Derek Fisher and Sandy Price were cruising through a parking lot, attempting to find a space to park so they could go inside and eat dinner. They’d been dying to try out this new place, ‘Spoonfed’, for weeks now. They finally had saved up some cash to do so, and had made am 8:00 P.M. reservation for that evening. Derek checked the time on his car dashboard again as Sandy circled around once more. It was now 7:47 P.M. and Derek sighed, leaning his elbow against the door and rubbing his forehead.
“Don’t worry, it’s gonna be fine,” Sandy said.
“This is the highlight of our week. Do you realize that? Do you realize that this is…this is our…our night out? And…and you can’t even, like, it’s fucking frustrating. We don’t get weekends off work because we need the money, so this is what we have to do. Scrimp and save. Daydream about eating a fucking restaurant. THAT’S high class for us.”
“Derek, don’t do this,” Sandy said, sounding exasperated, “I know it’s annoying, I know, but we’ll find a spot. It’s a parking lot. Granted, it’s a public, free lot but still. There may be some competition but we’ll find a place. It’s not a thing to get worked up over.”
“I just, I don’t…I don’t think you see what I’m getting at here.”
“I see exactly what you’re getting at here,” Sandy said, “And I agree. This is sad. This is our fun. We don’t get glitz and glamour and champagne and we don’t get to even go to a country club once a month or something.”
“Like you’d ever be caught dead at a country club.”
“My point is, you’re right. But it still isn’t something to get upset over, especially when in a few minutes, we’ll be sitting down to a table and enjoying dinner,” Sandy said.
“I guess you’re right,” Derek said, “I’m sorry.”
Sandy pulled around again, and this time they spotted a spot. They both perked up immediately. Sandy started to push a little bit more on the gas and as they were halfway to it, another car pulled in. They stopped, sitting in the idling car, and Derek could barely breath. They watched a well dressed older couple get out of the car, which was a fancy Lexus, and Derek balled his fists up.
“Are you. fucking. KIDDING ME,” he snarled, getting out as Sandy grabbed at the back of his shirt to keep him in the car, but to no avail. He leaned on his door and looked at the older couple. He whistled and that got their attention; they both turned and noticed him.
“Excuse me,” he said, “We’ve been driving for…god, a half hour I guess now, trying to find a spot and we found this one and we were about to park when you swooped in and took it from under us.”
“Oh, well, we’re sorry, we didn’t know,” the older man said, looking back from his car to Derek.
“Well, is there any way we could get you to give it up? This is our one time out in a long time, we both work all the time, we just want to have a nice dinner. We…we don’t have the money to pay for a garage spot or we would. We’d be so grateful if you could-”
“We’ll be late for our reservation,” the older man said, helping his wife into her coat.
“But you can just go down the block and get a garage spot. You can pay to do that. We can’t but you can.”
“Just because I can pay for it doesn’t mean I should. This is free, public parking. I’d like to take advantage of that.”
“But you don’t HAVE TO!” Derek shouted, “Do you not see the…the problem here? The problem isn’t that you took a space we were about to take, the problem is that you CAN pay for parking, but you just WON’T. We can’t even do that. We could BARELY afford this dinner! Why not spend the extra bit of cash if you can afford to?”
“Because I don’t want to,” the older man said.
“What’s your name, sir?” Derek asked.
“Peter,” he said.
“Peter, hi, I’m Derek. Listen, you work. I work. You make money. I make money. The difference is that you came from a generation when work actually allowed you to survive. I don’t. See, people my age, we don’t have that luxury. We barely have any luxuries to be honest with you, but when we do, it’s like the end of the fucking world for us. It’s like your team winning the goddamn Superbowl. You know what I mean? Did you ever have a time in your life when you had to save for something? Maybe like, when you were young parents and your kid needed braces, but you weren’t making enough yet and so you had to save every last penny?”
“Yeah, it’s something we’ve all been through,” Peter said as his wife applied some lipstick, clearly annoyed at having to wait out this conversation.
“Okay, well, take that and multiply it by ‘forever’. That’s our reality. We don’t have the whole ‘work your way up’ thing at jobs anymore, alright? That…that doesn’t exist. We live our lives in perpetual saving mode. That’s just how things are for us. And you can’t say it’s because we don’t apply ourselves. God knows we try.”
“Nobody’s saying you don’t, but what I am saying is this; you will get there. Be patient.”
“No, no, see, Peter, we WON’T. We won’t because the middle class doesn’t exist anymore. That isn’t a thing. It’s a piece of the past,” Derek said. They heard a car door shut and Derek looked back to see Sandy getting out on her side.
“Derek, come on, let’s just go,” she said, “I’m hungry.”
“I’m-I’m in the middle of something here,” he said.
“Derek?” Peter asked, “Can we go now? We really do have to catch a reservation.”
“Peter wait,” Derek said, chasing after them, “I just want you, if nothing else, to at least recognize that you can pay for the parking. At least admit that to me. Because see, when you say you don’t ‘want’ to, that’s different. You guys, you have choices. You grew up with the options. We don’t have choices or options. That’s why if we had the money, we’d spend it, because we don’t really know a life with money, and all we know is how life is without it. That’s why money makes no real difference to us, not in the abstract.”
“Money doesn’t make a difference?”
“No, ugh, how do I explain this,” Derek said, shaking his head.
“I think what he means is that…it’s like when you live your life in poverty, ok? You don’t know what it feels like to NOT live in poverty, so therefore without the concept of spending money, you feel like spending money isn’t really that bad a thing. It’s like being a kid and saying, ‘I can’t wait to grow up so I can stay up all night like mom and dad!’. Get it? That sorta thing,” Sandy said.
“Yes,” Derek said, snapping his fingers, pointing from Sandy to Peter and his wife, “Yeah, no, that’s a great analogy Sandy, thank you. This is what I’ve been trying to get through to you.”
“We’re leaving now, Derek,” Peter said, taking his wifes hand and leading her through the parking lot.
“Poverty isn’t preferred, Peter!” Derek shouted after them, “Your generation used up everything, hiked up the cost of living and holds those under it to the same standards! It isn’t fair! Fuck you Peter! Fuck you and fuck your fancy car and your fancy clothes and your wife! Fuck your mcmansion!”
Sandy sighed and shook her head.
“NOW can we go?” she asked.
“I don’t get it, how can they NOT care? About the problems their own children, or people their childrens age, are facing?”
“Because they’re not facing them themselves, Derek,” Sandy said, “They got a free ride, and they don’t see anything as being hard because it wasn’t for them. Simple as that. Now can we go? Inequality isn’t part of a full dinner.”
As they got back into their car, a homeless man showed up at Dereks window and knocked on the glass. Derek rolled his window down.
“Can you spare a dollar?” he asked, and Derek reached into his pocket, pulled out a dollar and shoved it into the homeless mans hand before they drove off. Sandy grinned.
“You didn’t have to do that,” she said, “I wouldn’t have called you a hypocrite.”
“I know,” Derek said, “But it’s still the right thing to do.”