Tag Archives: money

REMINDERS

There was a time in my young adult life where money was incredibly scarce. It was a time when I argued with the cashier at a grocery store for taxing the cents-off coupon I’d used to help make my money go farther.   It was a time when cornmeal was a staple because, at the time, it was virtually free. It was a time when store-bought cigarettes were for use while out in public. At home, we rolled our own. The brand name was Bugler.

I remember working various low-paying jobs to pay the bills, keep the lights on, and keep gas in the car so that I could get back and forth to one low-paying job after another. I sold sweepers, folded and hung clothes at a discount department store, and sewed seat seams on would-be over-priced slacks in a textile factory using an industrial size sewing machine. I temped at business offices when I could get the work, and mostly we just scraped by.

When I got my current job, nearly 20 years ago, I didn’t have to roll my own anymore. I could buy cigarettes in packs just like everybody else. The grocery bill got higher with the better foods my paycheck could support and my rent was finally paid on time. I had received my last disconnect notice on a utility I’d often wondered how I would survive without.   When that first paycheck came in I was ecstatic. I had a pouch and a half of Bugler left over and wasn’t sure whether to toss it out, give it away, or keep using it until it was gone. Something told me to hang onto it. I decided to keep it as a reminder of just how bad things can get.

Since that first paycheck I’ve left three husbands, moved five times, bought a house, been promoted once, became a grandmother twice, and bought three vehicles. And although the unit that houses it is different, that pack of Bugler is still in my freezer, untouched save for the reminder it provides, sealed in a Ziploc baggie to preserve its original state, and in the door so that it’s the first thing I see when I retrieve my daily frozen meal.

Suffering from empty nest syndrome (not a clinical diagnosis, I know) I picked up a second job at a local restaurant to fill the time. As it was, I got off work on Friday afternoon and then just sat and waited until Monday.  I watched a lot of television and went on randomly circuitous drives. I was in a state of seemingly constant restlessness. It took about six weeks of solitary in my apartment before it hit me what was happening. Complete and utter silence. I also realized that it was the first time ever that I’d lived alone. Throughout all the life changes in my adult history that had me living in many different places, I always had my children with me. I didn’t realize how much company and comfort they provided while they were at home.

Silence really can be deafening.

As soon as I figured out what it was that was bothering me, that something you can’t quite put your finger on but drives you nuts trying to figure it out, I was okay with it. I grew to sort of like the silence. Until I got bored, that is. Which apparently happens pretty quickly in my world. So I picked up the second job to fill some time, to get me out of my apartment, and to put me around other people. With those measures, I believe I have successfully prevented depression from setting in.

I work the second job on the weekends, and maybe one or two evenings during the week. I guess I don’t really need the money, although it does help to have the extra on occasion. Every shift, though, I see my new part-time and incredibly young co-workers struggling to make enough money to pay their light bills, put gas in their cars, keep a kid in diapers, and buy that new tire they need.

I catch myself wondering how they make a life for themselves on such few wages. And then I remember that I used to be them. I come home, bone tired from the extra work, and open the freezer. I reach past the shoulder height pouch and a half of Bugler for an ice cube to cool my Diet Pepsi, and I’m grateful that I don’t have those struggles anymore, that I haven’t had them for almost twenty years.

Sometimes I’m tempted to buy a pack of papers and roll one of those things just to see if the freezer and/or the Ziploc baggie have done their respective jobs to preserve the contents of the little green and black pouches.

Somehow I think that some reminders are best served intangibly, with a side of nostalgia, and garnished with gratitude.

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Un-Diluted Anger

The aftermath of this whole WV ‘water crisis’ has me all tied up in knots.  Not because we had to endure some inconvenience while the pretty people in suits were getting their faces on television, and not because it will be a long time before I trust the ingestion of anything coming out of my spigot.

I’m not even all that upset by all the false news that got reported during this whole thing, like the video of the guy who smeared grease on the water spigot and then caught it on fire, making it appear that the water was flammable.

This ain’t an episode of frickin’ Frackin’.

Rather, it’s the unjust enrichment that stands to be gained by all the robber barons out there that has me so upset.

Unjust enrichment times four.  Here’s how it will break down:

1)      The restaurant and other business owners who had to close are suing the knickers off Freedom Industries to recoup their losses in revenue for however many days they had to be closed;

2)      The restaurant and other business owners will also claim those same revenue losses on their next tax returns, which means they’ll pay less in local, state, and federal taxes;

3)      The restaurant and other business owners won’t have to pay the salaries of the people who weren’t there to work for their hourly wage while the place was closed and not bringing in any revenue;

4)      The restaurant and other business owners will more than likely inflate their pricing, citing previous losses, just like the gas companies did.

That’s four different times these people will get paid.  Not only will they end up not suffering any loss at all, they’ll make even more money at the expense of the rest of us!

Let’s forget for a moment that Mr. Owner most likely doesn’t live paycheck to paycheck like his employees do.  Most regular folks are just one paycheck away from being homeless anyway.  The hit Mr. Owner took to his wallet this week is likely to affect the interest on money he already has, but it will in no way cost him his home, his lifestyle, or even his frivolous spending habits.

The server at your table during your next night out, however, may be bathing at work just before her next shift.  Not because the water she has at home might still be polluted, but because her home service got shut off for non-payment.  She may be eyeing your dinner as she brings it to you because without a week’s pay, she wasn’t able to get groceries.

I’ve been seeing repetitive ads on television from a local law firm, geared toward Mr. Owner, offering to include him (with all those others who lost business) in their high-dollar class action suit.

Your server lost a week of her life, a week that she’ll be trying to catch up on for months to come, some of it in the form of late fees that will only add to her financial burden.

Yet I’ve seen no television ads for Mr. and Mrs. Joe who didn’t get to work that whole week because of the shut-down.  These people lost an entire quarter of their monthly income!  Where are all the lawyers lined up to help them recoup their losses?

But lawyers wouldn’t make much if they looked out for those who weren’t already rich, though, would they?

I told Husband during my episodic, and variedly pitched, ranting and raving this evening that the next time we go out, I’m asking the server if she got paid her regular wages for the week they were closed.  If she says no, I’m leaving.  That business will get no more of mine.

Husband suggests we give her a twenty dollar bill – and then explain to the manager why we won’t be back.

Just think what would happen if we all did that.  What if every single one of us refused to visit the establishments of those who sued and didn’t pay, those who recouped yet failed to reimburse.  Then would they understand the cost of their greed?

I’d rather stay home and eat bologna than put another one of my dollars in the pockets of these people.  If you think I’m kidding, know this:  it’s been more than sixteen years since I’ve shopped in a WalMart, and for much the very same reason.  I refuse to give Greed another of my dollars.

Time will go on, and people will forget.  When the barons get their money on all four spendable counts, and the lawyers are chuckling over their fair share, no one will remember the life of a server who depended on her hourly wage plus tips for one horrendous week in January, a week of losses for which she’ll still be suffering in late December.

 

 

 

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