Priorities

When I was a sophomore in college, I was hanging out with my roommates one December day shortly before Winter Break. One of my roommates was planning to travel home for Christmas, and was trying to figure out the best way to get to the airport over 50 miles away. She didn’t own a car. I did own a car, but I couldn’t drive her for whatever reason (or perhaps I didn’t want to –I couldn’t stand this girl.) She told me, quite excitedly, that she could take the bus all the way to airport and it would take over four hours but it only cost $4. “That’s crazy,” I said. “Why would you do that when you can hire a shuttle to take you there for $20 in just an hour?”

Bewildered, she asked me “Why would I spend $20 traveling to the airport when I can get there for only $4?” Then she laughed at me as if I’d suggested she flap her arms and fly to the airport.

These days, I’m not sure what I would do if I were in the same situation. Frankly, I could go either way. There is still a pampered part of me that values my time, comfort, and safety more than money, and a part of me that is willing to spend rent money frivolously in order to avoid an uncomfortable situation.

My paycheck was unusually small this week; my health insurance premium is subsidized by my employment agency, and since I was very sick and barely worked for two weeks, I had far more taken out of my paycheck than I would have on a normal week–nearly $200 more. I was left with $280 for a whole week, during the course of which I am expected to pay $700 for rent and $90 for a bus pass.

There is a group of people I hang out with a couple of times a month. We drink beer or coffee and play boardgames. This is very important to me at this time because I need to do all I can to hang on to my sanity. Unfortunately, I live far away from anywhere we meet regularly, and my car is still out of commission. We met up last Wednesday night and I completely lost track of time during a discussion with a friend about video games, one of my favorite topics. The next thing I knew it was after midnight, and that’s trouble for someone who lives in an isolated area such as my neighborhood. I couldn’t get the wifi to work, so I couldn’t look at the bus schedule online. I took the next bus downtown only to find that I’d missed the last transfer by about 10 minutes. There were no buses traveling to my neighborhood at all. Not one. There was one bus that stopped in the ghetto two miles from my apartment, and it left at 2:14 a.m. I decided I would just wait an hour and a half and then walk two miles home.

I had approximately $180 left after buying a bus pass and some food. I was determined to wait for the bus.

I guess I’m not as strong as I give myself credit. I was alone at 1 a.m. in Seattle’s Pioneer Square, which is not a nice place to be alone and stranded when the bars are closing. The people on the street were not too threatening in general, at least they aren’t if they don’t talk to you. When the streets are quiet, however, there are fewer people to talk to, and anyone at a bus stop is a captive audience. A man was sitting across the street from me and staring in my direction. He just stared straight at me for at least ten minutes. Then he crossed the street, sat next to me, and continued staring. I got nervous and decided to call a taxi.

Yeah. Well get you there. Maybe. If we feel like it.

Yeah. We'll get you there. Maybe. If we feel like it.

I knew that the $180 I had left was more than enough to get me home, but I knew I shouldn’t spend any money. I was worried that it would cost $40 or so because I’ve had terrible luck with cabs in the past. The cab arrived quickly, in less than five minutes. It cost $22.50 to take me home. I feel fortunate that for once in my life I actually had access to some money, as opposed to other times recently when I’ve been stranded with nothing.

Had this been any other night, I may have been stuck waiting for the late, late bus and taking a two-mile stroll through the closest thing King County has to a real ghetto. Or I would have slept in an alley or something until the buses resumed service in the morning. And I would have been screwed if anyone took my backpack or anything like that.

I have resigned to the fact that I cannot pay my rent on time this month. I will not even be able to pay it next week because even if I hadn’t spent any of my $280 paycheck, I would be $40 short next week, at best.

My rent was hiked up last February, and it’s been absolutely hellish ever since. I simply can’t afford it, but I already live in the cheapest place I can find. I have health issues that make me not entirely willing to share my living space at this time, but I will commence a search for a sympathetic (or at least somewhat sane) roommate. I will once again have to unload most of my belongings, which should bring in some money. It’s difficult to have a yard or garage sale when you have neither a yard nor a garage. At least summer is here, so I can maybe hone in on community sales.

But what roommate would want me? I have pets, bad credit, I’m antisocial, and I’m messy. I’m really not made to share living spaces. I have done it before, and I have even done it successfully, but my health has declined so much and it has led me to seek out more and more solitude. I am reluctant to live with friends because I imagine major clashes. Perhaps the best situation would be some sort of group home. And I must make arrangements before I get myself evicted.

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