seems i've always got something on the tip of my tongue.    ©

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Too close a look at poverty

The average North American is two paychecks away from potentially living on the street. I've been a little too close to that precipice, myself, as I've been waiting to hear about some money owed to me by the government, et cetera. Earlier today, I was sitting on my couch, near tears, terrified of whether or not I'd be able to make rent. My landlords are hard-asses and have no leniency for folks who are late with rent, since there've been a few deadbeats pass through this building before.

The utter fear, absolute fear that comes from just Not Knowing is a terrible, terrible thing. If you've never been in this situation, you'll just never understand. Too many people are far too cynical about those of us who've been thrust into money problems. All it takes is one bad break, one moment of bad luck, and no one around to help, and you can find your ass on the pavement.

There's a divide out there, between Those Who Know and Those With No Clue. The thinking for the Clueless is, "Oh, but there are jobs. They're everywhere. With a little determination and creativity, they can solve their problems."

Yeah, well, sure. Pie-in-the-sky, it'd be that easy. One wink and a swish of my magical wand, and I'd make this all go away. But then there's this place the rest of us live in, it's called Reality. Reality is, an $8-an-hour job won't fucking cut it, not with bills, not with student debts, not with health issues. Reality is, it's just not that easy -- not for most people.

I was hit then by these heaving sobs of terror -- probably compounded by the fact that I'm sitting around with a fever, shivers, a pounding head, and a knowledge that I couldn't work right now even if I wanted to. I'm completely sick and miserable, and if I were to get out to the world for work, well, I'd have to go through the torrents of wind and rain forecasted tonight, on the public transit, since I've not got a car to protect me from the elements.

And the fact is, finding the "getting by" jobs is easier for men.* They can go and do manual labour, which pays considerably more than the average job a woman can find to "get by" -- ie, waitressing, secretarial, etc, which are all relatively low-paying.

I swallowed my pride, wrote a "Please, for the love of god, if you love what I do, support me and donate money..." post for this Smutty rag, and it occured to me -- "call the government folks and see what's up," which I was told wouldn't be decided before NEXT Friday.

So, a cheerful woman takes my call, looks into my case, and bubbles over effusively with, "Oh, everything's great! You'll be getting checks dating back to February 24th, probably by Monday!"

And I broke down, like a fucking child, sobbing and thanking this utter stranger for what is, undoubtedly, the best news I've had in weeks. Fear... what a terribly powerful emotion. What a horrible, horrible thing to be under the thumb of.

So, I deleted my pride-less begging message, and here I am.

I am, without a doubt, an incredibly smart and employable person -- and don't think I don't fucking know it -- but I'm also a person who fell on a little bad timing, a little too much governmental delay, and for a bit there, a person who was in danger of some Bad Shit coming down.

I had my finances depleted after a couple unstable years in the film industry, when work dried up and I had to find my food sources on my own. My savings got eaten, and suddenly, my safety net disappeared, and without credit, there's not a fuck of a lot I was able to do. It's just dumb fucking luck, and if you're lucky, you'll never experience it yourself.

There are those out there with far fewer marketable skills than I, with nowhere else to turn, who are at the mercy of fate and happenstance, and they're being neglected -- not just by you, but by society and by the government. I'm not saying everyone deserves a free pass, but for fuck's sake, sometimes a leg-up is all that it takes. If you can provide one, then do so.

Employers, unfortunately, all too often lack the creativity to see some people's potential beyond their present fortunes. Me, I've never been in that boat, and god willing, I never will be. My situation's looking considerably brighter, and now my sick ass is able to focus on the only responsibility I should have to focus on: Getting well.

*I've been called on this statement. All right, well, there are guys who can't do manual labour ever, and it really sucks to be them, since they probably have even fewer options than women due to steretypes. Here in Vancouver, though, the statement's true. We have more housing starts than any other city in North America, if I'm remembering my facts right. Our labour laws are pretty favourable for guys working in that industry, and besides that, we have a lot of industrial work, most of which starts at $15 an hour or more. If I've pissed anyone off, then so be it. I guess being sick results in my being a little less perceptive than normal. Such is life. We write what we know, and what I know is what it's like here in my teeny, tiny corner of Canada.