class and classy

It used to be a running joke in college that anyone who called anything “classy” was automatically bestowing sort of the opposite adjective to it; that classy was a word used by a person who had no class. Or used by us trying to be ironic.

I’ve been thinking about class a lot in the past few weeks. We just had our town meeting on Tuesday. I took a few photos. I like living in Vermont because there’s more of a sense that we’re in this together, whatever “this” happens to be. As of a few months ago, Randolph started charging people to drop off recycling at the transfer station. We’ve always paid for trash but recycling was free. I thought this was as it should be, small financial incentives to do the right thing. On the other hand, it was costing the town to get rid of the recycling and the so-called “tipping fees” were actually subsidizing the recycling program as recycling got more expensive to process. There was some discussion of this including one lady who said that she took a bag of recycling and it cost “only fifty cents” the easy implication being if you were going to not recycle over a mere fifty cents, there was something pretty well wrong with you. I think this ignores what it’s like to really live on a tight budget or make tough choices about where your money goes (for the record, I do neither, this is a bit of an intellectual exercise for me) and I have to admit that I’ve been letting my recycling pile up, which is ridiculous.

There was also some back and forth about the Randolph Food Shelf which was asking for something like $1500 this year to help with expenses. A young woman who was pretty new to town meeting was surprised to see people walking out of the food shelf with cakes because, well, she was on a budget and she wasn’t buying cake. She asked about it. There followed a long discussion of how the food shelf system works (cakes are day old, or donated) and who it serves (anyone who says they need it, no questions asked) and it seemed like most people in town were okay with the whole system. In a town of about 4800 people, 350 people had used the food shelf at some point in the last year. Ten percent of Vermonters have used a food shelf at some time. It didn’t look like the food shelf was going to have a difficult time getting their money. Good.

I’ve been travelling a lot on planes lately which is getting more unpleasant as the airlines find ways to save costs. I’m not complaining as much as stating a fact. I’m aware I can stay home. One day, perhaps I will. In addition to charging for checked bags, United now calls the first ten or so rows in the non-first class part of the plane “premium” seating (since they have a few inches of extra legroom) and tries to charge you more to sit in them. It’s not unusual to see a plane taking off with ten empty rows and everyone else smushed into the back part of the plane. After takeoff, people try to move into better seats and they’re rebuffed. Air travel has always come with severe class distinctions: from the order of loading the plane, to the silly curtain in-between first and second class, to additional bathrooms for first class travellers with severe exhortations from the flight attendants to only use your own bathrooms.

The stewardesses on my last flight — as I was smooshed in the back somewhere, but I don’t care too much since I’m short and can pretty much fit anywhere — actually told people it wasn’t fair for them to move forward since other people had paid extra to sit in those special seats. Ignoring the obvious “Well, who created this stupid system?” follow-up question. Then they said something about not using the forward rest rooms because of “safety.” Since it’s pretty well illegal for us to ignore anything they say because of “safety” this is a nice way to make weird arbitrary distinctions and make them unarguable. And yes I know you’re not supposed to gather by the cockpit, but as far as I know, there are no safety ramifications for a non-first class passenger to pee or not pee in a first class toilet. Are there?

Of course, people who can afford air travel in the US are often already in a privileged class, so it’s amusing to get this object lessons in how it feels to be someone who gets things denied to them just because of how much money you have, or are willing to spend. I’m glad I can take it or leave it.

What do you think?


  1. There’s still Amtrak, which is still a relatively civilized way to travel.

  2. It’s so hard to find a community that feels like a COMMUNITY! You are very lucky!

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