I got an article in my e-mail today that made my heart skip some beats, but then it also made me think about our so-called lives.
You know how certain entities become a part of the fabric of American life? So much so that you take them for granted. Imagine American life with no Coca-Cola. Even if you don't drink it or don't drink soda at all, how weird would it be if the logo and the red cans and the brown bubbly drink totally disappeared from ball parks, movie theaters, supermarkets, amusement parks... on down the line.
As far as I know, Coca-Cola is in no danger, but I started thinking about this when I was reading this article: 15 Companies That Might Not Survive 2009.
Granted, none of these are the paragons of American culture, but I sure would notice if suddenly they were gone.
Six Flags? My brother and I went to the New Jersey park (Six Flags Great Adventure) every once in a summer, when we could get a free or discounted tickets with a can of, guess what, Coke! The Great American Scream Machine, silenced? The Batman & Robin ride -- that shot us out of a tunnel into a loop so quickly that the G-forces pushed the tears out of my eyes and straight back into my ears -- stopped? The funnel cake, the cotton candy, the overpriced lemonades, all gone? What would happen to the roller coasters? Would their metal skeletons rise into the sky out of the forests surrounding the park? Green, blue, yellow and purple metal tracks launching then falling back to the earth as you drive by on the road trying to pretend you don't see them, the ghostly apparitions of a time long gone, like that creepy parachute ride at Coney Island? (If you're from NYC, you know what I'm talking about... that frightening metal contraption haunted the skylines of my dreams for years.) How creepy would it be to imagine cars filled with children racing by on the silent, rusting monsters? Would you still hear the screams?
Sbarro? Yes, these pizzas and Italian sundries are terribly overpriced, but I practically grew up munching on this mall food when I needed a snack from a few hours of roaming the video arcade (anyone remember those?), long after I'd run out of quarters. Sure there are dozens of bad-for-you-fast-food options that could fill the void, but for me it just wouldn't be the same.
Claire's? I'm sorry, but when you need a cute little accessory to polish off an outfit for a night out and you don't want to spend a small fortune (or you're just plain cheap), it's hard to beat Claire's. But, I suppose the writing has been on the wall since I started getting my cheap accessories at Target (which also isn't doing do great if I remember correctly).
Krispy Kreme? I was never a fan (don't like doughnuts much), but it's the quintessential American business story. Vernon Rudolph started selling the doughnuts to grocery stores in Winston-Salem, NC and people liked them so much they asked for them hot and he gave the customers what they wanted. I have many friends who were borderline addicted to the treats... what will happen when the fattening sweet is gone, replaced by some other corporate snack treat? Without the cute story behind it?
The other side of this is, why the heck are corporations and products the signs of national identity? I'm one of those people who gets annoyed that ballparks and stadiums are named after companies (Staples Center, American Airlines Arena, Quicken Loans Arena, are you kidding?) and that kids can identify corporate logos but can't name more than three presidents or Civil Rights leaders. Disturbing.
Still, as I watch the growing list of companies that could go belly up, my stomach knots a little thinking about all the employees who may soon be unemployed, the families that depend on them, the school loans that won't get paid... the rent that won't get paid... and more and just how much more difficult life is about to get for a whole lot of us.
Hopefully, if there is a bright side to any of this, perhaps it is that we will learn to build identity and wealth some other way than being branded by corporations almost before we're out of the womb. Maybe our economy will be built on something more useful and sustainable than amusement and shopping. Maybe.