Where are the poor?
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by Ron Cruger

It wasn’t big news like the attacks on America’s embassies around the world, or the teachers’ strike or the photos coming from Mars or the Yankees falling out of first place. But in our neighborhood it was hot stuff. Everyone was talking about the grand opening of the Nordstrom Rack store up at the shopping mall.

          The day of the opening arrived so Mrs. C and I decided to forego the usual Thursday afternoon ritual of weed pulling and drive the car the half-mile to the new store. We had seen the mammoth parking lot fronting the store  completely  redesigned, resurfaced and gussied up with plants and trees. Bright white lines decorated the black asphalt indicating where each car would go. Acres of parking covered the land. We doubted if even half of the available spaces would be used for the opening. We pulled into the parking area and found ourselves behind a long line of impatient and excited drivers, all searching for a spot between the lines.  We found one a hundred yards plus a stone’s throw away from the store entrance. The parking lot was filled and overflowing.

         The hike completed, we arrived at the front door. We were greeted by a group of young Nordstrom staffers. Each offering a smiling welcome to the store. Each polite, well-dressed and eager to please. Two of the greeters opened the doors to allow us entry.

          Lo and behold!  A crowd. A medium sized city. A throng.  40,000 square feet of eager shoppers. Not just  “Lookin’ Louies” but a caboodle of men and women with their arms laden with shirts, blouses, pants, belts, jewelry, shoes and dresses. Hundreds of others were picking over rack after rack of sale-priced clothing and shoes. Scores of others were deliriously engaging their smart phones  excitingly expounding to friends about their findings at the newly opened Nordstrom store.

          Scores of shoppers, heavily laden with their purchases lined up at modern blond desks staffed by Nordstrom staffers. No cash registers are in view. Purchases are totaled by the use of iPhone sized doohickies. The device is pointed at the price tag and the purchase is totaled, taxes added and presented to the buyer. The credit card is swiped is swiped through the small instrument. If a receipt is needed the doohickey is pointed at a small black box on the desk and out spits a neat and clean receipt.  If requested Nordstrom will e-mail the receipt. All is bought and paid for in seconds, a blink of an eye. We got our merchandise, our receipt and exceptionally polite and friendly service and we were headed out the front door.

         I glanced back at the hundreds of sedulous shoppers, filling every accessible bit of space. I wondered; was the multitude of humans a cross section of the American populace? Were the thousands at Nordstrom just a gathering of the 1%? Was it a showcase that represented that the rich are getting richer and purchasing as they always do? Was the crowd a mixture of citizens, some with money enough to pay for their purchases, others excited by the values presented and merely adding to their burgeoning credit card balances.

          Was it a representative showing supporting the statistics that the percentages of stock ownership shows that the richest 10% of the population owns 75% of the stock market.

          Did the thousands of clothing purchases illustrate that the rich are getting richer and that everyone else has to deal with the rising costs of everything, especially food -paycheck to paycheck.

          Or was it just a good old-fashioned grand opening sale enjoyed by a few thousand eager shoppers?

          I do have a hunch that somewhere in the area there are thousands of families who would have liked to have gone shopping at the grand opening but couldn’t.