Marcus Brown sat at xyrs desk in the open office area. Xe sat, and xe worked. Today, work was staring at a blank word document on xyrs computer screen. Xe swiveled back and forth in xyrs black rolling chair with the ergonomic back support, and then xe rolled forward and back. Every once in a while xe would click the mouse to keep xyrs screen from going dark.
“Hello, Marcus,” said a sweet voice from behind Marcus.
Marcus turned to see the soft, white face and long, straightened brown hair of xyrs supervisor, Maureen.
“Hello, Maureen,” Marcus said.
I don’t want to talk to you right now, Marcus thought.
“How’s work coming along?” Maureen asked.
I don’t want to do any work, Marcus thought.
“You know,” Marcus began, “I just. . .things have been hard lately, and I feel stressed and unsure about life. I just haven’t had a lot of time for work.”
As if Marcus had choreographed everything beforehand, Maureen’s eyes widened and her mouth opened, her hand going to her mouth to add to the effect.
“I’m so sorry to hear that,” Maureen said, and Marcus knew she actually meant it. “If you want you can go talk to the floor counselor. Xe can help you talk it out.”
Marcus gave xyrs best sheepish smile. “Thanks, Maureen. I think I just need to go home for now. I can come in tomorrow, refreshed.”
“Not a problem Marcus, take as much time as you need.”
Marcus thanked Maureen as xe stood, then walked down the lines of desks topped with large screened computer monitors. Many of the desks were empty. Other employees had required time off for their feelings, too. As Marcus strode through the office, xe passed two employees who were “taking a break” with table tennis. One employee in their early forties zipped by on a scooter – and Marcus immediately felt bad for having age-ist thoughts. Walking past the counselor’s office, Marcus heard the whimpers and sobs of Jessica, an employee who usually sat next to Marcus, unless xyrs energy didn’t want xem to.
“Xe said I wasn’t getting enough done,” Jessica said, sobbing into xyrs hands, tears running down xyrs face.
“Perhaps xe didn’t realize your perspective,” the counselor, Bob, said, attempting to console Jessica.
Marcus exited the office building and strode out into the warm summer day. Xe picked xyrs way across the broken, pitted road – still unrepaired since the peaceful protests a month ago – and squeezed between two burnt out cars. Across the street, at a coffee shop Marcus frequented, the owner swept up glass and broken equipment off the sidewalk from the previous night’s demonstrations. Marcus was surprised to see the city had already cited the coffee shop owner for littering.
Strolling through downtown Marcus passed a long line of people leading up to a building that had once housed a line of stores, the people all looking the same in their ragged clothes. Now, government officials handed out welfare checks – extra for the “repressed”, less for the “privileged”. Posters in the windows of the building espoused the benefit of universal incomes and how it was benefitting the country. Marcus had already cashed xyrs check this month – a lot less since xe was extra privileged with xyrs skin color and a job.
One individual in the welfare line stood out from the rest. Xyrs clothes were newer and cleaner. Just by looking at xem Marcus knew they would receive a larger check.
“I can’t to get my check and get another pair of new shoes,” the individual said.
Some of the people in line grumbled about just needing enough food to last the month, maybe new shoes for their growing children. Marcus shrugged. The check was that individual’s right, these other people shouldn’t shame them.
At last, Marcus reached xyrs apartment building. There had been a peaceful protest here a few weeks ago – Marcus had been part of it – and the door to the building was missing. It was fitting, Marcus thought, since no one should be kept out, right?
Marcus took the rickety elevator up to xyrs floor. Before Marcus reached xyrs apartment, two individuals walked into the hallway.
“Hey,” one of them said. “Where’s your check? You owe it to me.”
Marcus had never seen these individuals before, but xe immediately noticed they both had guns.
“Guns are illegal,” Marcus said, freezing.
“Sure they are,” the other individual said. “Now give us your check.”
Marcus darted down the hallway to his apartment before either individual could level their gun at him, and immediately xe heard the heavy footfalls of the two individuals behind xym.
Reaching xyrs apartment, Marcus unlocked it, zipped in, and then quickly closed the door and locked the three deadbolts.
“Damn man,” Marcus heard one of the individuals who pursued xym say.
“We’ll get the next one,” the other individual said from the other side of the door.
Marcus didn’t move until xe heard their footsteps fade down the hall.
Turning, Marcus looked at his small apartment. A ratty futon decorated the floor, topped with a few blankets and a pillow. The toilet sat in the far corner of the room, yet still too close to the bend. Opposite the toilet was the refrigerator, the pantry, and the stove. Mounted to the wall was a brand new government provided TV.
By programmed action, Marcus picked up the TV remote off the floor and turned on the TV.
“Another demonstration against capitalism and hate,” the news anchor said as the TV screen flicked on.
The image on the screen was of people burning cars and smashing windows while holding up “Love Trumps Hate”, “Hands off my pussy”, and “Black Lives Matter” signs.
“Legislators offered their support for these demonstrations,” the anchor continued.
The image on the screen switched to an elderly, balding individual with a warm smile on their face.
“We support these peaceful protests,” the legislator, whose name was Chelsea Lanning, said. “Their feelings on these subjects are valid and fighting hate is always a noble cause.”
Marcus nodded along with Lanning’s words.
“These people are supporting freedom and democracy,” Lanning continued.
“Yes,” Marcus said, pumping his fist in the air.
Lanning spread his hands, as if offering something to xyrs viewers. “And because of the efforts of the people, we are free.”
“We are free,” Marcus repeated with zealous rapture.
I want to preface this post with the fact that I fully and wholly support free market capitalism. It has done amazing things for communities and countries around the world. I think the healthy mix of independently employed individuals and small businesses all the way up to giant corporations are important for maintaining healthy competition, advancement of technology, and improvement of living conditions.
