Aug. 22, Thursday
Skaneateles, NY, is a very small town at the north end of Skaneatelas Lake in central New York State. Several years ago, E and I heard that mail deliveries were made by boat, and that passengers could ride along on the delivery trip. Today was our chance to do this.
The mailboat leaves every day at 10:00AM on a 3-hour cruise. During this three hours, the boat makes a complete circuit of the lake. Astoundingly, only about 10 or 12 of the residents of the lake shore receive their mail every day via this mail boat. Now, there are literally hundreds of residents who live along the lakeshore, so this delivery system is by no means the only way people on the lake get their mail. We were told that the people on the lake can simply request to have their mail delivered by boat. There is no charge to them for this service. The company that operates the boat contracts with the postal service. The residents who choose not to get mail delivered by boat receive their mail in the traditional way. The explanation that was given to us of some folks choosing to get their mail by boat is that the road is, in some areas, very far from the shore. So people who get their mail by truck apparently have to walk a very long driveway in order to pick up their mail after it is delivered, while the people who get their mail by boat can avoid that long walk. This is an inadequate explanation, because the people who do get their mail by boat are right next door to those who do not. It isn’t as if there is a whole section of the lake where mail delivery is better by boat. The boat-delivery homes are randomly sprinkled among the truck-delivery homes. Go figure.
During our three-hour cruise, we watched each mail delivery. Some of the homes we stopped at were “normal” everyday lake houses. Some, however, were really impressive. Some of the places we did not stop at were stunning mansions. Our boat captain told us stories about many of the larger homes. We heard about a retired NFL player, a Hollywood movie producer, and several CEO’s. There is a lot of money represented by the properties around this lake. Most of the homes are clearly multi-million dollar properties. The experience got me thinking about economic inequities. I’m not discontent with my economic lot in life. I have the things that I need, and I have the time and the opportunity to enjoy life. I know that I have things much better than a lot of people do. Meanwhile, the gulf between me and the people whose properties I saw today is enormous. It made me wonder about the opportunities people have or don’t have to change their economic status. The idea that each of us is free to do this is a fundamental part of the America that I was taught to believe in. But when you stop to really consider what it takes for anyone to change his economic lot in life, it is staggering. Whether you are talking about someone in poverty finding her way to middle class comfort and security, or someone like me achieving the ability to own a lakefront home, it seems nearly impossible. I guess that’s why I am an educator. I guess I do really believe that without education, such a transition would be impossible. What do you think: Do people in America really have the opportunity to change their economic status?