Wednesday, October 10, 2012

In the Ruins of a Dying Empire


Sometimes I feel like a scavenger living in the ruins of a dying empire. Kind of like those people in The Book of Eli. 

Last night I felt like that when I reinstalled Adobe Creative Suite––albiet a very old version––on my computer.

I could never actually afford it, so instead I spent the night in the garage turned de facto office below the room I live in, trolling through stacks of paperwork and boxes full of tax returns, receipts and business cards for businesses long since dead to find the install disks buried at the bottom of a towering stack of banker's boxes.

It's like that with a lot of things.

My family has a really nice house and a couple very nice cars (though they no longer work that well). If you come in, there are lots of expensive looking iMac's sitting around on most available surfaces, an office work-station HP, a couple modestly sized but nice flat screen TVs, and some really nice office furniture that has now found a civilian use.

The furniture and the HP should give it away. None of this––not the cars, or the computers, or even the TVs––was really intended to be ours. It was all originally at my Dad's office.

Before 2008, the office in Mansfield was an exciting, bustling place. A third of the people in the church I go to worked there and there was literally a million dollars worth of inventory sitting in the lot in front of it, organized in compulsively perfect lines and washed (that was part of my job) so that the dust from the busy Route 6 that ran by wouldn't damage it. Customers came in on an hourly basis, and during peak which was usually between August and December (the business sold high-end wood and pellet heating systems) there were so many people calling in wanting information that on days we wanted to get anything done, we had to disconnect the phone system and put a closed sign on the door. We all spent the better part of our summers working trade shows around New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio and my Dad would sometimes invite me on business trips to places as far away as Northern Manitoba (some of my best memories with my Dad).

Then Fall of 2008 happened––and nobody would buy anything.

The million dollars of inventory out front turned from a source of excitement to a source of terror, as most of it was financed through GE Money, which faltered, got bailed out by the Feds, and passed on the grace by killing credit and hiking interest rates for all the people who owed it money. My friends from church were one by one laid-off.

The office was eventually vacated to a building up the road from my family's house so that the nicer one in Mansfield could be rented to a company of gas engineers. But a few months ago they left––along with the entire real-estate market––so it sits abandoned on a Route 6 that's busier than ever before, and the one of up the road from our house that the business was relocated to burned to the ground. So all that's left of the business is a website from which you can't actually buy anything, the leather furniture in my family's living room, the computers and banker's boxes on the floor in the garage above which I live, and about half a million dollars of debt.

So last night, as I loaded a suite of expensive-if-dated design software onto my computer to use in my own as-yet-to-be-successful money making endeavors, I was thankful for it. Just like I'm thankful for the ikea office chair I'm sitting on as I write this, the high-end boiler UPS I have my laptop plugged into as a surge-protector, the Sony TV I play Halo on and the iMac's that my younger brother and sisters are doing their school with over at my parent's house.

But more and more often I get the feeling of being a scavenger living in the ruins of a dying empire.

1 comment:

Rebecca said...

OH my God. And THank God! I don't know whether to laugh or cry but you write the truth. Powerful stuff!