Are you enjoying this economic downturn as much as I am? Why, if this recession continues, we might have another Great Depression. I’ve heard so many wonderful stories about the last Depression, I can hardly wait.

I heard it was a time of togetherness, with family members forced to live in close quarters. It was a time of socializing, because unemployed people had time on their hands but no money for entertainment. There was a strong sense of sacrifice. And street-corner apple sales were never better.

Communities like Forest Park struggled to fill the coffers. To remain afloat, our village government raised the cost of liquor licenses. The federal government started the Works Progress Administration to put people back to work.

But even without worldwide economic collapse, we’ve been enjoying the fruits of austerity. No more shelves stuffed with snacks going stale. No more filets suffering freezer burn. No more jars of applesauce being tossed just because they have a little mold. We used to have some finicky eaters in our family. Now, no leftover is safe.

After decades of living beyond our means on easy credit, Americans are finally forced to conserve. Our phony baloney debt-driven economy is grinding to a halt. And most of us needn’t worry about losing our savings if the banks fail-I mean, who has savings?

A bad economy can solve so many problems. If we’re driving less, walking more and eating less, we can say goodbye to the obesity epidemic. We talk about going green, but fuel costs are forcing us to shut off lights, run full loads in the washer and forgo frivolous trips. We’re finally conserving resources like the rest of the world.

Setting aside our wasteful ways makes us feel better about ourselves. Undistracted by consumerism, we focus more on family and friends. We develop a greater appreciation for what we have, like housing, hot water and Hamburger Helper.

Of course, many Americans were already living frugally before the credit hit the fan. I used to think they were killjoys but nothing kills joy like crushing debt. It feels good to dig ourselves out and not sink any lower through further swipes of the credit card.

A family member asked me how the next president would tackle our economic problems. I suppose President McCain will try to stimulate growth through tax cuts for the business sector. President Obama might take a different approach, using federal funds to employ people the way FDR did.

Either way, our day of economic reckoning has been coming for a long time. Households and nations cannot continue to borrow forever. These hard times are so good for us-I can’t wait for big bands and bobby socks to make a comeback.

John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.