Upon receiving a degree in applied mathematics from a “safety school” that was really his first and only choice, Fred Spencer moved to America’s third largest city from America’s third smallest city. He planned on buying a business casual wardrobe, finding work as a software engineer, and starting a 401k. Whenever someone in America’s third smallest city asked Fred why he was leaving, he always replied, “I have to go where the opportunities are man! There’s nothing happening here, except waiting around to die!” So Fred bought a plane ticket, sold his possessions, and left town. As soon as his plane landed on the tarmac in America’s third largest city, Fred started telling everyone on Facebook that it was a mystical paradise compared to the stagnant wasteland of America’s third smallest city. Fred told everyone on Facebook because his only friends lived back in his hometown.
Fred hailed a cab from the taxi stand at the airport, and to his surprise, the driver didn’t ask him for directions after he told him the destination. The driver dropped Fred off downtown and thanked him for paying with a credit card. Fred stood and look around him in wonder, filled with endless possibility. Suddenly, two small cherubs descended from the sky between the impossibly tall buildings. They landed upon Fred’s shoulder and unfurled a banner that boldly stated, “WELCOME.” The cherubs shoved a tiny contract into his hand that offered a six figure salary at a web development startup. Fred was overcome with fear and consumed by an intense longing for his hometown. Nothing super weird and friendly like that amazing opportunity would have ever happened in America’s third smallest city. Fred was beginning to doubt himself in the face of such awesome potential. Hesitantly, he accepted the job offer and stayed to live in America’s third largest city.
That was ten years ago.
Fred reached into his pocket and pulled out a faded, crumpled 50 dollar bill. He was finding cuurency in every nook and cranny these days. Fred was staying at a five-star hotel because his high rise condominium was currently infested with money. Until his financial advisers could sort that out, it was nothing but in-room massages, aged steak dinners, and bottles of red wine. Fred started comparing his indulgent extravagance with the saddening poverty of America’s third smallest city, and he became very nostalgic for watery draft beer and sweaty hot dogs in the bleacher seats of a baseball game. “I could live like a king on fifty bucks back home,” Fred thought to himself while he lived like a king on dividends from his investments.
Fred would remark to anyone within earshot, “Back home you can still smoke in bars,” or “People just get wasted and drive,” or “You can openly carry guns in McDonald’s!” Fred intonated these observations with such enthusiasm, as if that somehow made his hometown a better place than America’s third largest city with clean air, safe streets, and low crime. “MY HOMETOWN IS THE GREATEST CITY IN THE WORLD,” Fred would shout out loud and raise his hands in righteous celebration.
Fred then clapped his hands and called for the retired major league baseball player, who he had hired only to bring him an authentic on-field baseball cap from his favorite team and then gently place it atop his head. Fred was ready to return home hat firmly in hand, millions of dollars in his bank account, and an ego lustily stroked by detached nostalgia. Fred was going to take the wealth from opportunities afforded him in America’s third largest city, and exploit the impoverished economic paralysis of America’s third smallest city to a fantastic degree.
It’s all about perspective.