Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Six signs that your income is low

Six signs that your income is low
Nury Vittachi, Bangkok | Sun, 02/12/2012 12:24 PM
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“My psychologist asked me if I was ambivalent. I replied, well, yes and no. Ha ha ha!” Huh? Nobody laughed.

I tried again. “The workers at the mint went on strike today. They want to make less money. Get it? LESS money!” Huh? STILL nobody laughed. Which was a surprise, because the jokes were ancient and the hour was late.

You see, I know from experience that prehistoric jokes play better in the evenings, when people are conditioned by Carlsberg-induced brain-pickling to roar at things they register as jokes, rather than things that are actually funny.

But this time nobody in the group of financial people I was with laughed. “Don’t take it personally, son,” slurred one guy, putting his arm around my shoulder. “The slump has depressed everyone, and besides, you’re rubbish.”

Actually, he was not entirely correct. Everyone in the gang was miserable except for a young man who was the only other non-finance person in the group. “I love this recession,” said Josh, a teacher. “It’s the first one which has hit the rich but left the middle class unscathed.”

Interesting. But was he right? On a 3G phone, I called up the internet to check. Have high-pay professionals (lawyers, bankers, et al) been harder hit than mortals? Yes, says the New York Times. Joblessness has been rising twice as fast among the over-educated as among lower-skilled workers.

The really weird thing was that some of the financial guys at that party claimed to be below the poverty line. I expressed my deep sympathy by offering sincere words of comfort, such as: “Ha ha ha, serves you right, you pathetic sofa-stains.”

Of course their idea of “no money” is completely different from that of humans’. It’s sort of “I could only buy one yacht this week, boo hoo, weep for me.” They have no idea what being broke really means. This inspired me to compose a list of Six Signs That Your Income Has Fallen to a Dangerously Low Level, based on my years as a freelance writer.

6) When you hand your paycheck over the counter at HSBC, the teller bursts out laughing. 5) When the Samaritans take the initiative to phone you before you call them. 4) When the people giving away flags for charity on Saturday mornings on the walkways have your mugshot on their collection boxes to elicit sympathy. 3) When you work full-time but discover that you still qualify for social welfare payments. 2) When you pass homeless people, they flip their small change in your direction.

And what is the top sign that your income is dangerously low? 1) When other people get tax bills from the Inland Revenue Department, but you get a packet of cash and a sympathy card.

Now that line finally got the group laughing. “None of us have reached those depths, anyway,” said one worse-for-wear banker. “Not yet,” gloated Josh, who informed us that teachers had just had a pay rise. The bankers’ smiles disappeared again.

But they returned after I threw my peanuts at Josh, causing everyone else to follow suit. “Food fight!” I yelled and the buns started flying. Ah yes, the old ones are the best ones.

The writer is a columnist and journalist.

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