when the status quo frustrates.

Joys of Being Broke

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

The Obama administration has broken down and agreed to extend the Bush era tax cuts for not only the poor, middle class, and rich, but also the mega-rich in exchange for extending unemployment benefits. Some jerk-ass abuses food stamps and is amazed to find what you can purchase food. It seems like the most privileged people in the world have no idea what it is actually like to be poor, and therefore feel perfectly comfortable being superior asses about it.

But, let me tell you about being broke. My last temporary job ended early in November, and no new job has been forthcoming. Hubby’s still got his job, but since he makes less than a manager at Taco Bell as a pilot, this means our budget is stretched tighter than it can sustain. My credit card is maxed out, my Sallie Mae loans are past due, and we owe the hospital about hundred bucks for a bout of tonsillitis that I’m still paying off. We’re in a pretty bad place, but I still say “broke” instead of poor because our bills are paid, I haven’t accrued interest on my credit card yet, and fuck Sallie Mae, I’m never getting those loans paid off anyway. The hospital is working with us. But, because we’d like to have enough food to last us until the end of the month, I went and did that humiliating process that me, a good chunk of my friends, and probably most poor people have done at some time in their life or another: I rounded it up what stuff which was of value in my apartment (and that Hubby and I could bare to part with) and went to the pawn shop and then a book dealer’s.

I hate pawn shops. I hate how they basically scam on people who are desperate, I hate how they look at me when I bring my stuff in, and I hate how powerless I feel when I walk in. I know the stuff I have is crap. We have never had a ton of disposable cash, so we really don’t have anything worth pawning. We have a few pieces of weaponry that are family heirlooms that we basically wouldn’t get half of what we’ve spent on them, and a few pieces of jewelery that, again, we wouldn’t get a quarter of what we spent on them (I know- the last time I went to the pawn shop, it was to pawn a gold bracelet with diamonds and sapphires in it. An ex boyfriend gave it to me- he bought it new for a thousand dollars. The pawn shop was willing to give me fifty. I ended up selling it to a Cash for Gold place and getting 60 for it). I have a computer with a monitor that isn’t mine, a second-hand printer, a tv that’s half-way to broken and a pair of cars we couldn’t get $500 for. So, what I had of value in the apartment was a DVD player, and a harp. For the pair of them, I got twenty-five bucks.

The used bookstore wasn’t any better. I had about 30 books, all in good condition, popular reads, and for the lot of them I got…24 bucks. I have no idea which books cost which, or what the rubric was: they refused to say individually what book was getting what- I had a “you get 24 for the whole lot, take it or leave it” attitude.

I took it. I liked my books, I liked my harp, I liked my DVD player. Honestly, the utility I got for those items probably outweighed the cost I spent them for. But since real life is not economics, the money was more necessary than the items. This will cover gas and groceries for the rest of the month. I find it ironic- the people who have the ability to say “no” and walk away are the ones who have the most power when it comes to these sorts of negotiations. But if you’re at the pawn shop door, clutching your instrument, you aren’t in a position to say no. You aren’t the person who goes “Fuck it, I’ll wait it out and see if I can get better on Craigslist” or decide to see if Amazon can get you anything. You’re already in a position where you need the cash. It’s like a job interview in a terrible economy- you’re trying not to look too desperate, but both you and the interviewer know which one has the power. If you want better hours, better pay, better whatever *shrugs* sucks to be you. There’s a line of a hundred other people out there that can do that job as well as you can. If you are more experienced, more learned, more whatever, and you try to get those same features, you’re “overqualified” and it’s better to ask the row of people behind you to work for less.

Being broke is a constant battle with your pride and your values, and have to have people look down at you because of it. It’s begging to get a little more for your prized possessions, and groveling for a job you know you’re going to hate. It’s constantly assessing your value, because hey, even if you don’t believe them there are five million conservatives squawking about how unemployed people are just lazy, or even worse, your family and friends talking about how unemployed people are just not looking hard enough (but I don’t mean you, of course). Being broke is being tired, because you have all this time, but no money to really do anything, and nobody to do it with.

But fuck 600 billion dollars a year- rich people need a new yacht, right? And isn’t it the greatest injustice in the world that poor people can get candy?