We've been in New York City since last Tuesday. Culture shock is a good description for us so far. I've seen more people in one day than I've seen in my entire life, except perhaps when I was in Buenos Aires. This is different though; it seems more crowded because the buildings are so tall and there are so many people walking around. We took the train to Manhattan and took a trip up the Empire State Building. We are going to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island tomorrow. I don't know if we will make it to ground zero. If we do it will be on Monday when my cousin is at work. My cousin watched the second plane fly into the tower. She would have been a casualty that day but instead had a doctor appointment and wasn't at her office.
There are two things I want to focus on today with my blog. One is money and how much people have, the other is how my New York cousins prep. First the money. Right before I left I was visiting my friend and fellow blogger Kris. We were talking about money and how much people make. You see, Kris doesn't make much. She makes enough to pay her mortgage but some months she doesn't make much more than that. She is an avid gardener and canner. If she wasn't there would be times she'd be hungry. Sometimes she gets feeling down because money is always a stress. She doesn't want to feel any envy about what others make. She truly wants to rejoice in their good fortune. From her perspective I make a lot. I make about five times as much as she does but sometimes money is a stress for me too. Why? My house payment is much higher and I now have the grand kids. I also took a 30% pay cut by getting promoted (no overtime) because this made for a better schedule once I became a parent for the second go around. We spoke about how having money can take the stress off the basic premise of having a roof over your head but after that, people with money aren't much different than people without. Their life stresses are often just the same or even higher.
I thought that way until I arrived in New York. Why? I'm staying at a cousin's house. We are about 1/2 hour outside of the city. The train is about a five or ten minute walk from their house. Their house isn't pretentious. In fact, it's probably smaller than mine, or about the same size if you include their basement. Their yard is about 20' x 50' which is huge from what I've seen in this area. They only have grass growing. No fruit trees, no garden. They don't make or produce anything for themselves. This is something that really surprised me. I guess I never thought about it that unless you have a prepper attitude having money can mean putting your family in jeopardy.
Some of the things they have: a gardener to mow the lawn during the summer, a nanny who not only watches the children after school but also grocery shops, makes the children dinner and a separate dinner for the parents, a house cleaner, a house organizer, and most importantly someone to tend to the two cats. Yes, you heard me right! They hire someone to shop for cat food, change the cat boxes (each cat has their own), feed them, give them fresh water, and bring them to the vet when needed. The cousins don't normally cook. I asked why and the answer was because it's work. They'd rather pay, other than they made pancakes for breakfast this morning. I took a bunch of fruit and some ice, put it into the blender and made smoothies for our drink. They were shocked at how good it was and how easy it was to make. It's Girl Scout cookie time...they just bought 110 boxes. We went to lunch today, 2 adults 4 kids, $90!
Their money, and how they spend it is mind boggling, to say the least. They make more in two or three weeks than I make in a year! This is just as mind boggling to me as my income is to Kris. Well, not quite. I don't have to worry about making my house payment but other than that, Kris and I live a pretty similar lifestyle. Our main focus is family and self sufficiency.
This takes me back to my cousins. They make over one million dollars in a year. This is just salary and doesn't include whatever income they have from investments. I'm not really focused on the money, I'm more focused on their dependency on others. They don't know how to cook. They don't know how to garden. They don't know how to clean. They don't know how to repair anything. Cousin is so grateful that I clean the kitchen after each meal that they are happy to buy us lunch and little things. After all, it costs them less to buy us lunch than they paid the house cleaner the other day, who in my opinion did a really lousy job cleaning their house.
What about their bookshelf? I found a couple of books that were pertinent to self reliance: How to survive just about anything (or something like that since it's not in front of me anymore) and the other, which I am reading, The Survival Guide: What to do in a Biological, Chemical, or Nuclear Emergency. It's an interesting book and was written in 2003. Everyone in New York still had 9/11 on their mind.
What about food? Dinner consists of either something delivered to the house, going out to a restaurant, or having the nanny cook with food she buys that day on her way over to their house. Lunch for the girls is usually the left over dinner from the night before. What about their pantry? They have some granola bars and other snack foods. They have a box of oatmeal and two boxes of cereal although all three are about half empty. They have a freezer filled with gourmet snack things, many of which I have no idea what they actually are! They have a case of chocolate and strawberry milk for the girls lunches. I found one shelf of canned food plus the almost empty box of Bisquick. That is all that's in their pantry. No flour, honey, cornmeal, or anything of the sort. The refrigerator is filled with milk, cheese, fresh fruits and vegetables, and five eggs. They don't have any bottled water. They don't have a water heater as they have a hot water on demand system. I saw an emergency switch to turn off the heating oil although I don't know where the tank for the heating oil is. Perhaps it's buried?
They don't have any clothes stored away. The 10 year old was telling me that it's almost time to do their summer clothes shopping. They buy a new wardrobe two or three times a year. Everything gets given away at the end of the season. After all, you wouldn't want to have clothes not in fashion, would you?
When I drove into Brooklyn I was looking around thinking if TSHTF 99% of the people wouldn't survive. I'm worried for my relatives as they are not prepared for anything. They seem to be under the impression that money can buy whatever they need. At the moment, money CAN buy whatever they need. But I think about when TSHTF, not now when they can get whatever they want with a phone call. I'm going to ask some questions tonight at dinner...I wonder where we are going or what is going to be ordered since it's a weekend and there isn't a nanny today. What if the food supply is disrupted? I guess since it wasn't disrupted for them during 9/11 they don't expect anything worse to happen? What about the hordes of people who live not too far away? Although they aren't right on the main road they are only a few hundred feet off the main road. They are just up the hill from the train tracks. Have they thought about blocking off some of their basement to have a storage area that isn't readily visible? Can this area be used to hide the family if needed? Do they have plans to be able to get out of town? They do own three cars. I've driven two of their cars into the city, one on Wednesday and a second on Friday. Neither car had more than 1/3 tank of gas. I filled them both up. Neither car has any food, water, blanket, or any other emergency supplies. But then why should they if the house doesn't? Yes, we will have an interesting dinner conversation.