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Funny money business

In the March issue of Sarasota Magazine, a local business leader spoke about a new campaign to improve the public perception of the business community in Sarasota. When asked how a campaign like that would help, he replied, “People didn’t get to Sarasota by working on an assembly line. They’re entrepreneurs. They’re educated, risk takers, capitalists. They really get it when you explain it to them, but we have not done that.”

Oh dear. I’m sure the business leader didn’t mean it the way it sounds. Because, don’t we all know plenty of assembly line – more frequently referred to as blue collar — workers who are plenty entrepreneurial, plenty educated, and embrace capitalism?

And, while I’m sure putting up a mega-building with somebody else’s money requires a certain level of risk — try living in Sarasota on a blue-collar paycheck. That’s really living on the edge.

Elsewhere in the magazine, gossip columnist Mr. Chatterbox described worrying over his first-time visit to the home of an acquaintance. His main concern was that his acquaintance “would be poor.” Since the acquaintance only made about $45,000, Chatterbox was worried that the home would reveal “abject poverty,” perhaps with a “couch from Goodwill.”

I’m pretty sure Chatterbox was just joking around, but the sad thing is that when a writer uses a joke like that it’s because he’s confident the joke will “work” with his audience. The average household income for Sarasota subscribers is $335,000; no wonder Chatterbox felt comfortable that his readers would titter in amusement at the idea – the very idea – of $45,000 salaries and Goodwill couches.

I admit my skin may be thin on this issue. My family’s from Sarasota; my grandmother served meals in a cafeteria line in the school system and my grandfather ran a chain gang for the County. And though I was lucky enough to get a college education – I paid for it myself and took a night job as a janitor scrubbing toilets and dusting desks to pay off my college loans. There are more than a few pieces of furniture in my house that came as cast-offs from someone else’s. (There are also a couple of cats who wandered in from the streets – but that’s another story.)

This town used to be about more than just breaking our necks to attract, placate, and please only the wealthiest residents and entrepreneurs. I think I might even be able to remember a time when comments about assembly-line workers, income levels, and Goodwill couches wouldn’t really have gone over very well among the monied – at least not among the well-mannered ones.

Times have changed.

For every high-profile business investor or developer who floated into Sarasota, carried by the wind beneath their Ivy League wings, intent on making this town over from middle-class to world-class, I’m pretty sure there was some Detroit assembly-line husband and wife who crammed their belongings into the back of a U-Haul truck and drove all night to claim their little piece of paradise; both contributing in very different – but equally important – ways to the overall success and diversity of our local business and cultural communities.

In this city where who you know, what you do, where you went to school, whether you live west or east of the Trail, and how much money you’ve got on display, are really the only acceptable calling cards into the bourgeoisie or even into the petite bourgeoisie, I’ve got to tell you – some of us don’t mind being among the hoi polloi.

‘Cause, after all, you know what they say … better to have blue collars and dirty hands than white collars and disdainful hearts.

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Posted on April 25th, 2008Comments RSS Feed
One Response to Funny money business
  1. I just wrote a clever long letter cheering your return, and your coments. As I finished, the whole thing disappered before I could submit. I am much too tired to even think after 9 dramatic hrs on the road. Darn and sorry.

    Reply

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