Americans can be lazy and disrespectful

While I was out shopping for a few gifts for my wife on the Saturday before Christmas, I became aware of an alarming trend.  Everywhere I went, there were people that were parking curbside and waiting.  Usually someone was in the car, but sometimes not.  I saw this perhaps a dozen times in a four hour window of shopping, and I did not once see someone getting into or out of a car – so they weren’t just stopping to pick someone up or drop them off.

My first reaction was just an amazement at how lazy these people might be.  I usually intentionally park a little farther away to do some extra walking.  The passengers in the curbside-parkers (maybe I’ll just call them curbers) are clearly doing a lot of walking while shopping.  Can they seriously not walk the extra 50 yards to a true parking spot?  I noticed no handicap parking tags, plus often the handicap spot was literally just steps away and open.

Parking away from the other cars also minimizes the chance of some hitting my car or putting a door ding in it.   Not a big concern, but it just takes away some risk of a bad driver or someone not paying attention swinging their newish SUV into a spot or a kid in daddy’s car  on the phone or otherwise distracted hitting my car.  Blame my Aunt Nancy on this one, as her vintage Volvo daily driver still looks nearly new, and I learned this tip from her.

As i thought about it more, I became a little more disappointed, because these curbers are also really disrespectful to the thousands of other people shopping in at least two ways.   First, they’re stopping and parking in what is essentially one lane of two lane traffic.  So all the others drivers must go around them, driving out into the other lane of traffic to get around the curber.

When they pull up and stop, any other vehicles behind them are potentially initially delayed as they try to figure out what in the world they curber doing.  I actually witnessed this twice, and neither time was a turn signal used – so everyone else sat there for an extended pause before realizing there was nothing blocking the way – these people were just stopping for no apparent reason and had no plans to move.  I’m sure it sucks a little Christmas cheer out of some people when they realize they’ve been stuck behind a curber who has just claimed a new spot to wait.

A second way it is really disrespectful is to the shoppers on foot.  Now, to get to the store or back to their car, they must cross what was a two lane area of traffic either in front of or behind the curber.  Drivers coming from either direction already have to figure out what the yahoo is doing just sitting there, and they also now have limited visibility to pedestrians on top of this extra distraction.  So Curbers are putting others at risk purely for their own personal convenience.

Then it gets worse.  We’re fighting an obesity epidemic in this country.  Curbers are a prime example of the cultural reasons why.   People are too friggin’ lazy to even walk to their cars!  More importantly, somebody else is happier to just sit in the car and diddle away on their phone while a (presumed) loved one is shopping.  GET OUT OF THE CAR AND GO WITH THEM!  YOU NEED THE EXERCISE!

Then there’s the whole fuel economy thing, because it was a cold day so every car was sitting there idling.  One was definitely there for almost 30 minutes, because I went into three stores and shopped around, and waited in line at two of them, and the car was still there running when i came back to my car.  These are probably the same people that will complain about fuel costs and that they have no money to invest in retirement or whatever.  It’s because you’re sitting there burning off $2 worth of fuel every hour going nowhere.  It’s not the $2, it’s the mentality that accepts the wasteful use of money and time that leads to having no money.

Obviously our local police departments don’t need money – because these people are clearly parking in a no parking and fire zone.   An officer could just walk the beat and write dozens of tickets in an afternoon, keeping people safer and encouraging others to be just a little healthier at the same time.  There’s probably multiple violations that could cited in most of these cases.

While it aggravates me, overall it just makes me sad.   It’s probably a little piece of why people in other countries often thought I was either Canadian or British.  They said I was too nice and too friendly to be an American.  I didn’t expect everyone to speak English, so how can I be an American?  I talked to others, and tried to fit in with local behaviors as much as I could, including walking.  10,000 steps?  Try 25,000 to 30,000 on a typical weekend day in Italy, France, or Belgium.

