October 2007

Trickle-out economics

By David Feela

I went to the store to buy a replacement garden hose, because a fairly new but totally inept one had developed a leak. Of course, I know hoses are supposed to leak – from one end – but this hose had an ailment: Multiple Directional Dysfunction (MDD). Namely, it let water loose in a half dozen directions before the water ever reached the sprinkler. It had to go.

I can speak with authority on the subject of hoses, because in my neighborhood I have a shareholder’s interest in their manufacturing. To be specific, I buy tons of hoses; I have 20 sprinklers going at any given moment during the summer, with at least four hoses coiled and poised, waiting to be uncoiled and coupled into service. I know some people would recommend installing an underground sprinkler system, but I covet my position as the Sheik of sprinklers, the Viceroy of vinyl, the King of kinks.

If Alan Greenspan had to water his own lawn, he’d have known the American economy was more than a collection of statistics. With a name like Greenspan, after all, you’d expect a lush future, which is why I’m offering a few observations based on my own watering experiences. Traditional economists employ a variety of indicators to predict how the country is doing. They cite the Dow Jones average, unemployment rates, housing sales and construction, cost of living indexes, the price of consumer goods, and inflation. Much to a statistician’s dismay, I rely entirely on garden hoses.

With an accuracy of roughly 50 feet, I can say with confidence that my observations have been field tested, and they usually hold water. As with all economic discussions, if you get bored, go out and water the lawn.

Hint #1: Don’t use the word “watering” when you mean irrigation. Irrigation is for profit; watering refreshes. Money may be the compost that keeps us eating, but plant life is what keep us breathing.

Hint #2: No matter where you exist in the economic terracing of America, remember that keeping things alive is why you are here on this earth. A light duty hose costs you less, but it holds water like pantyhose. A medium weight hose costs a little more, but it still buckles under pressure. Heavy duty hoses claim they’re guaranteed, but don’t buy it; nothing besides death is guaranteed. When it comes to money, stay flexible.

Hint #3: Turn off the water before checking to see why the sprinkler’s not working. Bending the hose or stepping on it to reduce water pressure looks easier, but in the end you’ll get an eyeful of the unexpected. People who are good with money know precisely when to let their money go.

Hint #4: Neighbors won’t come over anymore to ask for a cup of water. Instead, they’ll steal your hoses, especially if you buy the expensive ones. The lesson, if you can afford it, is to bury your sprinkler system. If you can’t afford it, bury your neighbor.

Hint #5: If you’ve been saving that expensive hose for a rainy day, remember that rain is God’s way of saying hoses are stupid. Xeroscaping in the West makes better sense than spending your money on pipe dreams. If making oodles of money is your pipe dream, then you better go into irrigation.

Hint #7: Evaporation is watering’s greatest enemy, which is why whatever you planned unexpectedly disappears. No matter how much water you’ve saved, don’t count on it – continue to save. Turn your sprinklers on in the early morning or late evening. During the heat of the day, keep your head out of the sun.

Hint #8: When you leave your hoses stretched out on the lawn, exposed to the sun, or don’t cover the tires on your RV or trailer, the rubber gets brittle and becomes checked with exposure to the weather. I say, so what! It’s likely the only free checking you’ll ever receive. Take whatever you can get for free.

Hint #9: Don’t forget hint #8.

Hint #10: Before you place all your faith in the bank, remember that the color green comes from a deeper place. A grassroots portfolio is always the best financial advice, which is why I still have a shareholder’s interest in hoses.

David Feela is a teacher at Montezuma-Cortez High School.