During the sixties, my parents scrambled to make ends meet. The price of everything made everything priced just out of their reach. I would help my mother with the weekly chore of coupon cutting. The clipped ads would be arranged in an envelope according to shopping aisle. This package was presented to the check-out lady along with the cash from my dad’s pay envelope. My parents were too random to keep a budget so their mantra was simply, ‘Go Easy’. We rented an apartment, bought our car on time, took out loans for Christmas and a week of summer vacation. Bills piled up, most were paid. We did things when the price was right or if Mom had had enough penny pinching.
And Mom knew her prices. She once appeared on a local TV timed grocery dash in a neighbourhood food store winning a shopping cart load of meat and non-perishables. She rarely missed the television show, ‘The Price is Right’, once applying to be on as a contestant. I guess she got good at price guessing from all the catalogues she would thumb through with a far away look in her eyes.
We were brought up in a lower class environment, my sister and I, but some of our experiences were hard to put a price on. My father had an art book collection. Each volume contained pictures of beautiful works of art. From them I learned the difference between pricey and priceless. When my folks weren’t working, they spent time with us. Some of my fondest memories are around the kitchen table working on a school assignment, my mom chatting away with a pair scissors in her hand and my dad suggesting edits for my narrative. In a subliminal way, I was learning that there is the difference between price, worth, cost and value.
While watching gangster movies I also learned the notion, ‘everyone has a price’ or be careful not to ‘price yourself out of the market’ or even more sinister, ‘there’ll be a price to pay!’ Outside of this black market bargaining hopefully we can determine our own value and be safe in any transaction. Like it or not though, we sell ourselves everyday. Our body, our organs, our skills, our education all have a value and we can trade that value for a price, paid by some individual or some corporation who wants us. Hopefully we don’t sell ourselves short.
Chemically, our bodies (our ashes really) after death, are currently valued at approximately $160. Apparently most of that price comes from potassium. So unless you have some gold fillings or precious metal implants you are not worth much dead. All the more reason to regularly consider your worth when you are alive.
The price of stuff can’t be only consumer demand. Works of art are considered priceless yet fetch millions. Housing has become unaffordable for many. Cost and price are distractingly manipulated. Wealth is the new religion. I dream of a world where we get what we deserve not what we pay for.