Yesterday my taxi driver explained to me “the American Dream”:
“Get as much money for as little work as possible.”
Now some will stop my taxi driver short of speaking and proclaim, “The American Dream is dead!”; and then proceed to ramble on about oppression and so on to support their case.
I am here to tell you “the American Dream” is alive and well, and stronger than ever.
How can I be so confident?
The American Dream is to do what you want. That is all the American Dream has ever been. And though not every person can do what they want, the number of people who can has been steadily increasing throughout the past two centuries.
Many citizens of this country have lost sight of our freedom to live the life we choose for ourselves. In place of an appreciation for freedom, a debate over metaphorical white picket fences weighs over the national conscience.
We’ve lost sight of the American Dream in the midst of generational actions and reactions. We’ve simply been distracted.
I’ll explain it this way.
Imagine you’re 18 years old and you get called off to a world war to climb the beaches of Normandy, all the while your new best friends are being shot down left and right. By God, you know what sounds nice? A little house with a white picket fence in the suburbs of Middle America.
And now imagine you’re born years later to a family that lives in that little house with a white picket fence in Middle America, and you don’t ever get called off to war, you know what might not sound nice? Another little house with a white picket fence in the suburbs of Middle America.
Somehow, this specific generational action and reaction has come to symbolize “the American Dream” as a myth. But I do not see it that way.
We aren’t only now unravelling some mid-twentieth century construct to liberate ourselves. That’s far too convenient. The steady wind of the round-and-round-we-go has been a helicopter ride since before 1776 that propels us upward towards greater individual freedom than ever imaginable.
With my freedom, I’ve been building this van into a tiny home.
I haven’t told you about my van in a while because it’s been in the shop for about a month. So let me dive right into a snapshot of my American Dream yesterday.
The 5th gear in my 1994 Jeep Wrangler's transmission disintegrated on the highway on my way to work. I was able to use the lower gears to get around. But by mid-day I was clunking out at red-lights. Keep in mind I’m a travelling salesman. I’ve got places to be.
To face my impending total vehicle breakdown head-on, I drove it to the mechanic shop who has had my van for the last month. They have been installing the propane tank I bought behind the rear axle and connecting it to the boat furnace inside, as well as the stove. They’re done with the work. (But as it turns out, a thermocouple went bad on the furnace so I’ll have to work through the manufacturer to get that fixed some other day.)
Arriving unannounced they were not exactly excited to see me. Primarily because earlier that morning an unidentified truck backed into the front of my van that was parked in their lot. The grill was busted in and requires a significant repair (at their expense).
So here I am again, a man with two cars and no way to get around. It reminds me of that saying in football, “If you have two quarterbacks, you have none.”
With my phone dead, I had to call a taxi to leave the mechanic shop. We talked about the American Dream. He charged me $55 for what would be a $22 Uber. Life goes on.
For the past month I’ve been hoping the propane tank install would cost several hundred dollars, but expecting $1,000. The work was unique and justifiably billed as “time and materials”.
I almost cried when I heard twenty-six-hundred dollars come out of the mechanic’s mouth.
That money is just for the propane tank install. In a separate post I’ll break down the propane tank install once I get the van back from its collision repair.
Another punch would come from the estimate to replace the transmission on my Jeep, “twenty-five hundred dollars”.
Just like that I’ve got people asking for five-grand.
I’m going to leave you on a cliff hanger here because I’ve got multiple options on how to proceed.
But I will close with this:
I am 27 years old. I have somewhere in the neighborhood of $60,000 in student loan debt. I am living pay check to pay check. But I promise you, I am living the American Dream.