Thursday, May 01, 2008

Here they come

As each new month sticks its head out of its hole, it's nearly trampled by a throng of human feet. Those feet belong to millions of people in this country who get their Social Security checks on either the 1st or the 3rd. For many, like my dear friend Guy and other respectable folks like him, that check means a Wal-Mart trip or sending in the mortgage or heading to the grocery store. They, like many of the rest of us, live in such a way that our budgets flow in relation to our checks. It may be week to week or month to month, but it works.

And then there's the other crowd...

These people are dirty, and by dirty I mean physical dirt on and around them like Pigpen from Peanuts. These people are smelly, and by smelly I mean urine soaked pants and shoes soaked in who knows what. These people are nauseating, and by nauseating I mean snot dried to their faces and grease dripping from their hair and yuck dripping from their open sores. If you're a germ-a-phobe or OCD, you'd never be able to work in a bank at the beginning of the month. By no means am I being harsh or insensitive, but these people are the literal bottom of the barrel. They are the druggies and drunks and worse.

This second group handles their money in a much different way. Half of this group has their check direct deposited and the other half get a paper check. As soon as the bank opens, they come in and pull most, if not all, of the money right out. While I make no claim to be a master of budgeting, I can tell you with surety that spending a month's worth of money in a couple days will leave you wanting. And that's what these people do.

To make that financial situation worse, the few who leave a couple dollars in their accounts (and many who don't,) write a myriad of checks and use their Debit Card for all kinds of purchases while their account still shows a balance. Unfortunately, most of them are horrible at math and almost always spend more than they have. The results are NSF and Overdraft fees and ultimately them in my office mid-month complaining they can't buy food or can't pay their rent because we "took" their money.

The worst part about this whole situation is the fact that no matter how hard you try you'll never be able to help these people. No amount of advice or discipline or fees or compassion will ever get them to stop spending their cash all at once and digging themselves deeper and deeper. I've tried with more than I can count. I had a guy in my office just this morning who had run up a $640 bill with the bank over the month of April. After depositing enough to cover that deficit he took the remaining $37 in cash because he needed it for "beer and snuff." I asked him when rent was due and how much it was. He mumbled, "It's $180 and isn't due 'til the tenth. So I'll be fine." See what I mean?

I work in a depressed inner-city environment, surrounded by projects and abandoned buildings, so my experience is predominately of this second group of people. Those who work in affluent or even middle class neighborhoods most likely see many more of the first than the second. For me, this city and it's residents have been an eye-opener. I've seen the blue-hairs flock to the banks for years and years, but I've never seen that wave be so dirty and broken and sad.

Sorry for such a weird post, just wanted to share with you the view from my office door.


Blogger Birdie said...

Your post was not weird to was pretty much what I see every day. I've learned alot. There's a book called "Bridges Out Of Poverty" that really helped me to understand this population. Also, a gret book called "Under The Overpass". It's about two college guys who decide to live homeless for six months in five of the largest cities in the US. It's their journey. (It's a true story, by the way.) It is an incredible eye opener. I'm not in urban areas, but sometimes the rural are smellier because their water is not from the city and they are living on farms around farm animals (or any animals). I thinks it's important that yo DID recognize that they are not only dirty, but broken and sad. What an opportunity for you to shine God's light.

10:13 PM  
Blogger 3rd string's finest said...

Hi Sam. I saw plenty of the that kinda foot traffic when I worked at ACE Hardware. The rogers area is notorious for it. I'll be seeing you soon, homie.

12:55 PM  
Blogger GUYK said...

Sam, there was a time when I had a lot of sympathy for those you speak of...but then I realized it was their choice. Oh yeah, there are those who will tell me that that no one is destitute out of choice...and I tell them they had the opportunity but the choices they made put them in the situation they are in right now.

Sweetthing and I made the right decisions and we are now comfortably retired. But is didn't come took years of personal sacrifice..instead of money for eating out or taking in a movie we ate beans and watched a black and white TV and put the money in the business. We moved into our RV because it didn't make sense to make house payments in a house we were only in to sleep..the rest of the time was working. But it paid off...and look, if a dumb ass Okie redneck can do it anyone just takes the willpower to get the education and then use it.

5:31 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

I couldn't agree more, Guy. And thank you for your wisdom.

For the most part (there are, of course, exceptions to what I'm about to say) the people I watch each first and third of the month are a bunch of rejects. And I only say that because I feel they've gotten so dirty and broken and sad because they made, and continue to make, bad decisions. They are the folks who think they are "owed" their SS check, not "earned" it. And those people do nothing more than piss me off. Check out the tagline at the top of my blog page. I live by that in much of what I do. It's sad the people in my brnach don't.

6:41 PM  

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