Response to Locut0s (Original post)
Mon May 20, 2013, 11:09 AM
Shampoobra (423 posts)
53. "part of me really doesn't care it seems" ... I hope this helps:
This is the experience of a man who found himself homeless for the first time. Whenever I start to feel inferior for needing to accept help from others, I remind myself of the alternatives...
5 Pieces of Advice for the New Paupers
by John Dolan
Above all, you need to have a dry, warm place to sleep. We had only an unheated boat, and that was not enough. We woke up to the thump of sea ice banging against the hull and realized that the old world was still very much in session. When we finally fled to stay with family, we stayed in our blankets up against their gas fireplace for weeks. You won't even want food much after a while. You'll want heat itself, not the chemical middleman. You are going to realize that cold is the most frightening thing in the world. In older English dialects, "to starve" meant "to freeze." You will see why.
Cops can smell desperation, and they hate the poor. I didn't hate cops as much before, except drug cops, but God, I hate them now. The real purpose of cops is to keep poor people off the roads. That's their only real goal. On my way to an interview for a job that could have gotten us out of the gutter, a cop stopped me because my insurance was two weeks overdue -- for the simple reason that we didn't have money to pay it. She gave me a $600 ticket for that, plus $120 for not having an updated address on my driver's license. Then she called for a tow truck and told me, "So, a lesson learned here today!" as I watched my car get towed away and trudged off with our terrified dog down a typical Western suburban road: four lanes of fast traffic with no sidewalks. Are you poor? The cops are your enemy now. Accept it.
The idea behind that damn boat was that instead of paying the insanely high West Coast rents, we'd live on the boat for free. This is a very bad idea. Any idea you have of retreating to some simple, free habitation should be regarded with deep doubt. The thing is, you can't get back to the comfortable, heated world from a place like that boat. No Internet. You need the 'net if you're ever going to claw your way back. You need a working shower, which that boat lacked. Otherwise you develop that look, that smell you first encountered in the free clinic waiting room. It's not a good look, jobwise. Maybe if we'd gotten rid of the dog I'd have had a chance.
But you lose more than that. You change completely, more than you realize, to the point that even if you get a break you can't grab it. After months of applying for teaching jobs without even getting answers, the perfect job opened up for me at a local college. It was half creative writing, half teaching literature and composition -- all my specialties. But when the interview started I realized I was no longer someone who could talk the quiet, polite, oblique version of self-promotion demanded by academic hiring committees. I was too deeply, permanently spooked by our condition. I was just plain wrong, unhireably wrong in every way. No hot water on the boat, and I needed to shave the graying wisps of hair on my big bald head, so I'd shaved in the McDonald's men's room on the way to the interview, with a cheap Bic shaver. You can guess the results: I looked like a bobcat had tried to roost on my scalp and been evicted after a violent struggle. The used sport coat we'd spent our last $20 of Visa credit on at Value Village didn't seem to fit nearly so well once I was inside that humming, immaculate classroom where the interview was held. And I had become a louder, more desperate, excessive person. When I tried to sound positive, it came out furious. When they asked me, as I'd known they would, why someone who'd taught at bigger universities wanted to come to this small rural campus, I said truthfully, "I'd rather teach here in the forest than at Stanford." It didn't come out enthusiastic; it came out strident. After months of being a bum, I was the wrong volume, the wrong temperature. I could feel the job slipping away, and in fact they hired a local guy who was friends with the director, even though my resume kicked his resume's ass.
Locut0s, I suggest you do what I am currently doing. Keep accepting help from your loved ones. Work slowly and gradually toward warmth, light, love, and security.
Whatever hell you sometimes feel like you're experiencing, it's nothing compared to living in a survivalist environment where everyone's first concerns, by necessity, are their own immediate needs.
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