Late one Friday afternoon, back in the day when I worked for a property management company, a woman called because she needed us to unlock a door to give the electric company access to restore her power. It had been turned off due to her failure to pay her bill, and she said that it absolutely had to be reconnected before she was back home for the weekend. The management company would not typically send a guy out until the next week, and she ended up agreeing to pay $100 in cash to a maintenance worker, in addition to whatever feel the electric company charged.
I was baffled by her poor decision making. One of the things she said was that the power had to be turned back on immediately because she had hundreds of dollars of groceries in her refrigerator and freezer. I could not understand why she would fail to pay her bill, spend a lot of money on groceries, and then spend even more in order to get the power back. Why not budget and pay the bill on time, and then perhaps cut costs on unnecessary groceries?
It did not make sense.
Less than a year later I had my power turned off because I had not paid the bill. I thought of the woman with the groceries a day later as I went to the power company to pay both the bill and the re-connection fee in the hopes that the power would be back on before the weekend.
I was able to pay the bill because my parents had sent me $100 as an “early birthday gift.” Five months early.
My parents don’t ever** give out money to their children. I certainly had not told them about the reality of our financial situation. But there it was. So I paid the bill.
I had spent $30 on groceries that month, to feed three adults largely on split peas and bread made with flour, salt, and water. There was no fear for the groceries when the power went out, but Josh needed it to work.
Josh worked constantly, but bigger clients weren’t paying, and the smaller projects that he did ended up taking years to pay off.
I spent more effort job hunting than I ever have at a real job, but staffing agencies had next to nothing and no fast food restaurant, pharmacy, or Walmart wanted me with my lack of appropriate experience.
This post originally had some moral about maturing and not judging, but it languished in my draft folder for years. Presumably I could not complete it because of the intense shame of not being able to hack life, combined with the fact that I received criticism when I dared to hint in other posts at how hard that time was. I’ve since learned in a hundred ways that most Americans don’t see the incredible safety nets they’ve been given.
I need to revisit this time in my life because I haven’t cut myself off enough to not know others in that same position still. I need to remember how munch of a difference $25 would have made a week sooner.
**This is the only time it ever happened to me, and when I asked one sister about her experience, she said that our parents gave her $20 when she was 19.
- I am thankful 11/2/2014
- Don’t Vote
Oh my word. I can relate. There was a time in my life where I did not understand that some people really don’t have safety nets. Of course, my understanding came when my own safety net was no longer there. In the year(s) since I have found so much more compassion for others and a true desire to understand exactly where they are coming from.