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Horton: Layoffs, one at a time, reveal slump’s depth

You wouldn’t expect the makeup aisle of a Walgreens to show evidence of the economic downturn, but it’s right there, in the choice between regular or waterproof mascara.

It’s also in the quicker lines at coffee shops and in the Arizona Daily Wildcat police log, which recently described how police officers found a woman lying face down in a grassy area at the University of Arizona sobbing because she’d been laid off from her job at the Student Union.

One can’t escape the barrage of daily bad economic news, a litany of the recession provided by the media, the tick-tock of people’s lives falling apart as businesses collapse, the stock market hurling itself off a cliff and bankruptcy becoming commonplace.

Like most reporters, I’m somewhat numb to bad news, trained by the newsroom police radio crackling out misery all day, but my sensitivity was heightened in January when notice of the Tucson Citizen’s likely closure provided my own personal recession experience.

Since then, I’ve noticed that little things illustrate the contracting economy more clearly than the big numbers.

For instance, there are the 17 audio résumés Cory Poindexter-Ramirez has sent across the country trying to land a job in broadcast journalism.

Poindexter-Ramirez graduated in December from UA and works part-time in promotions for Journal Broadcast Group. He spends his off hours with a laptop searching online for reporting jobs that, I hated to tell him, probably don’t exist.

“I know,” he said, “but I’m not giving up. And I’m not going to work at the post office.”

The post office is his mother’s idea.

“I want to be a TV reporter and that’s not a normal job to her, not secure,” he said. “She said there’s always good jobs at the post office.”

Then Poindexter-Ramirez related how another journalism graduate sent out 100 résumés before finally landing a job. He beamed saying this, then got busy applying to a TV station in Anchorage.

Kids. You gotta love ‘em.

Not perking up

Danny Mannheim opened the Espresso Art coffee shop about five years ago in the Main Gate Square adjacent to UA. He said my view of coffee lines as economic indicators was accurate.

“There a lot less expensive drinks being ordered,” he said. “The lines move faster.” After all, a drip coffee takes a few seconds to pour; a latte a few minutes to make.

Mannheim said talk around Main Gate was that business revenues are down between 20 percent and 30 percent.

Interestingly, tips aren’t down, he said. I didn’t admit my looming layoff had affected my willingness to feed the tip jar when I stop by.

Neither did I make that confession to Michael Foster – who opened Caffé Lucé about 20 months ago – when he said tips at his shop remain unaffected.

Lucé became my regular morning watering hole about six months ago, so I think Foster might be wearing blinders where the tip jar is concerned. The green in that glass is definitely less now than it was in the fall.

Maybe Foster needs to see the glass half full because, like Mannheim, he’s losing money as people buy fewer lattes, mochas and frozen drinks. He said there’s been a 30 percent to 35 percent shift toward drip coffee among his regular customers.

“You know, just between Tucson and Phoenix, 17 coffee shops have gone under since last April,” he said. “It’s pretty bad.”

Buy waterproof mascara

It’s pretty bad in the newspaper industry too, which brings us back to the makeup aisle of Walgreens.

I used to wear regular mascara because I didn’t trust whatever compound was in the waterproof kind that guaranteed it wouldn’t run down your face even if you were in a tsunami.

But now, I actually am in a tsunami, and it’s worse than I imagined. I’ve found, like the woman sobbing at UA last month, that regular mascara doesn’t hold up through the tears.

Contact Renée Schafer Horton at 573-4589 or at rshorton@tucsoncitizen.com

Citizen Online Archive, 2006-2009

This archive contains all the stories that appeared on the Tucson Citizen's website from mid-2006 to June 1, 2009.

In 2010, a power surge fried a server that contained all of videos linked to dozens of stories in this archive. Also, a server that contained all of the databases for dozens of stories was accidentally erased, so all of those links are broken as well. However, all of the text and photos that accompanied some stories have been preserved.

For all of the stories that were archived by the Tucson Citizen newspaper's library in a digital archive between 1993 and 2009, go to Morgue Part 2

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