Les Nouveaux Pauvres

I had a coworker here in Houston who "found" himself in a sitch where he had no home, no car, and because the money he made sucked (courtesy of missing a lot of hours because he had no ride), he basically had no money.  He was sleeping on his aunt's couch, and she made it clear that that particular privilege didn't come cheap.  And yet...my ex-coworker refused to look for employment closer to where he lived.  He wanted the boss to sell him the company truck, and suggested the boss deduct a percentage from his paychecks.  When that obviously wasn't going to happen, he wanted to give me gas money in exchange for chauffeuring him everywhere or letting him borrow my car.  He said I would be "helping" him.  When I asked why he didn't just ride the bus, he replied that he didn't like how long it took and didn't feel like getting up an extra hour early to catch it.

Yes.

All right...a year before this guy, back in Appalachia, I had a female coworker who was making about $27,000.  Her husband was making about $32,000.  They had a huge mortgage and literally hundreds of thousands of dollars in school debt (hers, by the way).  When my ex-coworker mentioned to me how she wanted to start trying for a baby, even though (by her own admission) money had become a major issue, I suggested she get a second job because it would obviously help.  She looked at me like I had two heads.

I know.

About two years before her, I had a friend who'd sunk five years into a BA degree.  Her reward was working 20 hours a week for a little over minimum wage.  Money was so tight and checks were bouncing so often, her husband eventually had to take a third job, which meant he obviously he had dibs on the car.  So not only did was my friend's salary insufficient, but she wanted rides to and from work from friends, even though the bus ride would've been short and accommodating to her schedule.  When I suggested she get a second job and further her education, you guessed it...I got the two-heads look and some adamant resistance.

See, I'm bringing these scenarios up because the little sis and I got into a debate about "helping" people.

When I needed help, I prioritized.  I asked myself what I needed above all and limited it to that one thing.  If I was staying with you, you didn't have to drive me anywhere - I was on the bus before you even knew I'd left.  You didn't have to worry about laundry or dishes, and when you got home there was most likely a hot meal waiting for you.  Furthermore, I worked my butt off to make sure that my stay with you was temporary.  In my book, months are okay, but if we start to approach the year mark, then there's clearly a problem.

To give credit where credit is due, that particular bout of home-training came from my Eldest Sis.

I'm a bit of a cynic with these things.  In Houston, you can ride the bus all day for $2.00.  In West Virginia, $2.00 is a one-way trip, and a short one at that.  In Houston, you can take $20 to Foodtown and eat for a week.  In West Virginia, $20 is 2-3 days worth of groceries, if you're lucky.  One week when I was seriously penny-pinching down here in Houston, I survived for a week off $12.  That included running errands.

People, I believe in seeking stability and looking for permanent solutions.  Catching rides, borrowing cars, and sleeping on someone's couch is neither stable or nor a permanent solution.  I believe in riding the bus, eating Ramen, working, working, and working until stability and self-sufficiency are achieved.

When I moved from Houston back to Appalachia, I was 18 and I had nothing.  I managed to turn that into a 7-year university career, all the while holding down jobs, sometimes 2-3, and being independent.  I got an apartment after the dorms, and then a car.  Later, I got a career.  And I noticed that people would often say to me, "Well, you chose that.  School isn't for everyone; not everybody can work 2-3 jobs at once.  That's not everyone's path."  But these were always the people who wanted to ride in my car, sleep on my chaise, raid my fridge, borrow some money and, in short, benefit from a "path" they didn't feel suited them.

Luxury and poverty, last I checked, are antithetical.  When we're poor, we don't have the luxury of being choosy, and I'm very cynical about helping someone who wants to luxuriate their way through a rough situation.  I don't understand people who are unwilling to tough things out, make a plan, and achieve stability.  We're not talking about wealth - just stability.  When I did social work, we used the Socratic Method to help parents find their own permanent solutions.  For example: How can you get stable?  What steps do you feel you need to take so you can get your family back on track without living off the state, or in and out of hospitals and homeless shelters?  What do you feel is missing from your equation?  The goal is to be self-sufficient; what will it take for you to be self-sufficient?

The lil sis believes we are here to help other; it's why humans exist (she's young).  To an extent, I agree...to an extent.  There is, however, such a thing as too much help.  As a former "helper" and a social worker, I believe that people who ask for help need to meet me halfway.  I may not give them a ride, but they can have some bus fare.  If they need a place to stay, food, etc., then I'll buy them a bus ticket back to their mama's house, because for some reason, many needy people often want to be choosy about whose couch they crash on, and they tend to avoid their families like the plague.  When I did social work, a woman (one of many) came begging to be a cut a state check.  She kept crying and screaming, "I have nothing!  I have nothing!"  I calmly explained that as a social worker, I couldn't allow her to take minors to the street and to live off "nothing."  Because she had a previous case, I told her I had her immediate family information and that I would contact them for assistance, explaining that if they didn't assist, I would be taking custody of the kids.

