|middle-Michigan, mid-July 2016|
A relatively high proportion of dwellings in this county seat of 7,000 persons are rental properties; either because building wealth by owning houses is a favorite route, or because the income base includes lots of people with too little savings for mortgage down payment or weak credit scores, or all the above.
The past several weeks this apartment has been a hotspot for 19 or 20 somethings, including a baby or toddler. The comings and goings seem to be at all hours, with a variety of vehicles parked next to the one car that seems to be there most consistently. Perhaps the overall laxity of time schedule also extends to use of space, and control of money and material goods, too, since visually there seems to be disorder.
And then suddenly all activity stopped and the “Demand for Non-payment of Rent” form shown here with two colors of highlighter applied was duct taped to the front door, signed by the landlord.
During the past many years a dozen or so renters have come and gone; some with children, others without. Some with pets, others without. The longest-term residents seemed to keep things visually in order and seemed to have followed a repeating time schedule. The shortest-term residents did not.
What does it mean that the scenes here display lack of control of material things? The litter, loud shouts and profane punctuations were a source of irksome nuisance to me; but perhaps that reveals more about my (Middle Class, bourgeois) frame of reference that comes from long years at college and in white collar work places than it does about the world view for normal, or at least acceptable, standards of life among the young renters here.
Not all young people show such little concern or control of time, physical space and materials, credit, currency, or personal reputation. So perhaps this laxity of boundaries is idiosyncratic rather than historically true of the present generational cohort, or true of this developmental state, or true of people less well-educated by formal classroom training.
Whether idiosyncratic or a wider trend, it seems consonant with other “anywhere, anytime” and mobile communication trends that disregard the old boundaries that define one’s schedule, method of conducting one’s life, expectations of self and regarding others. In place of landlines there is the cell phone. In place of broadcast TV there is view on demand. In place of sit-down meals at fixed times and places there is take-away or solitary eating. All of these examples contribute to a sense of fluidity, relativism and desire-driven decision s instead of ones dictated by circumstances or rules or propriety or precedent.
For the people who used to live at this location, the reality of being locked out and being labeled risky tenants is sinking in. Personally relaxing the old boundaries may work in a world of one’s own making, but everyone else still has to follow society’s old rules still on the law books.