Our business, which is national and not local, has been strong. (Throw salt over left shoulder.)
We have continued to grow. (Turn around three times and spit.)
But for many of our friends and neighbors, things are very tough. The local economy is based on the real estate industry and tourism. Both are in the tank, real estate grievously so. The trickle-down effect is enormous. If you work in real estate sales, or you work in construction, or you work in a lamp store, a furniture store, a linen store; if you are an architect or interior designer, or own a lunch truck…right now, in Southwest Florida, you are getting clobbered. Or you are going out of business. Or you are declaring bankruptcy and moving to another state.
Perhaps you saw President Obama’s visit to Fort Myers, the next city over from us in Naples. Or maybe you read this article in The New York Times, about another of our neighboring cities, Lehigh Acres.
The father of my son’s best friend was an $80,000 a year construction supervisor. He told me on Monday that he has been sleeping in his car and is down to his last $25.
Tuesday night I had dinner in Fort Myers. I couldn’t finish my meal and asked to take the rest home in a “doggy bag” (in reality, a Styrofoam box). As I left the restaurant, something happened that had never happened to me before. A man approached me in the parking lot and asked if he could have the food. I handed him the box, got in my car, and drove home, feeling fortunate, guilty, and pensive.
The man hadn’t looked like a beggar or a drug addict or a bum.
He looked a lot like you and me.