Posted by: Rob | June 4, 2009

Indicators of Financial Trouble

I have this thing.  I notice things.  Things that most people don’t even look at.  I don’t know why it is, but it just is.

Did you ever watch the TV show The Waltons?  There was an episode in season 2* titled “The Theft” when John Walton was accused of stealing silver goblets from the home of a more well-to-do family while over there doing odd jobs.

John Walton a thief! Well that’s the rumor going around the mountain when a rich neighbor finds that a silver collection is missing. Needless to say, John is the only visitor she has had in weeks. Mrs. Claybourne has had John Walton doing some odd jobs around her home, but she accuses him of stealing some valuable silver goblets, while he was working in her mansion. When he refuses to clear himself of the charge, the family pride suffers a severe blow. Finally it is revealed that it was Mrs. Claybourne’s son who took the goblets and sold them, as he was trying to protect his mother from learning that they simply had no money left and he was trying to make ends meet.

I’ll never forget the part where the old man, John Walton Sr, after visiting the Claybourne’s makes a comment to his son’s about the Claybourne’s son’s shoes.  While the young man’s shoes were clean, they were indeed worn out.  To John Sr, this was an indicator that all was not well with the Claybourne’s finances in spite of other outward appearances.

That observation and lesson has always stuck with me.

In today’s world, I think the analogy to worn out shoes might be vehicle tires.

I mentioned that I notice things and I walk past many vehicles in the parking lot at work as I make the trek to and from my own vehicle and the beginning and end of each day.  As I walk, I look at the vehicles.  After a time, you begin to recognize them.  You can see the myriad effects of daily life on them and the evidence of how much a particular vehicle’s owner values or prizes it.

Where I work, the workers, both direct employees and contractors, do alright in the pay department.  These are some of the average highest paying jobs in the area.  The parking lot generally a contains a lot of late model and high end vehicles.  Often times, toys are present in the backs of pick up trucks.  Expensive toys, like snowmobiles and ATV’s.  The site allows for the storage of employee RV’s in a compound built especially for them, so you will see RV’s big and small moving in and out of the yard in the spring and fall.

No evidence of a shortfall in income there, you might conclude.

And yet, there’s the tires.  I have noticed a significant number of vehicles with worn out tires.  Little or no tread remaining, some with totally bald spots on them.  And we are just – finally – coming out of the wintry weather, where driving with such tires is way beyond the bounds of foolishness.

And I wonder.  Why don’t these people get new tires?  Can’t they afford them?  Why not?  What are they choosing to spend their money on instead of this vehicle safety feature that is most important to life and limb?  I know tires aren’t cheap.  I just bought a new set of Goodyear’s for the Avalanche.  Granted, the truck has 20″ wheels, but the rubber for four costs $1500!  (I did get them on sale for $1100.)  But it’s a small price to pay if it’s the difference between wrecking and not.

I just wonder if bald tires are simply an indicator of economic worse things to come.

* The things you can find on the internets!


  1. I suspect they are not wanting to sell “the good stuff”, and also that there is no market for it in these times. And I have a suspicion that things will get worse before they get better. Could be worse, it could be bald tires on a police car.

  2. odd… maybe lazy factors in to the equation? in my sportscar owning days, to keep the soft-rubber, z-rated fast tires on my car cost me between $750-$1000 a pop. and since they were soft, i was burning through them about every 25,000 miles… expensive.

    i’d get aggravated to see the same model with skinny, practical tires. honey, there ain’t NOTHING practical about your car. why skimp on the tires? did you buy it to drive it or display it?

    but yeah… the safety issue should trump the ATV…

  3. “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.” That goes DOUBLE in an economic crisis.

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