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The age of shabby and shoddy

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Jim Thompson

By Jim Thompson
HCP columnist

On those extremely rare occasions when, as a child, I remember us staying in motels, my mother always did this. She made the beds in the morning for, she did not want the maids to think we were pigs.

Yes, her standards were high, and I admit, when I leave a hotel room, I do not make the bed (but I leave a tip and you should, too).

It seems, though, we have entered the age of shoddy and shabby that reaches far beyond my mother’s standards.

I have not been there, but from the reports I read and the videos I have seen, our southern border must look like heck. It seems to be a mishmash of old fence, new fence, no fence and holes in the fence.  

It is embarrassing that the richest country in the world cannot present a decent appearance to our guests, those welcomed and those not welcomed. Ellis Island never looked like this. Have we no standards? Have we no pride? Notice, I am not talking about immigration policy, I am talking about the appearance we give the world when they first reach us.

Same way with the maintenance of our cities. My former boss, a native of Finland, told me the first time he came to New York in the late 1950s, the city gleamed. I started going to New York in the 1980s, and I have never seen it gleam. It gleamed in the old movies. Look at “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” or “North by Northwest.”  

Politicians talk about standards. What standards?

Look at our clothes today. People buy jeans that have been purposely shredded. I get that you want to be cool looking like everyone else, but where did we get to the point that looking like we live in rags is a fashion statement we want to emulate?  

Some people have lived in rags because they could not afford otherwise, but to deliberately buy clothes that look like rags and pay big bucks for them, I don’t get it.

I recently saw a picture of a family standing on the front porch of their home in 1939. It was one of those Depression-era pictures government-commissioned photographs that one sees occasionally. The home was an unpainted shack, but everything was neat and clean. But what struck me were the people. All were wearing bib overalls. The legs of the parents’ overalls were just shreds and patches and were probably their best. These people worked. The three little boys, probably aged 6 to 10, were wearing bib overalls that had no holes, and if they had been patched, one couldn’t notice it.  

I have a lot of admiration for those parents; they knew what their priorities were. They took care of their kids, no matter how poor they were.

Shabby and shoddy today go beyond the physical, however. I have seen drivers committing very arrogant driving mistakes in the last few months. Far beyond running red lights. Like the person who pulled up at a stop light across from us recently. They were wanting to turn left when the light changed. Rather than wait in the long line for the left turn, they pulled around that, to the left, into their oncoming traffic lanes and went to the far left one of those (there were three lanes that would have been their oncoming traffic lanes). Then, when the light changed, they executed their left in front of everyone in line, from a lane which they illegally occupied.

Also recently, I saw a driver at the top side of a T-intersection who didn’t want to wait for the light to change to make their own lane down the berm at high speed. You would have thought they were being pursued.

If this keeps up, our city traffic is going to look like that in some third world 

I don’t know that I am completely conveying what is bothering me, but it just seems to me that in thought and deed, many of us are slipping into a world of not caring. It affects the whole society from top to bottom. It is a malaise not serving us well.

Jim Thompson, formerly of Marshall, is a graduate of Hillsboro High School and the University of Cincinnati. He resides in Duluth, Ga. and is a columnist for The Highland County Press. He may be reached at

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