Now, some readers will point out to the bad things in American capitalism. I argue that here in the United States we do not, in fact, have free market capitalism. There are limits, from the hundreds of thousands of dollars that must be paid in New York in order to license taxis so that only the biggest of taxi companies can afford to run cars, to the latest fee that any manufacturer of guns or gun parts – even that self-employed guy with an old lathe making a few gun parts here and there – must pay in order to not be raided by the FBI. (Thanks Obama.) I’m not talking about regulations about quality (don’t want human parts in our hotdogs), I’m talking about cost of entry. Our current and previous administrations, conservative and liberal, have made our economy semi-planned.
Though I support free-market capitalism, I also want to support local businesses. In the Ward of the city I live in, there are at minimum three independently owned restaurants. One is Turkish food, and my wife and I raid it like the Varangian Guard on Holiday. I would much rather support these businesses than, say, McDonald’s. (I actually cannot remember the last time I ate McDonald’s.) Even where there are chain stores (Baker’s/Kroger’s here) I would rather shop at the one here in our Ward, that I know hires people from our Ward of the city, as opposed to another grocery store. (That said, Aldi is very difficult to beat, and is just one Ward over.)
This goes back to thoughts on tribe and community – which I’ll cover in another post.
Why I Try To Buy As Local As Possible
Most of the businesses in the Ward of the city I live in hire locals. Sure, there are some that hire people from afar (Omaha, Elkhorn, etc.), but for the most part you talk to workers here and they live in and around Ward 3 (that’s the Ward I live in).
Buying local puts money in the pockets of those workers, whereas going to Wal-Mart up the road, or Hy-Vee, puts money in the pockets of others.
It also puts money in the pockets of those small business owners in our area. They are working to make a living doing what (theoretically) they love. Restaurant, bar, or martial arts dojo, they are living and working in our Ward.
Money in their pockets means keeping generally good people in our community, some of which can actually apply money to improve it.
Supporting these businesses also signals to other small businesses that the area is ripe for investment. Maybe Bob next door wants to open a machining shop, and since he sees other businesses doing well in our area, he sets up shop here. Which means more jobs, and more money in our small community.
I also want to show that I support our community. That said, the Turkish food restaurant doesn’t have to try very hard to woo me. I will fork over cash for their food in a heartbeat. But showing my face and buying from them shows I support them and their endeavor. I don’t need small business Saturday to drive my local small business purchases. I do so weekly.
An Imperfect Recipe
Anyone with an iota of brain power will quickly identify the flaws in this plan. What if you require X Service or Y Material and Ward 3 doesn’t have it? Do I just not buy it?
The answer: I go to the city I live in.
And if the city I live in doesn’t have it?
I go to the nearest communities surrounding.
I’m not a purest when it comes to my attempts to buy as local as possible. It’s not 100% realistic. What about those from my community that, unable to open up shop here, open up shop down the road in another ward or town?
And what about my Tribe? I have an uncle that has businesses in Omaha and in another part of Nebraska. Do I not buy his architectural services or wines (respectively)?
The pure version of my principle is a lot like spandex: great idea, until real people started using it, then things got ugly.
Going A Little Further
Of course I am going to buy my uncle’s wines (they’re delicious and at a great price; look up Superior Estates Winery) and I would use his architectural services should I ever need a building for a small business (someday…).
The idea to buy as local as possible stems from two things.
First is the idea that one can only physically and psychologically actually care about only 150 people – which were what tribes were about back thousands, if not tens of thousands of years ago. While some of this is taken up by my family, closest friends, and fell National Guardsmen/women, it is also taken up by those that live in my community. Those who I live next to, go to church with, see at the bar, see at the gym, etc.
I want to build and develop my immediate community as much as I want to develop the relationships I have with family/friends/etc.
The second part of this is somewhat irrational – somewhat.
What if the world we know turns upside down, it’s hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys, and the U.S. starts looking a lot more like, say, Greece or Bosnia-Herzegovina?
This has nothing to do with who is about to become president, and everything to do with the way America is going. Police are less able to do their jobs in the wakes of riots due to killing criminals (insane, I know), and criminals move in to fill the vacuum. We feel this less in Nebraska, in my opinion, but the forces are still here that attempt to push us in that direction (I’m looking at you, Ernie Chambers).
Should such a thing happen I want to be able to defend hearth and home, as well as the community I live in. I want the neighborhoods, schools, and businesses here to remain in the event that the U.S. falls like so many other empires in history. A strong economy and strong local community can help that.
This post is just one in a string of thoughts I’ve been having, and I admit is disjointed and incomplete. I buy as local as possible to keep the local economy and community as strong as possible, and by supporting those individuals in our community that have small businesses here. It’s grossly imperfect. The businesses of my family and closest friends would override buying from the Ward of the city I live in. But should things go pear-shaped in our country I would hope that the building of this community would help weather the storm.
This doesn’t mean I won’t buy outside my community, of course. There are areas of Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska that I love visiting and staying at. Besides that I love to travel, and Boston, Dallas, Denver, and Sacramento are just a few cities which I will continue to visit and spend my money in. And there are products I have to go outside of where I live to buy, such as the Qalo rings my wife and I wear so we don’t damage our actual wedding rings, or the Apple laptop I write most of my blog posts and stories on.
That said, if my family and closest friends all moved to where I lived, it would be a lot easier… 😉
Superior Estates Winery
A shameless plug for my uncle’s winery. His wines are delicious, and most run about $16.99. They have even beaten many wines from Napa Valley in national contests. Go check them out: http://www.superiorestateswinery.com/