Those tears dried up mighty fast.  All of a sudden, various resources in her life - relatives to help, places to go, the food stamp card with a hefty balance, etc. - magically appeared where once, there was "nothing."

Conversely, I got bullshit call on a family who was precisely what every social worker is happy to work with.  This couple was broke as hell, living in the projects, but they took good care of their kids, their landlord had no problems with them, and they didn't want a free check.  They didn't even want WIC.  The husband would derisively say the word "help" with air quotes and roll his eyes.  He bluntly explained that he and wife wanted bus passes so she could regularly get to school, and he could find a steady job.  They had their goals laid out - school and job, get a car, save up some more money, get the hell out of the hood.  End of story.

I helped this family with a utility bill, put in a glowing recommendation for bus passes, and got out of their face for good.

Fashion Tips from Moi to avoid people who seem to need too much help

1) If they don't have a car, but they can ride the bus (or subway) to work or school, then that's what they need to do.  Give them some bus fare and send them on their merry way.  If someone asks for a ride more than once, then even goes so far to ask to borrow your car more than once - problem.

2) People who don't like asking for help...don't ask for help.  Duh.  They actually tend to be quite blunt about this.  If they have to ask, they ask for that one major thing, and they try to get out of your hair as quickly as possible.  Some people want to appear as though they're not asking and don't like to, so they ask...by telling.  And accepting.

If you have something they want, they won't ask for it directly.  But they will "confide" in you (often a stranger or acquaintance) how much they don't have the thing they want, and really, really, really, really need, and how their life is so hard without it.  And when you offer a ride home, or a place to stay, or a hot meal, they either keep asking by telling you all their problems, or they flat-out start asking for what they want...forgetting that they're supposed to be too uncomfortable to ask.

3) There's nothing wrong with needing help.  We all need help every now and again - keywords: now...and again.  Not again and again and again and again.  Folks have to meet you halfway.  They need to ask your for something now so that they don't have to ask you again.  Restate problems aloud so that everyone's on the same page.  If someone says, "My problem is I don't have a ride to work," the knee-jerk reaction is to deduce that they need someone to drive them, or they need to borrow a car.  No, no, no.  Restate the problem: "You need reliable transportation to work, and it has to work around your schedule no matter what.  Understood: bus."

Comments

  1. I'm going through a rough patch right now, no fulltime job (freelancing like a mofo) and sleeping on my sister's couch so I feel where this post is coming from. I've been helping my sister and her roommate clean and organize things in their place and I cook dinner for them when I can. I also buy groceries too.
    I grew up on public transportation and take it all the time. I hate the bus, not because I'm too good for it but because I prefer the train. I will take the train and walk anywhere in this city. I walk 7.5 miles to and from my oldest sister's place to do laundry in her building cause she gets it for free. She's always trying to offer me a ride home and I always tell her no. Her money isn't great and burning up gas to take me home is crazy in my opinion. Also folks get sick of people asking for rides all the damn time. I've seen how my twin would just demand rides from her friends and how they would silently resent that shit. I vowed not to be that person. I want to save up that goodwill for when I in real trouble and truly need a ride

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  2. Excellent points.

    Also folks get sick of people asking for rides all the damn time. I've seen how my twin would just demand rides from her friends and how they would silently resent that shit.

    This is the ultimate reality. The ritual of Again and Again and Again fucks up relationships. The feeling of entitlement, the refusal to up the contribution, etc. can end friendships, strain familial ties, and destroy marriages.

    This is where the sociopathic element enters: a lot of these people are aware of the growing resentment, or can see the strain of being an inconvenience...and they don't care. Or they feel their stress is more important than yours, and that you should accommodate them regardless of the cost to you. After all, you're the one with your shit together - why should you complain?

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  3. Girl...

    This post here...!!! I'm sitting here shaking my head, yet understand completely where you're coming from. People like this are just...whew...I can't even find the words.

    I disagree to an extent with little sis. I don't mind helping those who are willing to do their part and all they need is a boost. But I am not about to be bothered with those who feel like they're entitled to expect others to help them just because. Fuck that.

    1. Folks ALREADY KNOW they can't stay with me. Can you say "Hell no!" Because I can, I do, I have, and I will. I don't give a damn. My days as a helper are OVER. To hell with that shit. They'd better ask someone else.

