Sometimes it can be difficult for a non-economist to make out how the economy is doing. Polls at the moment offer the example of how perception can be skewed, with most Americans saying that they are doing well economically, but most thinking the economy is poor. Are we in a "jobless recovery?" A "bubble economy?" The "New Economy?"
I have therefore developed the Nokes Standard for measuring economic health. Simply stated, the Nokes Standard is: The health of the economy has an inverse relationship to the quality of service I receive at restaurants.
Here's the way I figure it: When the economy is poor, you may have lots of people unemployed or underemployed. In this situation, otherwise diligent people can find themselves taking service jobs to make ends meet. These people tend to offer a better quality of service, partially because of their work ethic and partly because of economic anxiety that causes them to fear for their jobs.
When the economy is in good condition and unemployment is low, employers at the food service end of the spectrum have to scramble to keep whatever employees they can. People who are slow, surly, lazy, and unkempt might otherwise be fired, but employers hold on to them simply because they need another warm body. This principle has already been well established by the Looney Toons cartoon "A Pest in the House." Therefore, in a good economy, the labor at the bottom end tends to offer poor service.
Given the quality of service we received while travelling up I-65 all day yesterday, the economy must be very, very good indeed -- at least in the South and Midwest. The only way the economy could be demonstrably better would have been if the waitresses had actually spit in our faces.