Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Spaz's take on luxury vs necessity - a rant

I read a post today on another blog that stated that no more than 1/3 of Americans have a valid passport. The post even included a colorful map of the US so the reader could easily see which states have the most passports.

Like we should all be horrified that there are so many people who aren't traveling abroad. The writer didn't say it, but the implication was there.

I actually do have a valid passport. It has one little stamp in it from when we went to the Bahamas via plane. You don't get the stamp if you go via Disney cruise, just via airplane. And I sort of doubt it will get used again before it expires. I have three kids and a lot of responsibilities and jet setting all over the world just isn't in my priority list.

And getting that passport was a pain in the butt, let me tell you. First of all, it wasn't cheap. I mean, relative to a European vacation, I guess it wasn't too bad, but I know it set us back over $100 per passport. For a family of 5 that was over $500 to go to a small island barely 200 miles away. I also had some administrative hoops to jump through to prove I was allowed to take Bug and Munchkin out of the country and that I wasn't trying to kidnap them. Then we all got to go get our pictures taken.

It's not the kind of crap I can imagine many people going through just for the pleasure of keeping their passport active, without an impending vacation looming.

I always sort of snicker when I watch TV shows or movies and for some reason the main character has to fly to some foreign country with no notice and they always have a passport. I always think how unrealistic that is. The main character will have some low paying job, like a waitress or a receptionist, and yet I'm supposed to believe she happens to have a valid passport just waiting for her to jump on the next plane to Glasgow to tell Mr. Right that she will marry him!

If The Man and I were going to hop a plane to London next month and stay at a hotel for a week, we'd be lucky if it cost us less than $5k, right? That would be a frugal vacation.

According to this website, the bottom 2/3 of American households make less than $65,000 per year. These, one could presume, are your non valid passport holding families.

So let's take the top earning family in this 2/3, making 65 thousand big ones every year. After taxes, they're bringing in a whopping $4479.59 every month.

Out of that massive figure, they're going to have to pay rent or mortgage, electricity, at least one phone bill (and more like a cell phone for everyone), internet access, cable tv, probably at least one car payment (maybe two), insurance on those cars, health insurance, gas (i paid $3.46 a gallon yesterday), grocery bills, probably some child care, and don't forget the obligatory birthday gifts and other assorted expenses that I'm sure I'm forgetting.

If this family has an extra $50 at the end of the month, I'd consider them lucky.

So to save up for that European vacation it would only take them over 8 years. And what are the chances the ticket prices didn't go up by the year 2019?

So when I look at the fact that less than 1/3 of Americans have a valid passport, I'm actually surprised that it's that many. Traveling abroad is a privilege that a lot (maybe the majority) of Americans will never experience. I don't necessarily look at that as a bad thing. I think it's just reality.

It's funny how our priorities change along with our society. For the longest time we had one car. Yes, occasionally it was a slight inconvenience to only have the one, but for the most part we did just fine. But the shock that would cross faces when I mentioned that we only had one was priceless.

"You mean, The Man doesn't have his own car? You share the minivan?"

It was like we were robbing the other of the very freedom to breathe fresh air when one of us might be out in the car. (Usually it was The Man home, too, so I got the evil looks. Like I had him locked up in a basement, or something.) And after the initial horror, those looks turned to sympathy. It was revolting.

It wasn't that long ago that it was perfectly normal for a household to have only one car. People didn't need to drive all over creation. Kids were allowed to ride their bikes or walk to school or even take a school bus and it wasn't necessary to drive them to a different extra-curricular activity every day. Having more than one car for a family was a luxury.

The same goes for cable TV and cell phones and multiple gaming systems. But now I'm just ranting... I'll try to get back to the point and wrap this up.

It peeves me when our society turns a want into a need. When it horrifies us that a person could be living without something that we deem to be a necessity. When our little brains rank that person on a lower rung of the social class ladder because they choose to go without whatever little convenience we qualify as a must for ourselves. Things have gotten so complicated and I think it might just be time to rein it in a little.


Unknown said...[Reply to comment]

I don't get why not having a passport if you live in America is such a big deal to be honest. Am I right in thinking you can fly internally without one, cause if that's the case then you've basically all the standard holidays covered under one roof, skiing, city breaks, beaches and all that jazz.

When I go on holiday it because it pisses down 351 days of the year and the fortnight of sunshine we get tends to be when term starts back after the Summer holidays:) Plus I can fly to Spain and back for about £20 if I shop the seat sales, less than it would cost me in fuel to drive to Dublin. We have cheapy airlines coming out of our ears here so being able to go on holiday is a different ballgame, I could get my family to Florida for less than £1000.

Unknown said...[Reply to comment]

Yep, we can fly internally without a passport. If we needed one to go between states, I would understand having to have one.