We keep hearing the same words over and over again: The economy is improving. But to a lot of us, those words just don't ring true -- to those still upside down on their home loans, to those still struggling to find a job, to the ones that lost their retirement fund in the stock market -- they wonder how that could possibly be the case. Now me, personally, I always thought 'economy' was a virtually windowless van manufactured by the Ford Company.
Turns out that was Econoline. Words are such bullshit.
It seemed a little odd when people got excited at the prospect of it 'turning around,' but I just figured they were rape fans. Now that I understand what it is, I see why it's so vital to so many people that we see it improve. So has it? To answer that question, I'll be testing five key signs of an recovering economy out there in the real world, and reporting my conclusions back here.
A solid housing market is an important part of any economy. The only real world way to test its vitality, however, is to buy a house myself. And that's just an impractical thing to do for research on an article that's only paying two quail and a pornographic pen (I'll only work on the barter system: The only honest currency.) But I can go through as much of the process as possible and extrapolate on that. First step: Attend an open house...
Every house is open with a well-aimed rock!
After participating in a one-night "test-live," the Realtor made it quite clear to me that I was not eligible to purchase the home in question, and furthermore, that if he ever saw me near his teenage daughter's room again, he would "anger-fuck [my] eyes out." No amount of negotiating seemed to bring the price down from "the police are on their way." I wasn't even able to claim Squatter's Rights (side note: Did you know it's two years? Years! I mean, if you can stay two years in somebody's house without them knowing, more power to you, but I can barely make it a full night most times.)
So I'm sorry to report that on this test, the economy failed like the complete and utter asshole that it is.
A stable economy will show improved profits from retailers: As consumers regain purchasing power, the price of goods inevitably trends upward. No need to get fancy on this one, I'll just go shopping and compare the cost to last year: I went to my local Korean mini-market, where the owner and I have established a friendly rapport: He swings a bat at me and tells me I "no welcome here," while I continuously dodge said bat to the best of my ability and go about my business. Sure, I get tripped up once in a while - it's hard to dodge death-blows while verifying the integrity of a dozen eggs, for example - but I like to shop local. Really do my part and all that.
PROTIP: The more local a business is, the less likely they are to afford security cameras!
Unfortunately, I cannot confirm that retail goods are on an upswing: If anything, they seem to be stabilized. I mean, it's not like I had to steal anything twice. I tried to poll the market-owner for his opinions on the state of the economy, but he just sat down cross-legged on the floor in front of the milk and started crying. He did say something about his business failing, but he seems to attribute this to some strange, pale, malevolent entity and its accursed slipperiness. Probably some kind of folk monster; these Asians are a superstitious lot. Overcome with pity for the man, I set the doorway afire as I left.
You know, for the insurance money.
I assume he had insurance. He looked very responsible, even though he was still sitting on the floor inside - which seems like pretty foolish behavior, what with the flames that close to the liquor section and all.
Taking a look around I can absolutely verify that yes, there are a lot of people around this market now. Mostly firemen. They look quite active.
Another keystone of an improving economy is the stability of its banking system. To the average consumer, this means more small business loans: As banks become more confident in their viability, they are more willing to take risks and lend funds. The only real world test of this is to try and procure a bank loan for my own small business. Now, this part hits close to home, because I actually am trying to secure a business loan for my own startup; I'd had my business plan drawn up for weeks when I sat down across from the man.
"No, I don't understand how it profits. But you know what I understand less? How it possibly can't!".
Sadly, I was assigned a loan officer of limited vision and even more limited vocabulary: All he could say was "no," and "is this a joke right now?" and "this is a Larry thing, right? This has Larry written all over it."
My loan was turned down, much like the maid did to the new sheets after burning the old ones due to all the horrible sex I had with your mother on them, David Johnson of the 82nd branch Wells Fargo.
And finally, the only part that matters to the Average Joe: The job market. That's an easy enough test: I'll just see if I can get employment somewhere. I should be the perfect applicant: I'm punctual (that means good at punching, right?) I'm experienced, I have the absolute best references that lies can create, and I'm not too desperate; I'm actually the opposite of that. I will violently flee the jobsite just to avoid an honest day's work. Surprisingly I had no trouble procuring an interview:
"Hello!" the man in the yellow clip-on tie stood up from his desk to shake my hand, "I'm Gary, I'm the day manager here, and I'll be interviewing you today."
"I assume I need no introduction," I said, grabbing the most comfortable looking chair I could find.
"Well, no. I, uh...I suppose not. I do have your resume right here with your name on it. But would you mind? I was kind of sitting there. Behind the desk. My desk."
"I don't see your name on it."
"Oh, it's actually right here," he turned around a little placard with his name and title printed on it.
Jesus, what an arrogant prick. Who actually writes their name on things? What is he, five?
After the absolute minimal amount of half-mumbled swears, we changed places.
"So," he said, thumbing through some papers, "as you know this is an open call mass-interview. Did you fill out our application?"
"Of course," I handed it over, "I think you'll find everything so in order it blows your mind out your dickhole."
He was starting to sweat, and he kept glancing at the hallway. He must be shy; worried that somebody would overhear him sounding like the total dipshit that he did indeed sound like.
"Nobody can hear us," I put him at ease, standing up to lock the door "not even if we screamed."
"It uh...yeah, okay. So down here under 'relevant work experience' you put 'I live and die by the sword.' Can you explain that?"
"Oh!" I laughed in embarrassment, "That's a mistake. I'm sorry. Those little boxes are so hard to read."
He smiled pleasantly.
"That's actually my address," I noted, pointing to the relevant box on the form.
"By the sw-? Oh. I guess that also explains why under 'address' you simply put the word 'pussy-slayer.'"
Exactly what I turned in when I got this job.
"Yep! I accidentally reversed the two. That's my place of employment. Although I spend so much time on the job, it starts to feel like I live there! This guy knows what I mean!" I laughed enough for the both of us.
"Mr. Brockway, I'll be frank-"
"No, I mean I'll be honest with you..."
"Cool. Me too: I'm really glad you're here, Frank. That Gary guy seemed like kind of an asshole."
I won't bore you with the rest of it. It was just the same standard interview questions: What would you say is your greatest strength? (My impeccable aim, of course.) What's your greatest weakness? (A Tie: Between silver and moonlight.) Would you please let me go? (Of course not.) Is this the man who attacked you in your office? (That's him on the left there, officer. In the ether-soaked Hello Kitty T-Shirt.) Long story short: I didn't get the job. And I don't mean to sound arrogant here, but I can't see a single mistake that can be attributed to me. I was perfect: I lied, I pretended to have human emotions, I didn't talk about killing small animals - I did literally everything I learned from Dexter, and they still wouldn't hire me.
I'm sorry to say it, but this leaves me no choice but to conclude that the economy is not turning around right now. So if you want to get on board, you're gonna have to run, try to catch it at the next light, hope the back doors are unlocked, and promise the man inside that you're extra good at keeping secrets.
You can buy Robert's book, Everything is Going to Kill Everybody: The Terrifyingly Real Ways the World Wants You Dead, or follow him on Twitter and Facebook for more completely unhelpful tangential essays!