We’ve all had our ways of coping during this crisis. I for one have responded to hardship by comparing my situation to those who have lost their jobs or those who still have their jobs but have to work with Whoopi Goldberg.
It’s a useful exercise. For instance, no matter how hard you’ve been hit, you’re probably still better off than Travis Henry, the former football player who claims he can’t support the nine children he has fathered by nine different women. (Apparently, his cash reserves were drained by costs associated with legal matters and Mother’s Day.) Henry’s plight is so unappealing that I almost wonder if being imprisoned for cocaine trafficking would be a preferable pickle. Hang on, let’s ask him, since Henry was recently imprisoned for cocaine trafficking.
Now that our esteem is boosted, a question: how did we manage to emerge from the financial crisis?
1. We published approximately 2,500 books about the financial crisis. It’s an innovative idea—jumpstarting a moribund economy by writing endlessly about how the economy came to be moribund. Using the same principle, Robert DeNiro should be able to revive his reputation as a good actor by starring in a movie about how he came to be a hack actor.
2. We got bored. The Great Depression lasted the better part of a decade, but that’s because the 1930s were an era defined by primitive technology, rudimentary communications and prolonged use of the word “gams.” Our ultramodern culture gets bored of things way quicker. For instance, the swine flu earned wall-to-wall coverage until it didn’t kill enough people swiftly enough. By the same token, the recession was enthralling for a while, what with the stock market carnage, global panic and repeated utterance of “stimulus,” which made male viewers think of naked ladies—but, meh, time for something new.
3. Michael Jackson died. Within days, Apple had made roughly seven trillion dollars from impulse downloads of Jackson’s music. This caught the eye of the U.S. Treasury Secretary, who has devised a plan to respond to signs of the next economic downturn by assassinating Fleetwood Mac.
Obviously, there are some good things about the recession coming to an end. Here’s one: although I’m willing to do my part and make sacrifices, there are only so many times a man can endure a presidential speech on the ailing economy resulting in the pre-empting of Supernanny. Here’s another: the rebounding of the markets means we no longer have to pretend we have any idea what a collateralized debt obligation is. (That goes for you too, Geithner.) Best of all, we can finally stop with the cannibalism, which is a load off my—what? Why are you looking all aghast? Don’t tell you haven’t been . . . oh.
So this is what awkward feels like.
But here’s the truth of it: you will be missed, recession. We will miss your complex lessons about how the 21st-century economy works. (Giving huge mortgages to people with no money? Dumb, apparently.) We will miss how you forced Wall Street tycoons to stop lighting their cigars with crisp $100 bills and start lighting them with two nickels rubbed together furiously. And we will miss how you taught us about our world, about ourselves and about what cat food tastes like.
Above all, we will miss the way you prompted U.S. legislators to obsess over how far the Obama administration’s $800-billion stimulus plan would extend if it were laid out, stacked or otherwise measured in dollar bills. If the bills were stacked one on top of the other, it would create a pile of money 44,000 miles high! Laid end to end, it would stretch to the sun! Stretched one after another, it would circumnavigate Kirstie Alley! (The first two descriptions are real and remained hilariously entertaining even after they were both enacted as part of Obama’s job-creation efforts.)
Yes, you’ve had a good run, recession. You forced free-market enthusiasts to realize that when you leave everything up to the invisible hand, sometimes that hand is going to punch you in the face. You made wearing the same clothes every day seem frugal instead of gross, and countless math teachers thank you for that. You forced lousy car companies to restructure, bad banks to go broke and Lindsay Lohan’s latest movie to go straight to DVD. For that last one alone, we owe you.
But you did more. You improved us. Thanks to you, we have detached ourselves from the culture of conspicuous consumption. We have come to savour the simple things in life, such as family and friendship. We have learned the value of discipline and the cost of extravagance.
All of which leads us to say: good riddance, recession. And thank God all that’s over.