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(Reuters) - The global recession manifests itself in big and small ways, most gloomy, some quirky and often reflecting the inventive human spirit. Here is a look at some signs of the times.
* In the working-class community of Weymouth, south of Boston, Easter's Country Kitchen, a crowded little diner, captured the mood in a notice near the food counter:
"DUE TO BUDGET CUTS, THE LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL IS BEING TURNED OFF."
* Many companies are scaling back on holiday parties. New York's billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who says the city faces a $1.6 billion budget deficit, personally paid for refreshments at his staff party. A dinner with the City Hall press corps, usually at the mayor's residence, was moved to a Chinatown restaurant and journalists will be charged $45 a head.
* In another sign of holiday cheer, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department reported a 250 percent rise in the number of guns handed over in a no-questions-asked program to exchange weapons for holiday gift cards. The department's station in a high crime suburb received 964 guns, two hand grenades and two briefcases full of dynamite.
* More people are seeking love online to compensate for the pain of losses. Match.com, which has online dating sites in 40 countries, had its largest membership growth in the last seven years in November. "During these trying times, people are looking for hope in their inbox," said CEO Thomas Enraght-Moony.
* It's not just meeting someone that is hard in times of stress. It's also staying together. Britain's counseling service Relate reported a rise of almost 60 percent in the number of couples seeking help with their relationships in October and November compared with last year.
"The problems are to do with the recession, to do with job insecurity, to do with interest rates changing and also the escalating costs of running the family," said spokeswoman Christine Northam.
* Finding a job is hard everywhere, and a 23-year-old Chinese woman took drastic action -- she sold herself online. Using the name tony615_2007, she put herself up for sale on Taobao.com, China's most popular auction site. She told the China Daily she had about a dozen bids and was about to sign a contract, but declined to say how much for.
* As struggling U.S. car companies begged for a government bailout, TV stations and newspapers ran free advertisements urging people to go out and buy a new car. The campaign was initiated by the National Automobile Dealers Association, whose members, in times of plenty, are one of the top sources of revenue for ... TV stations and newspapers.
* And where do you go in your new car? To the opera, of course! The Metropolitan Opera in New York announced that "in response to the recession", it was making 16,000 prime seats available for $25 each through the rest of the season through a weekly draw. Normally those seats fetch $295.
"The $3 million dollar cost to underwrite the program has been contributed entirely from among the Board's 45 managing directors," it said. Some, at least, seem immune to money worries.
* Restaurants are hurting almost everywhere, but from Chicago came word from the chicken company Sanderson Farms Inc that even bar-stool sports fans may be cutting back. There was no sign of the usual surge in sales of chicken wings, a traditional accompaniment for football games on TV. "That did not happen this fall," said a Sanderson spokesman.
Writing by David Storey in Washington; Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst and James Dalgleish in New York, Jim Finkle in Boston, Nick Macfie in Beijing, Kate Kelland in London, Nicola Groom in Los Angeles and Bob Burgdorfer in Chicago; Editing by Eddie Evans