Saturday, July 19, 2014

When Economists are Irrational...

Meet our new dog, Jake.
Jake is from Wolf Point, Montana which is 2,270 miles from my front door.
On July 11th we were driving across northern Montana when I decided to stop for gas before we hit a long stretch of nothing.
I heard my wife say, "Ahhhhh, he's sooooo cute!!!" a few seconds after she got out of our car.  I thought maybe she was talking about me but how cute can anyone be pumping gas?
When I came out of the gas station she was holding this Golden Retriever/English Setter mix puppy. 
Uh, oh.
Surely this was going to be one of those few seconds of fun and then we would move on towards Florida.  After all, 2,270 miles with a puppy is exactly 2,270 miles of potential disaster at every turn.
She would not put him down.
I then had to "go all economist" on her and start sentences with words like, "Do you understand...." and "Have you thought about......" and "A dog means that........"
She did not hear a word.  No matter what cost-benefit calcuation I conjoured up, she just looked up at me like a four-year old girl and said, "But he's so cute."
Case closed.
She even said, as she got in the car with him, "Let's just get in the car and figure this out as we go along."
2,270 miles later Jake is adjusting to humidity, fire ants and the joys of air conditioning while we are adjusting to pee on the floor, running around at 2:00 in the morning and the $1,130 in fencing that is going in next week.
But he is so cute.
Note:  Some of you might be wondering, "How did they know if he belonged to anyone in Montana"? 
Good question.  He had no collar, was underfed and had been hanging around there for awhile according to some residents of the small town.  Now he has a collar, is eating everything and is hanging around our house.
Wish us luck.

Reflections on America - and Americans

Last month I was driving out west on vacation with my family when I crossed over the Nebraska - South Dakota line.  At that moment I had officially visited all 48 of the lower states.  I will also turn 48 this September so I found myself thinking, "One state per year.  Not bad...." 
After spending several days in South Dakota we traveled through much of the rest of the western states, the Pacific Northwest, Canada and then back home.    During the more than 10,000 miles of driving that we logged I had plenty of time to let my mind wander.  One of the resting places of reflection was on the various people I had met in the lower 48 states over my lifetime and on this summer trip.
One person that came to mind was a young man in South Dakota who let us park our car in his barn to get out of a major hail storm.  He had no way of knowing if we would rob him or act like jerks.  He simply waved us in and offered us a cold drink to boot.  Ironically, a few weeks later my wife and kids were at the Calgary Stampede - the largest rodeo in the world - when they heard the name Chad Ferley announced as one of the participants.  Mr. Ferley, as it turns out, is one of the world's best saddle bronc riders.  He is also the guy who let us in his barn weeks earlier.
In Washington we met the owner of a lodge who was cleaning up a storage shed on his property at around 11PM.  We could not find a place to camp for the night, his lodge was full so I asked him if we could pitch our tent out in the grass near his lodge.  I offered to pay but he refused to take money and told us it would be fine to sleep there for the night.
In Minnesota - at Glacial Lakes State Park - we talked to an employee of the park about camping one late night when we were once again struggling to find a place to sleep.  He told us the campground was full but offered to let us camp anyway in an area not normally used by traditional tent campers even though we would be arriving hours after his office closed.
In Oregon there was a man who found my wallet lying on a bench in a gym locker room who sought me out to return it.

In Jackson, Wyoming I ran into former Vice-President, Dick Cheney in an Albertson's grocery store while he was selecting some milk.  He was very pleasant to talk with as I shared some economics stories I tell my students about his work in the Nixon Administration.
In Seattle there was a guy who gave us a free oyster shucker to help us with our dinner when they were clearly marked $15.
In Alabama there was the vet clinic that charged us nothing when we brought in our new puppy (yes, we picked up an abandoned dog in Montana and drove him back to Florida....) who had swallowed a bone.
In Olympic National Park there was the camp host who let me ride around on his golf cart to find a campsite that would be more private and quiet than the one we almost got stuck with. 

Another camp host in Cape Perpetua State Park along the Oregon coast kept bringing us free fire wood.  He was a retired police officer from Fort Worth, Texas who saw my Oklahoma Sooners sticker on the back of my car.  He said he wanted to "help out an Okie."
In Wyoming we met a lady who came upon our campsite and politely pointed out that we had taken her reserved spot.  Not only was she super nice about this transgression but she ended up giving us a free gift from her shop when we got to know her a bit better during our stay.
This is not to say that we did not meet a few jerks and imbeciles along the way but it is true that our country still has people who are genuinely giving, charitable and thoughtful.  It is nice to know that those folks are out there - in every state.