Robust economy

I got some good news in the mail this week that I feel obliged to share with my fellow Californians: The state’s economy is in fine shape—so strong, in fact, that the government is sending out checks to low-life, unproductive dolts like me. No kidding. I have on my desk right now a check for $3 signed by state Controller Steve Westley. The check is dated Feb. 14, 2003 (Happy Valentine’s Day!). Accompanying the check is this note: “Enclosed is your Vehicle License (VLR) Rebate. Because of California’s healthy economy [emphasis mine], California motorists are receiving another tax break in the form of a 32.5 percent VLF Rebate. The new tax break is in addition to the current 35 percent VLF Offset for a total car tax cut of 67.5 percent. Consult you local professional to determine what portion of the VLF may be tax deductible.”

The stub attached to the check says if I have any questions I can call the DMV at a toll-free number (further evidence of a strong economy!). I did this and was greeted by Operator H-1, who patiently told me the check was a rebate from the 2001-02 tax year. It was sent to people who renewed their licenses before last July. “When did you get this?” H-1 asked. “Most people got theirs last year. Did you let it expire and then reapply?” (The check, she said, comes with a “stale date” of six months.) I told her I didn’t think so and that even if I did let it lapse I probably wouldn’t go through the hassle of reapplying for a $3 check—not that I was ungrateful or anything. “Well a lot of people find them in the bottom of a box and then try to cash them but it’s too late,” she said. “Oh,” I replied. Then I asked her about the message that said the state had a “healthy economy.” I thought we would share a laugh over that one. She didn’t bite. “Were you late getting registration last year?” she asked. I assured her I was not. About then we realized this conversation had run its course and so I thanked her, said good bye and tossed the check into a desk drawer.

There is a new fashion trend sweeping Chico and maybe even the whole state, for all I know. At least I think it’s new. (Though I consider myself, with apologies to Ray Davies, a dedicated follower of fashion, sometimes I don’t notice these things until the trend has pretty much run out of steam and only the uncool people are doing it.) Anyway, I’ve noticed that college-aged women are now wearing pajama bottoms in public. I don’t think this plaid-flannel, slumber-party statement is meant to be sexy or anything, because it’s not. I think the pajama-bottom wearers are expressing an attitude, an “I’m just wearing these pajama bottoms because I really don’t care what people think of the way I dress” attitude. These young women are tired of being slaves to fashion. Not only that, they want to be considered cool and be accepted by their peers. Who doesn’t?

Somebody is circulating an unsigned letter on the Internet that I guess is supposed to represent the average white-American attitude, which is apparently very angry. Vern Leathers was kind enough to e-mail the letter to me with the note, "This is a forwarded letter I received from the Internet. I [sic] speaks loud and clear the sentiment felt by many Americans." (I don’t think Vern meant to sound like a Rastafarian—I think he meant to write "It," rather than "I.") The letter begins: "I like big cars, big boats, big motorcycles, big houses and big campfires. I believe the money I make belongs to me and my family, not some governmental stooge with a bad comb-over who wants to give it away to crack addicts for squirting out babies." It goes downhill from there, with the writer saying that white people are the only ones who suffer from discrimination, that he or she has the right to be intolerant, and that children need to be smacked. It closes: "I’m proud to be from America and nowhere else. And if you don’t like my point of view, tough shit! Hell Yeah!!!" Thanks, Vern.