Apropos of Nothing: Sleep Elusive in the World of High-Tech Sneakers
An Editorial by Jamie Beckett

Many years ago, before I knew much of anything about the IRS, the DMV, DIY home repairs, or the the nagging question of whether or not I have enough insurance, I slept like a baby. It was an almost daily occurrence. I’d slide into bed in the wee hours of the morning and emerge from my slumber 12 or 14 hours later, ready to face whatever was left of the day.

Oh, those were good times.

Lately I seem to have lost that ability to snooze delightfully. And by lately, I mean, for the last 25 years or so.

Of course, a lot has happened over the course of those 25 years. Two-thirds of my kids were born. We bought a house. I got a speeding ticket for rolling through a tollbooth above the posted speed limit — a ticket I’m still not entirely sure I deserved. And like most Americans, we learned to swim in a deep, despondency-inducing pool of debt. We were in there for far too long, too. Plenty long enough for our fingers and toes to get all pruney and gross.

All that’s behind us now. Well, almost. After years of struggle, we’ve fought our way from the deep end of that pool to the shallows. While we spent a good portion of the last quarter-century just barely keeping our heads above financial disaster, we’re barely up to our ankles in the bank’s money at this point.

There is light at the end of the tunnel and we’re 92 percent sure it isn’t a train headed in the opposite direction.

I think it’s worth mentioning that the only pool we’ve got is metaphorical. Pools are expensive. Similarly, we don’t drive brand new cars. Instead we drive used cars. Cars that have been broken in by others, then cast off when the original owner stepped up to a more plush driving experience. In effect, my wife and I have become second hand people.

This isn’t an altogether unfamiliar experience for us, either. Neither of us is the oldest child in our family. We each have an older sibling of the same gender. This more or less guaranteed that we spent our younger years having our class pictures taken while wearing the same clothes our older siblings had worn the year before. We were in something of an out-of-date fashion show where the models changed, but the clothes went on and on.

I’m just glad I was second in line. By the time my older brother’s shirts made it down to my youngest brother, Roger, they were little more than a series of random fabric patches held together by lingering pieces of nearly transparent original fabric.

But that’s all beside the point. I was telling you a story about my persistent inability to stay asleep for more than an hour or two. Forgive me for straying off the beaten path.

By the way, I’d like to point out that my wife and I didn’t pass on that particular tradition of hand-me-down humiliation to our children. No, each of our children has worn their own clothes from Day One. Purchased brand new and individually selected for a particular kid, our children not only wore new clothing, but they wore clothing that was actually in style. Or as close to in style as the large, nationally recognized chain stores in our area could get.

And then there’s footwear.

When I was a kid we were all pretty excited to get a new pair of Keds with the start of the school year. Keds were the economy version of Converse All Stars, which at $9 a pair were out of our financial reach. Keds were inexpensive. Made of what I can only assume was rubber leftover from a tire manufacturing company down the street, and a bit of surplus canvas from sailmakers on the shore of the Great Lakes, Keds were springy, light, and perfect for customizing with graphics made with a Bic ballpoint pen during recess. A new pair of Keds was as good as it got for us in the old days.

Today, a stylish pair of sneakers cost more than I paid for my first car. They’re made in space, or in a sweatshop in Cambodia, or beamed back from the future. I’m not sure. But the kids all want them, so the kids all get them, as I struggle to pay down my credit card balance each month.

By the way, I have grandchildren now. And they’re great. Although grandkids require lots of cool toys, new clothes, fancy sneakers, and electronic stuff I don’t even understand. All of which costs oodles of money. Which is shifting my debt to income ratio in a direction I’m not comfortable with.

Now, about this sleeping thing…