Webster describes affluence as abundance of property or riches. Either fits the society we live in today. We are living in a time when most people manage one way or another to gain possession of about any material thing their hearts desire. There is an abundance in this land that our forefathers could not possibly have imagined, and all people, rich or poor, enjoy the world’s riches. It makes no difference whether one has cash at the time of a purchase, because most people have wallets and purses full of credit cards. My daughter think, “ We get to eat for nothing today.” and I eat out often, and I always try to be aware of how much cash I have, lest I am embarrassed when the waitress brings the check. Well, I soon learned that I was concerned over nothing. She informed me that we both have a debit card. “ Great,” I thought, “Today we ate for nothing.”
Looking back, I realize that the time period that a person lived in had a great affect on his affluence. In the 1700s a person of affluence was perhaps one who was wealthy enough to own a shotgun.. In the 1800s a man of means would likely be a land owner who would claim ownership of one or more other human beings.. By the time 1900 rolled around, if a family’s home was wired for electricity, and the family owned a piano and one of those wind-up record players, and an ice-box. ,that family would be considered affluent.
On the year 2010, affluence can be measured in many ways. For instance, the person who can go to the grocery story and purchase 50 or so Pringles, packed in a expensively manufactured tennis ball container ball container that must be worth more than the value of the well protected Pringles it contains.
On a larger scale, a person is affluent if that person can manage to rent, lease, or purchase a house with enough floor space to provide the equivalent of one apartment for each member in the household, complete with an abundance of bathrooms to eliminate the possibility of anyone having to wait. The same size house in the 1800s might have required the services of five servants to operate , but the present day Mrs. Affluence has to do the entire job without outside help. At the same time her busy husband, club in hand, rides over the countryside in his low slung mechanized, wheeled vehicle, chasing little white balls, which often are the targets of his profane wrath, most of which he saves to take home to his ever-suffering wife. If I’m wrong about this, let me know by email.
Affluence sort of slipped up and swallowed me before I realized what was happening. Looking back I believe it was somehow related to garbage. I well remember a few years back, when people had to burn their garbage in backyard barrels. In those days it was difficult to determine the affluent from the poor, because it all smelled the same, as it drifted over to the homes of neighbors.
Well, along came public garbage service, and I found myself walking out each Monday morning with one can of garbage I soon noticed that neighbors were carrying out three or more. In the back of my mind, where I place people, I subconsciously placed the three can family in the category of “fringe of rich.” While the four canners were labeled, “very affluent.”
Along about this time, I started carrying my garbage out on Sunday evenings. I have never mentioned this before, but old age is causing me to be more careful with the truth. I must admit that at this time, I was toting four big cans out. And I don’t believe my neighbors ever caught on to the fact that two of them were empty. This is something that only me and the garbage workers knew.
Lloyd Mathews is a retired land surveyor and a historian who lives in Pulaski.