced to deliver them.
(Harsh treatment: Four calls a day on every phone we have on file, a sherrifs notice at 60 days delinquent and foreclosure at 90 days delinquent. Delivering the news, unwavering, through the cries of a wife and her kids in the background begging me not to take their home away.)

I’m sure you’ve already deduced that I was working for one of the banks that was involved in the mortgage crisis back in 2008. I worked there in 2010-2011, right when all the people they gave mortgages fraudulently in ’08 were finally defaulting. Once the bank started getting their foreclosures through the court and (on the rare occasion) assisted their borrowers with government assistance programs to bring them current they started cutting staff. They slowly cut the staff from 220 down to just 50 of us.
As the pressure to perform grew I started turning to weed more and more to calm my nerves. I started smoking before work and during lunch and on the drive home. When I smoked the tension in my shoulders left and I was more able to calmly speak to borrowers and deliver the crushing news.

We all had our methods to cope. As the pressure to perform grew the number of energy drink cans littering the parking lot grew. Hell, do you remember the Four Loco fad? Yea, the energy drink mixed with vodka that was banned. There was a point that people were pounding those just to get through the day.

At my 12 month mark I was one of the lucky few who managed to gain a promotion to a “better” job. By better I mean the position paid way more (17.5/hr and a similar bonus structure). While it paid more the responsibilities seemed to triple. Instead of kicking people out of their homes I helped people into new mortgages. I helped them gather the required documents and took payments for various fees and taxes associated with refinances and purchases.

Instead of voluntarily working 5 hours of overtime a week for the higher bonues pay out I was forced into 10 hours of mandatory overtime a week. My marijuana habits continued as well. While the number of crying customers decreased drastically the number of harassing, angry customers remained the same. I had to deal with realtors wanting the loan closed so they got their commission  borrowers wanting the loan closed quicker to avoid additional taxes and fees.

The employees in this department had their coping methods, too. As the youngest person in the department at 24 I was convinced the workforce as a whole would be treated with more respect and more concern for their outside lives. These people had kids. They had grandchildren. They had concerns beyond student loans and the next wardrobe upgrade to make. Yet, I still heard grown women laughing about having to take another “happy pill”. A fifty year old man begging a teammate to buy him a 5 hour energy because he couldn’t get off the phone to get his own.

I know, many of you are sitting there shaking your head, saying you do something far worse than this for far less money. Or you might not even be working, saying you’d gladly take these jobs. My point isn’t the terrible nature of the positions, its the approach the companies in the city used. I know, a vast majority of us will never find a job that we’re truly happy at, but do those positions have to kill us? Do they have to dominate our lives?

The reason I brought up the fact that many Americans don’t truly know about the different lifestyles of different countries and cultures is because I’ve been amazed at the lifestyle of New Zealanders. Instead of cramming two or even three people’s work into one position, they spread the work out to three or four people.

Nearly everyone I meet seems to have some sort of part time 25-30 hour a week job and they have no complaints. When you ask them what they do they rarely answer with their job title. They usually answer with, “I play guitar” or “I surf” or “I mountain bike” or whatever their hobby may be.

Sure, they aren’t balling the way I was in the States. They don’t have tricked out cars. In fact, if I had to guess, 75 percent of the vehicles on the road are cheap four cylinder hatch backs. They don’t have single apartments in prime downtown locations. If they do they have a roommate.

My point is that they’re loving life. I don’t see people carrying energy drinks everywhere. I don’t hear people talking about needing another “happy pill”. For those of you who haven’t been out here you’d be shocked at how few pharmacies are here. People simply don’t have the need for Ritalin and Adderoll and Xanax and whatever else it may be.
Is it really worth the new pair of shoes or the new rims or the apartment upgrade for the sad, depressing grind of earning it? I can’t speak for you, but I decided I’d much rather live a simple life earning just enough to pay rent and feed myself than get hopped up on energy drinks and “happy pills” to make it through the day.

New Zealand isn’t the only place that accepts–embraces–this lifestyle. If you don’t think its possible to be happy with material possessions and the status of a high power job I suggest you visit Hawaii or even the more rural areas of California.

Anyway, this is probably a god awful first post when I promised to keep things light-hearted. I’ll think something funny up and post it along with this so you don’t feel like jumping off a cliff after just one post.
Until next time.

-tck

introduction

About a week ago, October First to be exact, I decided to devote my time toward writing a blog. I created a blog called Third Wheel Observations. I thought it was a great project, dishing on my friends’ relationships and examining the various aspects and personalities at play through specific stories I’ve witnessed while third wheeling with them.

I don’t want to call my own blog stupid or pointless, but less than a week later I don’t see any way around it. Don’t get me wrong, I think it could entertain people. It could even help people learn from my and my friends’ mistakes. However, I’ve come to realize there are much more pressing issues I could be working to help people with.

I write under the pen name of “tck”. I’m a 25 year old male who recently graduated university in the U.S. I’m originally from the Southern Illinois region, but for numerous reasons I have moved from the States to Wellington, New Zealand. I think that’s a good enough description and will leave it at that.

I prefer to write under a pen name because I feel the more you know about me the more preconceived notions you’ll have regarding the ideas presented. Instead, I hope you read what I have to say, reflect on the information handed to you and decide what to do with it.

Too often we idolize individuals in our society and automatically listen to their word and ideas and adapt them into our own lives because the person is famous or good at sports or wealthy. This isn’t an issue I hope to fight directly with this blog, but I hope you can put that habit aside and take the information provided for what it is. If you like the outlook, the theories–the life lessons if you will–within my writing then try incorporating them into your life. Try considering them before you act, try passing them on to your neighbor.

If you disagree, great. At least you came to that conclusion not because you like the rival to the sports team I play for or you prefer my ex wife over me or whatever it may be. If you disagree make a deduction as to why you disagree and further solidify your stance, your views on the subject at hand.

This blog won’t be preachy, I promise. I hope to make you laugh. I hope to help you forget about some of the troubles of your day. That’s not to say every day–or even week– I’ll be posting some sort of hysterical story or joke, but I do hope to keep things light. I hope to provide true stories from my past that helped me learn something about myself, allowing me to shape the way I approach the world going forward.

Finally, a disclaimer: All names and locations contained in the stories you’re about to read have been changed. If you think you know who I am or where I’m from please keep that information to yourself. Anonymity is important to me and to this blog. I hope you all respect that and I hope you all enjoy reading what I lay down.

-tck