So far I’ve painted a saccharin picture of Seattle – of beautiful parks, nice people, great museums, good food and interesting neighbourhoods. That’s all true. But as in any city, there are also pockets of hardship and social disregard.
In Seattle I see elderly people clearing tables in food courts and cleaning shopping malls. I thought of home where there are many old people in such jobs in Singapore. This has been a debate on whether that is their right to be employed or misfortune to work at such a fragile old age.
At a big supermarket, a white-haired man was trying to promote cup cakes in a low sad voice. Our eyes met momentarily and he offered me a sample. I couldn’t say no and bought a box of really sweet colourful cup cakes which took me a whole week to finish.
We chatted and he mentioned he came to work straight from Sunday mass without lunch. In another three hours after his shift, he needed to rush home to cook dinner for his wife who has been ill. He is in his 70s, retired for twenty years, out lived his savings and will now have to work for as long as he can.
In some street corners, men and women hold cardboard signs asking for small change from motorists. In certain neighbourhoods, people are dragging their homes in shopping carts.
A letter stuck on the notice board of a laundromat written by a lady about to turn 60. It was heart wrenching story of the class of people who proudly graduated in the 70s, gave up marriage and family for career, made investments that sank into deep crisis beyond their control and now facing an uncertain future of longevity, inflation, and shrinking income opportunities.
But the new urban poor can be of any city today. Do you see it happening?