#59 When You Grow Up Poor…

… you become a straight pro at spotting cop cars. Why you ask? Well you know what they say. If you have to ask, you probably grew up in a loving home with air conditioning that was set to something other than ‘Fan’ in the Summer.

The truest thing that I ever heard growing up about the American Dream was this:

If you have a lot you can easily get more. If you have some, you can get a little. If you have none, you can get none. What does that have to do with cop cars? Settle down, Mark Cuban we’re getting there.

When you grow up poor you save all your money from the car dealership job that you’ve been riding your BMX bike to day in and day out and you finally have enough for a used Hyundai Accent! You buy it from a Mexican guy who was keeping it in a storage container and he doesn’t speak English.

Cuanto questa you ask? $3,000 American dollars. You pay cash.

You drive away and your life has CHANGED. You are finally free. With this car you can do anything. You can go anywhere. You are rich.

Two months later your transmission blows up and you find out that the dealer put saw dust in the transmission to keep it from slipping for long enough that you when you got a ride back to his shed to beat the shit out of him he was gone. You get the damn transmission fixed and now you’re in debt. The downward spiral begins…

You can’t pay your bills now. You still haven’t gotten the car registered and you keep changing the date on the temp tag in your window with permanent marker hoping no one will notice. Then you get a flat. Shit! You have no money to replace that tire. You thought you were free. But like the Genie in Aladdin you’re finding that while you thought your car gave you power to be the sexiest sorcerer in the universe, it actually is a trick and its nothing more than an “itty bitty living space”. You roll on a spare now. We’ll see how long that lasts.

And this is how you get good at spotting cops. When you put that car in drive and go out on to any public street you are taking on the risk of about $1,500 in potential tickets and fines with your no tags, 3 real tires, lapsed insurance ass. So you start memorizing the shape of all the different cop cars in each county you travel to. You can spot their dark silhouettes from a quarter mile off in the middle of the night. You start to get to know the look of their headlights in your rear view. You know the places they hide and wait. You see them 6 cars back and two lanes over. You follow them to make sure they aren’t following you. You know all the windy roads that you can take to loose a cop in those dense Georgia neighborhoods. You can put cars between you and them on the highway and never let them sneak behind you. You’re a gosh damn fighter pilot in the Gulf. You are Top Gun. You are Tom Cruise.

Then one day you are headed to your second job bussing tables at the steakhouse and Paper Planes by M.I.A. comes on the radio and you take your eyes off of your surroundings for 3 seconds to turn it up and BOOOOOM!

Lights in the rearview. They got you. They give you a warning for the tire, a ticket for the registration and threaten to take you in and impound the car for the insurance. When all is said and done you get to your shift late at the steakhouse and you only make enough tips to put a down payment on one used tire. What a good day.

Its over.

You are no longer free. Between the transmission, the tire, the tickets, and the tools you need for your impending suicide, you are in debt about $2,000, or about a third of what you made last year.

When you are poor it is so much easier to get poorer than to get richer. One mistake and its all over. Next thing you know you’re valeting at a strip club and sleeping on a futon in your friend’s living room trying to figure out if you have the balls to start selling drugs or maybe you can start selling yourself.

You lay uncomfortably (fully clothed mind you. Poor people have this uncanny ability to sleep fully clothed. Its got something to do with our homeless forefathers being homeless on the streets) knowing that your friend is cursing your name for the skidmark you have become in his life and you drift off to sleep remembering the way that the humid evening air felt on your left cheek as you drove your new ride out of that shipping container, the way the wind lifted up your hand just a bit as you airplaned your arm out the driver side window of your brand new very used 1998 Hyundai Accent, driving up Buford highway through Chambodia.

You were free once. You felt it. You know what it felt like. It felt like not being poor.

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