Adam and I are new to well ownership. Our 52 year old house has a well and septic system, despite the municipal water ending a mere 20 feet from our property. To be fair, we’ve rather enjoyed having both a well and a septic tank, even though the septic tank has a HUGE crack across the top, which we will have to address at some point, but that our inspector said wasn’t a deal-breaker when we bought the place almost two years ago.
For a while, I’ve been hearing a sharp thunk from the well pressure tank in our basement every time we run water, most noticeably when using the bathroom that sits directly over said tank in the laundry room. This has been going on for roughly a month, and Adam insisted that it was something that always occurred and that I was essentially just noticing it now. Not to put too fine a point on it, but there is always a chance he’s correct on those things; I’m not always the most tuned-in to my surroundings. (My roommate in grad school accused me of having dyspraxia.)
However, in this instance, I was 100% confident that something was wrong with the bladder tank, and my suspicion only grew as every time I could hear the tank *THUNK!*, the water pressure would change from any faucet and would audibly change as the toilet tank filled. It was no bueno. Yesterday, I set up an appointment with a local plumber. Today, the nerdiest plumber you ever did see showed up, spent five minutes at the tank, and promptly told me the fucking thing has to be replaced.
The diaphragm in the bladder tank has failed, flooding the air chamber completely. All in for supplies, labor, and removal of the old tank, we’re staring at a $1300 bill that we really hadn’t planned for. GREAT.
In all fairness, we’ve actually been able to save a bit in the last two years, despite at one time managing two homes (our previous one and our current one), spending for our wedding, spending for others’ weddings, putting on Christmas and other parties, and (somewhat) idiotically adopting a new dog. Budgeting hasn’t always been a shared goal – I hoard and Adam spends. I’m pretty much Smaug and he’s a hobbit on one of their many feast days. (Granted, I don’t hoard money out of greed, I do it out of fear of not having it when we need it, but that doesn’t mean I don’t become relatively hostile when I have to part with large sums.)
As such, it has been one of the great hurdles of our relationship to find a middle ground where I don’t act like Ebeneezer Scrooge and he doesn’t spend with abandon. We have finally gotten to a place where we do have a small cushion of savings and relatively manageable debt. Granted, I still haven’t managed to save for retirement in any tangible way and I constantly live in fear of the day we can’t actually pay a bill, but I’m also surprising calm about this expense.
The odd thing is, I know $1300 isn’t a lot to many people, and for others, it would be beyond manageable and they’d have to go into hock for it. But therein lies one of the many complexities of modern American life: we don’t talk about money. And we certainly don’t know how to talk about money. I have a suspicion the very concept of displaying even a small glimpse into my finances will be cause for deep discomfort for some, my husband included. (Sorrynotsorry my love).
Of all the things I currently despise: Donald Trump and his supporters, people blatantly ignoring the recent poison gas attack in Syria, general inhumanity, The Kardashians… Capitalism tops my list. Capitalism tops my list right now because it is the common thread running through many (most? all?) of our world’s ills. It is the driver of inequality, the operant excuse for racism, the explanation as to how we ended up with an inept kleptocratic government, hellbent on selling public lands for oil drilling and eviscerating social welfare programs designed to protect the most vulnerable people in our society.
And one way in which Capitalism keeps us attendant to this vile system of inequality is by stripping away our social comfort and even language that would enable meaningful interpersonal discussions about money. The issue is so pervasive, in fact, that couples married for decades often lack the ability to easily discuss finances. Take my parents, for instance. My father is an avid investor, who has done fairly well in the market (save that wee hiccup in 2007/8 when everything went to shit… due to the greed of Capitalism gone unchecked). My mother, however, doesn’t even know where their investments lie or in what capacity. This is largely due, I believe, to the fact that these two very bright people – both of whom have Master’s Degrees in ENGLISH, lack the language to speak unemotionally, softly, logically, and reasonably about money.
I know my boss’s sharp response to my direct outline of how grossly underpaid I am was in part because I violated one of the most sacred tenets of being an employee under Capitalism: I directly asked my coworkers what they make. And, because they are leaving (or in one case, have already left) the company, they actually told me. I am not wholly confident that had they not been moving away that they would have divulged this, but that’s not at issue. What is at issue is that this taboo is above and beyond one of the most offensive of our society. You don’t talk about income.
But therein lies the crux of the matter. One absolutely cannot address financial inequality if there exists no concrete point of comparison. By keeping employees from discussing compensation for commensurate work, we are kept in the dark. The concrete examples of inequitable pay are persistently out of our grasp.
It’s not that as a society we don’t talk about money in general. We are a culture that legitimately WORSHIPS money. Just look at that Lizard King Joel Osteen and other “prosperity preachers.” Now, I’m about as irreligious as you can get, but I was raised Catholic and I actually paid attention. Call me crazy, but I’m 99.99999% sure that Osteen’s pulpit-purse pontification is pretty much the exact opposite of what that there Jesus Christ fellow was all about. (Now that’s not to say the Vatican practices what it preaches, either, but that’s not my point.) We are so obsessed with wealth and the wealthy that we elect businessmen because we admire and envy their wealth even as they show themselves to be amoral, lecherous, imbeciles whose so-called wealth is purely a byproduct of NEPOTISM and INHERITANCE.
We spew nonsense like “wealthy is healthy,” which is terrifying and actually true: in this country, you must have wealth to legitimately purchase health(care). The Republicans’ beloved idea of stripping away the ACA (Obamacare) and foreign assistance programs actually underscores that inequity and Capitalism’s gross iniquity are opposite sides of the same fucking coin. IT IS MORALLY BANKRUPT TO MAKE HEALTHCARE UNATTAINABLE TO THE POOR, YOU CUNTS.
So we can worship at the altar of wealth and money without ever having to get into the weeds about it. It is uncouth to ask if friends building a new McMansion at age 25 are in debt up to their eyeballs, as either a way to take a litmus test of our own comparative standing or the health of the market as a whole. It’s obscene to discuss mortgage and car and credit card payments, even with friends close enough to be considered family, or even with family. We can casually joke and say things like, “I’ll be 90 before I can retire!” but never actually expound on why that is so funny-sad. Now, it’s not as though I think these conversations would be a barrel of laughs, but without the ability to discuss and understand personal finance and microeconomics, we also lack the ability to discuss and understand macroeconomics and how that affects people personally, how it changes nations, how it builds and destroys alliances, and all the rest. (This is NOT to say microeconomics and macroeconomics are in any way synonymous, but they do contain some similar concepts that can be used to build understanding.) And RIGHT THERE is why Capitalism can have us in a death spiral stranglehold and no one can even articulate it.
I don’t have the answer to this communications problem, I just have a plumber in the basement fixing our fucked up well bladder tank for $1300, the need to pee while the water is shut off for the repair, and an excessive amount of socialist rage. But maybe, maybe if I show you mine, you’ll show me yours and we can start to understand a small piece of this very, very big mess together. More importantly, maybe knowing how and why our family, friends, and neighbors struggle will help a sense of community reemerge; it’s easier to shrug off the suffering of strangers than it is to ignore the struggles of those we see every day.