Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Thoughts on a Trip to the Library

I stopped by the county library last evening to return an overdue book. I looked around, this library is always pretty active and that night was no exception. While I waited for the librarian to take my money, I noticed a table of uniform-clad teenagers engrossed in conversation over a laptop. They looked like the tony, silver-spoon, privileged children from the couple of big money suburbs that were nearby. I just looked for a moment and turned to the librarian when she returned with my change. The moment almost went without a thought until I prepared to leave.

One of the young ladies - uniform short skirt, requisite privilege private school sweater, and leggings to belie the fact that her skirt was really too short on this misty evening - walked out ahead of me, her arms laden with big books. She looked to be about 16 or 17 years old. I was a few paces behind her and again, the moment would've gone without a thought until I went outside. She was a few paces ahead of me and something made me look at this tall, thin, brunette to see what she was driving. She stepped between the cars to the row in front of mine. In the seconds it took for us to walk to the parking lot, she was joined by a preppy, tall, 17 year old young man. It turned out they were parked side-by-side. They were each driving a Mercedes-Benz, the very expensive car of the upper classes. I stood outside my van, slowly putting the key in the 1998 Chevy Venture Van and wondered if their parents purchased the year-salary automobiles for them. She was in a convertible, he was in a 350 SL class, both were newer, 2006-2007 models.

I pulled out of my parking spot and as I reached the light, waiting for my left turn, I noticed a car that pulled up in the right lane, it was a Volvo. The driver was another of the privilege teenage set. The entire scene struck me because I thought about the lives of these young people who were probably oblivious to the plight of poor and middle class teenagers. Did they care or notice the mortgage crisis that caused an almost hundred fold increase in foreclosures in October? Did they notice that a gallon of milk was over $4 or that some people must choose between medicine and food? When they filled up the gas tank, did they give thought to the price that hovered over $3.50 a gallon? Would they care about the people that kept their ultra-mansions in the West County suburbs nice and clean?

The irony of the scene came to my mind because the book I returned was Wade Rouse's "Confessions of a Prep School Mommy Handler." The book was a memoir loosely based on one of the prestigious prep schools in the St. Louis suburbs. He never mentioned the city by name to protect the anonymity of the money-crowd, but all clues in the book pointed to the mansions, pink-clad, brand/designer labels that the rich mommies and teenagers use to define their existence. I pondered the moment with the kids and wondered if they would ever use their resources to benefit humanity.

I waited for the light to turn green to make a left turn to my little, historic suburb. The Christmas-tree lights were burning brightly across the street at the name-brand, exclusive shopping mall with stores such as Neiman-Marcus and Nordstrom. I surveyed the area as I drove down this street that stretched through the metro area. There was a private school tucked away, a small enclave of far-set mansions and acre-long front yards, two such suburbs were back-to-back with homes that were the size of the White House. It made me wonder about the excess of this country during this holiday season and the gulf between the haves and have-nots.

When I pulled into the driveway of my traditional home in an historic suburb that values its 100-year old legacy, I smiled to myself. When I turned the key and stepped inside the door, there was something waiting for me that was more valuable than a Mercedes - love. My thought was rewarded with a hug from my four-year-old daughter.

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