Origin Story #3: The Bucket (Substance)

June 13, 2008

Dear NPR,

I hope it’s not too late to send this. I heard your request for listeners to send in tales of how they are coping with the down economy and I realized that I have something to tell you.

You may find this surprising, but for me, a generation-x homeowner living in Los Angeles, the down economy feels more like a gift than a detriment. I’d even go so far as to call it wish fulfillment for those of us who’ve been longing for something more substantive than tv ads telling us to go out and buy things we don’t want with money we don’t have. The downturn in the economy has been like something we didn’t even know we’d been craving, but something that’s been part of us ever since our grandparents told us fantastic stories about saving bacon grease and “making do with nothing” during the Depression.

Now, in 2008, once again there’s no money to spend on frivolous things and it’s such a relief. We can finally return to Depression-era thinking – even though none of us experientially knows what that means anymore. The decade of the 1930s (a time compared to our own with more and more frequency) seems almost mythological to those of us born between 1960 and 1980. But now, with most of our grandparents and great grandparents gone, we can only guess how we’re supposed to act.

I act by fixing things that break. I sew holes. I drive less and coast more. I got rid of my TV. I cook at home and freeze the leftovers. I plant herbs and tomatoes in pots. My friends come over to play cards. What advertisers courting our demographic would be surprised to learn is that doing these things gives us such an incredible sense of peace. We’re “making do” – with less at least, if not with “nothing.” And it’s hardly coping. It’s wonderful.

As my last act of conservation, I use an old bucket to collect the water that runs down the drain of my shower while I wait for the temperature to warm. Doing this saves two to three gallons of water per shower. During a drought, it only makes sense. Yet my radio urges me to go out and spend hundreds of dollars I don’t have on a new hot-water-system.

Instead I look through my rose-colored Depression glasses and stick a bucket under my shower. I collect the water, slosh it outside, and use it to water my tomatoes. That old bucket makes me feel connected to something; something real; something that will feed me as I feed it. And now I can’t believe how rich I am.

Hynden Walch
Los Angeles, CA

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