#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.

#58 When You Grow Up Poor…

… health insurance is a good laugh. I mean think about it. You were born with the blood of dainty English fops coursing through your rich veins.


You merely observe the proverbial mud puddle from a distance and avoid it so as not to soil your silk stockings! I was BORN in that puddle like Bane was born in darkness! I grew up in there. In my lonely days bacteria and viruses were my only company! The blood of muddy mountain folk courses though my copper pipes!

So NO, SORRY I did not opt for dental coverage when I landed that job that offered free dental coverage. You can’t trick me! I know dentists and if there’s one thing I know about dentists it’s that dentists will get you one way or the other if you show em your teeth. The teeth they collect are fuel for their nightmares and they feed on the plaque of their victims.

And YES I did go to the dentist for the first time in 12 years soon after I got married because a little piece of my tooth fell off when I decided to floss for the first time in 12 years.

Big whoop!

And YES the dentist was really nice and great I don’t know why I said that mean thing about dentists before. And YES I DID have 9 cavities that had been around for who knows how long and it was going to take a year to fill them and my receding gum line may have needed a surgical graft and that piece of tooth that fell off wasn’t a piece of tooth at all it was a big chunk of hardened calcified plaque and maybe when the pretty dentist stewardess lady started chipping away at all the other calcified chunks on my teeth she gave me the most pitiful look of loathing right before she gagged in her mask for what she called “the first and only time I’ve ever gagged before I’m so sorry I don’t know what happened” and you ask her to give you laughing gas so you don’t have to be present for these kinds of moments anymore.

Mountain blood!

And don’t even get me started on the hospital healthcare coverage!

#57 When You Grow Up Poor…

… you don’t buy new cars. The thought doesn’t even cross your mind. Well that’s just not true the thought crosses your mind all the time actually. Oh what would it be like to have those power windows and power locks everyone keeps talking about? Suppose I’ll never know. How wonderful would it be to have one of those fancy new cars that comes with a CD player? I could finally have a CD player for all my CDs that I’ve been holding on to. Man I’d kill for just once to have the chance to have one of those full sized spares in the back of my brand new car. Just once!

Instead I get my vehicles certified used from a guy named Craig. He’s got a whole list of cars available. Brown ones. Grey ones. Ones with four wheels. Some with less or more than four wheels. You can pay for your car in cash, drugs, canned food, or sometimes you can even trade your other cars for one of these cars. So cheap!

The only trouble is that the guy you bought your ’98 Hyundai Accent from told you the transmission was smooth as butter. What I think he meant to say was that the transmission was busted and so he put saw dust in the transmission fluid reservoir so that the transmission would feel like it wasn’t busted for two months after you bought it and then you find out that there is sawdust in your transmission while you’re going down I-85 at 80mph and your transmission falls out from under your brand new 1998 manual windows, manual locks, am/fm/cassette Hyundai Accent and rolls off the highway onto the shoulder, throwing up sparks all the while.

You pull over (that’s a relative term. You coast to a stop on the side of the road) with one of those “not this again” looks on your face. And you stare at all the shiny Escalades and Beamers driving by with all their white blonde freshly showered drivers who are now rubber necking at your Tuesday misfortunes with that “oh my gosh if I were that guy I’d be late for this hair appointment” look on their faces. And then you just sit there and stare at the cars passing by on the highway some more because you can’t call anyone because it’s 2007 and you don’t have a smart phone, just a pager.

#56 When You Grow Up Poor…

… you tend to live right next to people who are really bad at being alive. For example you live next to poor angry white people who are mad all the time, or as we like to call them now, “white supremacists”. Cept you know for a fact that these people don’t think of themselves as supreme to anything. They don’t even know what that word means. Unless you’re talking about the burrito supreme from Taco Bell. In which case they know exactly what you’re talking about.

White supremacists are not a thing when you’re poor. Racism is just those people saying things about other people because they think other people are saying those things about them and they really actually just want to be like those other people.

Poor people know that if you want those people to go away you ignore them. They’re like monsters under your bed. If you hide your head under your pillows and you can’t see them, then they can’t see you.


#55 When You Grow Up Poor…

… you have no aversion to public transportation. The bus is not a used prophylactic on wheels like most people think. It is a chariot. A fiery steed atop which you are a glistening knight. It is a poor man’s limo. It is a magic carpet and the way to ride is to have exact change in your pockets at all time. After years of riding though you’ll understand that while you are a classy poor person, there are those who ride who easily perpetuate the stigma of a profession poor person bus rider. The huddled masses. The untouchables. The cigarette smelling, groping your very large girlfriend in the back seat while wearing matching wife beaters and skater shoes, always talking loudly about drama happening at the place where you are currently crashing on the couch, tough as nails but not really kind of bus riders. You learn how to tune them out so that you can have a blissful ride on your golden chariot of poverty. Here are the rules for a successful bus ride:

  1. Do not get on a bus without headphones. You might as well sign up to be on the Jerry Springer show if you’re gonna pull some sh*% like that. Head phones are the first line of defense against the wife beater clan talking to you. If you don’t have them on, who’s to stop them from yelling “It’s hot as hell out there today, isn’t it?!” at you from five rows back? Nothing. Thats what. And they’ll yell it. Sixty percent of the time every time. Until you turn around and then your trapped. And they’ll talk to you about NASCAR, or some rapper, or how Jesus is cool with them sleeping around until you or they get off and lets be honest they aren’t getting off. For some effing reason they stay on til the very last stop no matter what.
  2. Do not get on the bus without a book. A book is the perfect object to keep your gaze trained downward. There is nothing worse on a bus than looking up and catching the eye of the homeless crazy man who has been staring at you ever since you got on, and he’s just been waiting, literally drooling out of his mouth, waiting for you to look up so that he can immediately start talking to you about how he read a book once and then his girlfriend slept with a black guy from across the hall and so now he needs $5. Dont ever look up. Ever.
  3. If you end up breaking one of the above rules and accidentally get in a conversation with someone, get off at the next stop. Immediately. No matter where you are. And no matter when the next bus is coming. Because I can guarantee you whatever happens to you is not going to be as miserable as enduring a homeless drunk bus conversation.
  4. Don’t touch anything. Hover. Levitate. Glide. Do not touch anything.
  5. Never fall asleep.
  6. If your driver is nice to you, be nice to them. If you driver could care less, then don’t give a crap.

Thems the rules. If you follow them the bus will turn into a dream tube like in your dreams. It’ll be just like the Magic Schoolbus, but you’ll be Lilly Tomlin and you’ll never have to go inside the body of one of your students ever again.

#54 When You Grow Up Poor…

… you become an adult and realize that everyone grew up singing this nursery song like this: “Jesus wants me for a sunbeam, at home at SCHOOL, at play” which was the right way. Whereas you grew up singing it “Jesus wants me for a sunbeam, at home, at WORK all day” which is, as a matter of fact, the incorrect way…. 

#53 When You Grow Up Poor…

… you never forget where you came from. Like for instance, I just came home from work again. And I will never forget that. I’ll never forget that I spend a third of my life begging for scraps to feed my family who has to fight with the other two thirds of my life (work and sleep) to keep from getting their third reduced to a fourth or an eighth, or a sixteenth, or another even bigger (or smaller?) number. I don’t know those bigger numbers real good because the school I went to only taught us as much numbers as our parents put on the combined income spot on their taxes.