When there comes a time you must dig down deep in your pocket before a flight attendant will hand over your Coke and your packet of pelletlike peanuts, it's official.
The Pass the Buck Era has arrived.
We've hit the Nickel-and-Dimed-to-Death years.
It's Hunker Down time.
Headlines keep telling us our economy is doing a pretty fair impression of the Titanic. Gas prices are on steroids, and groceries require a bank loan. Property tax cuts have local governments making Sophie's choices on everything from layoffs and livelihoods to after-school programs.
If they can cut it, they'll cut it and then some. As a friend recently said gloomily, "At this point, they're picking up nickels."
So who pays when times get this tight?
Turns out, we do. (Imagine our surprise.)
Consider these recent happenings:
• In a sign-of-the-times neighborhood story, Hillsborough County plans to dig up the lush landscaping that prettifies medians on the way into Brandon and Lutz. Begone, magnolias, crape myrtles and shrubs.
This already happened in Ruskin, with the foliage now residing at the county jail.
Bottom line — and aren't we all about bottom lines these days — officials say the plants are too expensive to maintain and a luxury we currently cannot afford. Oh, unless you local neighborhood associations and businesses might be willing to take over the costs and maintenance. …
• You could someday be paying as much as six bucks for the privilege of driving faster than the rest of the traffic in the express lane (a.k.a. Lexus lane) on Interstate 75 through Manatee and Sarasota counties. That's according to a proposal now being studied by turnpike officials.
• Local governments from St. Petersburg to Largo are considering everything from eliminating flu shots to upping fees for getting fingerprints to cutting library hours.
Just a few more of those aforementioned nickels. …
• High-tech firm Jabil Circuit Inc. is thinking of moving its 1,900 jobs out of St. Petersburg — but could stay and even expand with the help of grants and tax breaks.
Hey, anybody got a spare $35-million?
• For many of us, a big quality-of-life issue may come in cuts to our parks, places that have traditionally been open to everyone, no matter how cheap their sneakers.
Reductions to before-and-after-school programs and services parents rely on are currently under consideration.
Fees are being talked about for services once free.
As they're making the hard choices, we can only hope our elected officials preserve the spirit of parks with a sliding scale based on ability to pay.
• • •
And about those airlines.
Because of rising fuel costs, various airlines have the audacity to start charging us to check a bag, to board early, to opt for a window or an aisle seat, even.
So what's next?
A surcharge on seat belts? Passengers on a budget standing in the aisle hanging onto subway straps? Your flight attending inquiring whether, for a mere $20 more, you'd like to upgrade to the oxygen mask option?
You laugh. Hey, is that a nickel over there?