Ah, but that "no problem" was predicated on two factors: We had the money for the new appliance, and we had a car to take us to a store that sold them. On the way there, we drove through an area of town where neither factor is a given.
This is a pocket of Richmond where there's no Walmart, no Target, no supermarkets. Carless residents shop at corner grocery stores, thrift shops, the occasional dollar store. It was Mother's Day, so people were gathered around the temporary street vendors, inspecting the flowers and teddy bears for sale. As we drove by on our one-errand mission, we were well aware of two economies at work. What we saw was the way much of America lives. It's the way much of the world lives.
If we'd lost our coffee maker while at our North Caicos home, getting a new one would have been much more complicated. The economy there parallels our "drive through" area in Richmond, and I don't believe I've seen a coffee maker for sale on the island. So we would have to take the ferry to Provo and rent a car to visit Kishco or one of the other importers of foreign goods. Even so, we would have the means to do all that.
Is this liberal guilt? Maybe. But then, we do participate in the "other" economy frequently. Since I returned to the U.S. in 2008, I've been doing without a car, so I supplement our monthly "big" grocery trips by shopping locally. On North Caicos, we buy whatever there is to buy, wherever it is. You say you prefer Pepsi to Coke? Too bad; this week you'll find only Coke.
The sad secret of this other economy is that its goods are often much more expensive than those available to people with more money.
I sometimes hear Richmonders grousing about how far they have to drive to get to a Whole Foods or Starbucks, or wondering if Saxon Shoes could open a store a bit closer. These people are unaware that the whole idea of shopping at such places is ludicrous for some others among us.
Likewise, on Provo, where you can buy Grey Poupon mustard in the Graceway Supermarket and car parts at Napa, there are people who can afford only the Price Club warehouse with its fluctuating inventory or the junkyards in Five Cays. The two economies are magnified in the presence of tourism.
I don't know how to bridge these gaps; I'm no economist. But I do know that a good first step is recognize that not everyone lives in the same America, or on the same island, as we do. It's good to become aware of other cultures, even (and especially) when they're in your own backyard.