Curbers are just one example of the entitlement and disrespectful attitude that many Americans exhibit.  My question is how do we save ourselves?  How do we reverse the trend as a society?  It’s obviously not an easy answer, except for one part of it:  All of us can save ourselves.   Take responsibility for your life, your health, your financial future, and for how you treat others.  Maybe we can’t fix the United States as a whole (and don’t expect any government to fix it either), but we can make an impact in our part of it; we can make an impact in our lives.

We really should be thinking more about others than ourselves this time of year, but often when we think of others, we get so many good things for ourselves.

Merry Christmas.

 

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Don’t be afraid to Dream Big

Somewhere along the way from the beginning of our school years to when we become adults and start working towards retirement, it seems like a lot of us forget how to really pursue our dreams.  We are doing something, but I’m not sure many of us are actually pursuing a specific dream or set of dreams.

I wouldn’t trade my first 20 years of marriage for anything, but I’d love to go back to 1995 or so, when we had been married a few years with the knowledge I have now about life, money, and the possibilities that exist for early retirement.  The whole idea of what I thought was the American Dream, to own a house, drive nice cars, and retire at age 65, has sent us down a much longer path than what we could have taken.

By 1995, I started focusing on retirement.  I wasn’t putting a ton of money in, but by 2000 I was in great shape, especially if I was thinking about retirement being another 35 years away.  My wife was focused on getting into the school systems, and the thought of a pension was a driving factor.  Investing for retirement wasn’t a priority for her.  A few of those years, we drove over 60,000 miles combined.  How much money did that really cost us?!?!

I’m not sure we would have found a better path to the incomes we’re earning now, but we have increased our lifestyle some as the income rose.  Mostly in housing, and somewhat in other areas like food, cars, and clothing.  We have a fine, typical lifestyle, but I wonder how much differently we could have done things if we knew what we know now?  We’re already more conservative and more “boring” than many of our friends, but what if from 1992-2012 we were pursuing the dream we’re pursuing now, the one of early retirement?  Could I have retired at 35 or 40 instead of maybe semi-retiring at age 50?

A few months ago, I came across a blog called Mr. Money Mustache, or MMM.  I don’t remember how I stumbled across it, but it was probably in preparation for the Legacy Journey class we were leading.  MMM sums up what it takes to retire super early in one post.    He would call my wife and me complainypants, because at this point we’re not selling our home and moving within walking or biking distance of where I work.  But deep down I sort of want to; the neighborhood beside where i now work was an area we dreaming of living in 1992.  Just a couple miles away is a great neighborhood we almost bought a house in back in 2009.  In between the two is an area we dreamed of in 2006.

Where we live is probably our biggest deterrent to early retirement. If we could make the move, we could probably either pay cash or pay off a house withing a year or two in one of those neighborhoods above.   I could stop driving my car much, and sell at least one car of the three we own.  Maybe two.  After that, giving up cable and reducing our spending on food would really be the last two things on our list.  We could probably be truly financially independent in 5 years instead of semi-retired.

I’m not complaining, things are pretty good.  Especially with the focus we’ve had the last four years about being intentional about dreaming and then pursuing those dreams.  But what if we’d been dreaming of retiring at age 40 since we got married?  What choices would we have made?  Why in the world didn’t someone tell us what was possible?   Why didn’t I get some sort of sage advice in high school from other than something like “you need to stop dreaming so much; most people just can’t be something they’re not.”  It was like since we are born into where we are, we can’t really change the course of our life.  What utter crap!

Many of us are made to fear failure.  To be afraid of what others will think if we don’t follow the herd. MMM is not the only place to learn about retiring really early.  jlcollinsnh, Afford Anything, 1500 Days, the Frugal Woods; all share recipes and recommendations for really pursing your dreams.  Don’t live someone else’s dream for you!  No matter how old you are, but especially if you’re young – take some time his month and really think about what you want from this life, then put a plan in place to go get it!