    2. I wish a motherfucker would ask me to drive Black Swan. I barely give rides to people; ain't no way on God's green earth will I hand over the keys. I'm not sure I'd do this even if I were boo'ed up. I don't even see how someone could part their lips to ask me if they could drive my whip. Can you say, "Get yo' ass way from 'round here."

    But then again, I do not associate with leeches and mooches, so these circumstances will not be occurring in my life. Having had indirect experience with those kinds of people (my mother was a tender heart), I can smell their bullshit from a mile off, and I am not trying to be bothered.

    "After all, you're the one with your shit together--why should you complain?"

    Because my shit costs money to maintain. You can't reap the benefits of my hard work.

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  4. "This is where the sociopathic element enters: a lot of these people are aware of the growing resentment, or can see the strain of being an inconvenience...and they don't care. Or they feel their stress is more important than yours, and that you should accommodate them regardless of the cost to you. After all, you're the one with your shit together - why should you complain?"

    Wow... right on the nail! My last roommate did this to me emotionally. She was dealing with some ish I had dealt with years ago (she does have some sincere problems, but you know, lots of people do) and because I was so together and stable, my will, my time, my energy was expendable.

    I love your insights into human nature... shame human nature disappoints like this. On the whole I still agree with your lil sis in a broad way, but I've had to toughen up my actual practices of "compassion" lately. Sometimes you just aren't being helpful if you "help" too much, but enabling their nonsense to pass onto the next sucker.

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  5. A wise friend said this many years ago and it has proven true today. The only people you should ever loan money to are the ones who wouldn't take it. And if you think about it for a second, it goes much deeper than that.

    The people who wouldn't take the money are like the family you mentioned.

    They don't like the though of being indebted or not taking care of their responsibilities. They have a hard sense of honor. If they ask for help, it really is a life or death situation and they actually spend their time fighting to get themselves out of it.

    The ones who are usually in trouble or "need" help, are in usually in that situation by their own doing to begin with.

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  6. @ Neva

    I've had to toughen up my actual practices of "compassion" lately. Sometimes you just aren't being helpful if you "help" too much, but enabling their nonsense to pass onto the next sucker.

    Thank you!!!

    @ Neo-Prodigy

    The ones who are usually in trouble or "need" help, are in usually in that situation by their own doing to begin with.

    Oh yes!!!

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  7. Unfortunately all the manipulative free loaders are relatives or "in laws" (people my siblings are shacking up with. I did have one childhood friend who went wild in high school and hasn't had her shit together since. When I moved back to my home town for a 1 year internship, she constantly needed a ride somewhere. Or we'd go for fast food, she'd order her stuff then expect me to pay. One time she claimed she would give me gas money for driving her 45 minutes each way, she never did. Now I cut her off. I moved away, she never had my cell number and I ignore her facebook notes.
    My mom is way too nice so I have siblings and cousins that take advantage. She has been supporting my brother and sister for most of their adult lives. I'm pretty sure my brother's girlfriend helped herself to a $20 from my wallet when I was home for Christmas. Shame I can't sit my purse down at my mother's house without being robbed.

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  8. Or we'd go for fast food, she'd order her stuff then expect me to pay.

    This is particularly annoying. I used to ask a friend ahead of time if she had money and she would say yes and that she'd love to go to dinner. She'd be completely quiet in the car until we got to the restaurant, and then she'd mention that she had no money.

    Another friend had an ex-boyfriend who would invite her out to dinner. She would think she was going on a date. Turned out he was just hungry, wanted an expensive steak, and would stare blankly when the check arrived.

    People can be really despicable sometimes.

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  9. "Turned out he was just hungry, wanted an expensive steak, and would stare blankly when the check arrived."

    Yea........someone would be paying for the food that they ordered, and the other person would be working it off in the kitchen. I'm just saying.

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  10. I used to ask a friend ahead of time if she had money and she would say yes and that she'd love to go to dinner. She'd be completely quiet in the car until we got to the restaurant, and then she'd mention that she had no money.

    Another friend had an ex-boyfriend who would invite her out to dinner. She would think she was going on a date. Turned out he was just hungry, wanted an expensive steak, and would stare blankly when the check arrived.


    OKAY.

    On expecting to pay for a mooch's meal:

    Me: "You said you had money. You asked ME out. I know you ain't expecting ME to pay for your meal. This was YOUR idea."

    Mooch tries to get over by any means necessary.

    *Amaya mean-muggs the mooch and clicks tongue before getting up to leave*

    Yes. I will leave a mofo in the lurch if s/he tries that shit with me. Fortunately, I don't have people like that in my life. That crap is crap. Folks need to quit being nice and enabling that kind of behavior.

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