For every expert opinion, for every politician's viewpoint on the subject, for even the casual observer, the question remains unanswered for many: Is the recession over?
When I see the parking lots at The Highlands filled with cars on the weekends, I feel better about the economy. But then, through the work week, the shoppers and restaurant-goers appear to be somewhat fewer in numbers. Makes you think again.
And a trip to the Ohio Valley Mall in St. Clairsville proves to be a mixed bag - some days teeming with people, while other days you could ride a four-wheeler through the corridors without hitting anyone.
I personally enjoy a trip to either location even though I really miss some of the stores no longer at the St. C mall. On the other hand, The Highlands lacks a Kmart and Kitchen Collection, which I can find in St. C.
The good thing is both shopping areas are about an equal distance from our home or my office. Some days, I literally flip a coin to decide whether to travel east or west or maybe south to Moundsville, and so on for shopping.
As for the recession issue, you can point to the roller coaster ride our gasoline prices have been traveling of late. Whenever that price hits more than $3.50 a gallon, many of us pull back on the casual car rides anywhere.
I always make sure my shopping trips are all-encompassing without needless back-tracking in an effort to save on fuel. It makes for a cranky wife when fuel prices keep the wheels parked in the garage.
However, one of the most telling signs that we are still struggling in this area can be found in every neighborhood up and down this great valley. Take a ride around (when gas prices allow) and visit some neighborhoods outside of your own.
Notice anything out of the ordinary? Many houses, even in some of the most exclusive neighborhoods, are for sale or appear to be abandoned. This does not sit well with the rest of the population who work hard to maintain their properties, keeping the grass cut and the garbage properly stored.
It makes a person nervous when shingles begin flying off the empty houses or green mold surrounds the neglected structure. The fears mount as break-ins occur by thieves in search of copper plumbing or anything not nailed down.
Something's got to give and I'm not convinced an election is the game changer. While it's important to have a president who leads us to a better night's sleep, it's time the finger-pointing is aimed at all those who occupy seats in those big white buildings in Washington, D.C.
We can only hope and pray that after a month-long vacation, our duly elected officials will shake the beach sand out of their shoes and regain the momentum to move this country forward. In the meantime, we wait and watch the weeds grow and the gas prices climb as retailers remind us there are just 128 days until Christmas.
Ziegler can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.