I’m planning my high school reunion. It’s the 20th—probably not as big as the 10th, but big enough. Thus far, I’ve been paid by about 140 people, which is pretty darn good. Planning a reunion, I’ve learned the hard way, is really a pain in the arse. Chasing people down. Stalking out checks. Reminders, reminders, reminders.

I digress. My reunion costs $100. It’s at a nice hotel, includes dinner, DJ, four-hour open bar. The price is fair for the return, and I consulted with several people before settling on it.

That said, it’s been a real eye-opener.

We’re living in a terrible economy. It’s been said and said and said again, and it’s undeniably true. For me, however, the real eye-opener has been this reunion. I’ve come across a solid handful of people who want to attend … are planning on attending … will certainly attend, but, well, is it OK if the $100 comes a little late, because I’m living paycheck to paycheck right now? Every time I hear this I’m hit with an elbow to the gut. I live a comfortable life. Been watching the money tighter than usual, but relatively comfortable nonetheless. Attending a reunion for $100 isn’t a great hardship.

And yet, for many, it is. Times are terrible. Beyond terrible. If you’re not struggling right now, imagine what it’s like. Hoping a check clears. Itching for more work. For any work. Embarrassed having to tell your kids no to a much-needed new pair of kicks.

Just a cold, dark time in this country.

PS: A side story—on the night of January 18, 2002, I was walking down a street in Manhattan, heading for my pre-wedding rehearsal dinner. I looked down, and there was a $100 bill on the sidewalk. Picked it up, brought it home, still have it. Saw it as a good omen for my marriage.