If I remember correctly Solli Sigurdson sings a song about putting on the style. It should be a popular hit as nothing is as important today as style. Style costs money and credit cards pay for it. They pay for it so much that Canadians, according to an article in The Star, “the average consumer’s total debt load is” $26,221. Credit card debt is $3,556. Then, of course, there are mortgages. Car payments.
What made me think about this is the other day when I went to the RumRunners bar in Sidney and, overwhelmed by a desire to eat gluten free fish and chips, I didn’t worry about the price. Along with a diet Pepsi, plus tip, the bill came to 30.00. For one piece of halibut and a potato.
Today, I was at the strip mall to get some gluten free bread at Origen bakery and decided to check out the Old British Fish and Chips shop. They’ve got a sign in the window saying “Gluten free menu.”
Yup. They do. I had to try it. There goes my waistline again. One good sized piece of halibut and more French fries in a half-order than any sane many could possibly eat. $10.08.
So, let’s see. There was no atmosphere. I took the fish and chips home wrapped in newspaper. There was no view of the harbour and the islands. There was no cute waitress smiling and checking to see if my fish and chips were okay. There was just a woman at the counter who took my order and a woman dipping fish in batter, putting fries into hot oil. No linen napkins.
Fish and chips, 10.08. Actually, the order taker at the counter rounded the bill off to 10.00. Atmosphere $20.00. Man oh man, I should have paid more attention to the atmosphere. It cost me twice as much as the meal. I guess the extra twenty was so that I could put on the style.
I guess that’s what we’ve been doing with our houses. Putting on the style. There’s a new house in Coquitlam. It’s got a “beautiful kitchen with centre island, wok kitchen, granite counter top, stainless steel cook top and more, 7 bedrooms, 2 ensuites, crown mouldings, in floor heating” all in 5300 sq ft. The owners put it up for sale for 1,280,000 on March 10. Price drop, price drop, open house, open house, currently 998,000. Let’s see, my putting on the style cost me an extra $20.00. It’s going to cost them at least 282,000 plus closing costs. Maybe more. There’s no sold sign yet.
Putting on the style. Clink clink of cocktail glasses. “I have 20 feet of granite counter tops.” “Really, is that all. I’ve got 30 feet.” “We have seven bedrooms.” “Oh, seven, really, we only have five. But you should see our view.”
Putting on the style. I grew up in an 800 sq. ft. house. Three bedrooms. No bathroom. Washed in a basin. Bathed in a galvanized tub. Heated with wood, then coal, then oil, then natural gas. Never felt deprived. I was warm, secure, well fed, clothed. We went once every couple of weeks to a matinee at the local theatre. No car. We took the bus to the city, street cars and buses when we got there.
Putting on the style. I guess we did that with big home cooked dinners on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Nice clothes when we went visiting. Entertaining and feeding people on the Icelandic Celebration weekend. Having an occasional meal at the local Chinese restaurant.
My parents’ goal and my grandparents’ goal was to owe no money. There was no halibut in Gimli, Manitoba but there was lots of Lake Winnipeg pickerel, whitefish, goldeye. We’d never have thought to pay for it in a restaurant where it would cost us twice as much as the food so we could put on the style. It’s not something we would have considered even though we could have paid the bill in cash, not on borrowed money with a credit card. (There were no credit cards.) It just made no sense.
Having been through the Great Depression, neither my grandparents nor my parents wanted to owe anyone money. The saved until they had enough to pay for something and then they bought it. Eaton’s had a lay away plan. You put so much down, then paid them a bit at a time until the object was paid for then you picked it up. It was yours. You’d paid for it.
If my grandfather was alive today, I can hear him saying to me after I told him about going to the RumRunner. “How much did you pay? Thirty dollars for a soft drink, one piece of fish and some fried potatoes. Who were you trying to impress?”