Tag Archives: stealing

Freeloader

This shirt costs $20 on crookedmonkey.com. Does anyone who would wear it actually have $20? I sure dont.

This shirt costs $20 on crookedmonkey.com. Does anyone who would wear it actually have $20 to spend on cutesy t-shirts? I sure don't.

A friend took me to a concert last night as a belated birthday present. We went to see the bands Gossip, Men, and Champagne Champagne at The Showbox in downtown Seattle. Working or not, nearly every time I go to an evening event downtown, I end up doing the same stupid thing — I forget about parking. What usually happens is I put parking at the back of my mind, drive to the venue, drive around for 30 minutes trying to find a free spot and then give up and just pay $13. I don’t have $13, nor do I have enough gas to drive around looking for a place to park, so for the first time ever I remembered not to do this and I just used my stolen bus pass. Hooray for thievery.

It was difficult for me to go out as I’ve been severely depressed and I have not been up to face-to-face interaction with other humans. I dreaded going. Truth be told, I’d rather just stay home alone than have someone pay my way. I hadn’t been out for a fun night in a while, and I never even step outside except to go to the food bank, follow up on on my never-ending food stamps application, or to check my mail. I saw two friends I hadn’t seen in a long time, and it was good to catch up. One of them even bought me a drink. With my free ticket and my free drink, you can imagine my amusement when I saw the stamp they were giving concertgoers in the over-21 bar section:

You probably can't read it, but it says "Freeloader." Everyone got the same stamp.

You probably can't read it, but it says "Freeloader." Everyone got the same stamp, but I was probably the only one who felt special.

Then in yet another joke of the cosmos, the first song that Gossip performed was “Dimestore Diamond.” It’s on their latest album and I had never heard it.

Everybody knows the things she does to please
Low cut sweaters with her skirt above her knees
She's a dimestore diamond

Everybody knows just where she gets her clothes
A watercolor painting in a Renoir pose
She's a dimestore diamond

Everybody knows but no one can tell
A homemade haircut but she wears it well
She's a dimestore diamond

You can call her broke, you can call her poor
But everybody knows that she ain't cold no more
She's a dimestore diamond

Shines like the real thing
Real thing
Real thing
Dimestore diamond

Dimestore diamond

Gotta catch you one
Gotta catch you one one
Gotta catch you one

Gonna get you one
Gonna get you one one
Gonna get you one

The first group to perform was a hip-hop/dance group called Champagne Champagne, and the second group was the dance-punk group Men, fronted by JD Samson (who was in another one of my favorite bands Le Tigre). Both opening acts were great, and Gossip was amazing as usual. The positive energy actually made me feel better, when I was expecting it to drain me further. I still feel sick and I still feel tired, but I’m definitely in better spirits. The biggest downer was that I had to leave at the beginning of the encore because of the bus schedule. My friend had offered to drive me home, but I was already feeling guilty about everything else, so I was firm and took the bus.

I was less interested in music and social interaction than I usually am, but I had a good time and I am glad I went –even as a freeloader.

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Filed under Depression

But how are you getting by?

How are you getting by?

I get asked this a lot and I don’t know how to answer. I don’t know what kind of an answer people expect.

I suppose people think I’ll say something like “Oh, I’m just living on savings until I find something new” or “I’m getting unemployment” or “My husband/parents/in-laws are helping out.”

No one has ever asked me this question when I had a regular job. I find that strange because I wasn’t “getting by” even when I was working. There is a misconception that if you have a job, you can “get by.” My car was repossessed when I was working. My electricity was cut off when I was working. When I was working, I had to eat with the homeless people in the park because I had no food and made too much money for food stamps.

I had health insurance at two of my last three temp jobs. Unfortunately, I had so little money that I couldn’t afford the copays to see my doctor. It’s good that I had insurance in case I got into an accident, but what good was this insurance if I couldn’t use it when I needed it for less catastrophic times? I had health insurance when I was coughing up blood, but I didn’t have $10 to see the doctor. I couldn’t go to work like that, and my job did not provide sick days, so I would either get more poor or more sick.

Since early 2006, my rent has increased 27% while my income (until I quit) had decreased 29%. I was barely able to pay my rent when it was at its lowest, so it just seems impossible now. I’m damned if I do, and I’m damned if I don’t. Right now I just can’t deal with working at a horrible job that I hate and am not good at where I’m likely to get reprimanded. I am hyperaware every second of every day that I still will not be able to pay my rent on time. This isn’t a money management problem. I really wish it were a money management problem. I can fix my budget, but this goes so much deeper than that. To quote a friend of mine: “If your boss gives you 60 hours of work to do and only 40 hours to do it, you have a time problem, not a time management problem. If you only get $400 for a week of work, but your basic expenses cost $500 a week, it’s not a reflection of your ability to stick to a budget just because you can’t make it work!”

When I was a receptionist, the company I worked for invited a personal finance counselor to come in and speak to us individually by appointment. I was struggling in a dead-end job and I was barely able to make ends meet, so I was glad for the opportunity to talk to a professional. He gave me a worksheet with a list of items on it and asked me to tell him how much I spent on each. He asked me about my utilities, groceries, my medical bills, credit card bills, and rates on car and renter’s insurance. I gave up my telephone land line years ago, and my cell phone plan is reasonable. I have not had cable since 2003. I did not even own a computer, let alone pay for Internet. I spent very little on groceries. I had the cheapest car insurance policy I could find. I spent about $200 a year on clothing and shoes combined (I spend far less than that now). I had already lumped several accounts into a debt consolidation plan that had reduced my interest rates by half. I do not buy music, go to bars, or go to movies, and I attend only a couple of concerts a year. At the time, my only consistent “luxury” was a $20/month Netflix account. My expenses were all bills I was struggling to pay off from my first two years of unemployment. After buying the basic essentials and making minimum payments, I was left with about $40 each month. It was not enough extra to see a significant change in credit card balances and the like. Also, $20 of that went to Netflix. Almost all of my money was spent playing catch-up.

The personal finance counselor told me that I had cut out all I could, and that the only solution to my problem was to make more money. He told me that nothing was wrong with my budget. I began looking for a second job, but I never found one. I was eventually fired from that receptionist position for “being unhappy.” I was only unemployed for about three weeks, but my next job paid nearly $10,000 a year less and I was laid off in less than six months. It did not occur to me that my next job would pay so much less, especially since it was technically at a higher level. It was a big pay cut, and it hurt. It hurt more when I got laid off.

So, how am I getting by? I sell some of my belongings online. When I get money from that, I put a little gas in my car, I buy cat food, rat food, or kitty litter. I eat food-bank food almost exclusively. I steal my neighbor’s wi-fi. I stopped taking all 7 of my prescription medications. I revel in the fact that the electric company won’t cut me off again for a very long time. I let my phone get cut off until I can scrounge enough money to pay my past-due balances. I think deeply. I worry. I go to a lot of used bookstores to sell my collection. I look around at the disarray and panic because I don’t have the energy to box it all up and I don’t know where I’m going or how I’m going get there. I sleep a lot. I mope. I don’t answer my phone. I wait for the sheriff to force me to leave. I jump at every noise. I don’t get out much.

I did something very unethical that I am ashamed to talk about, even here: prior to leaving my job, I found a year-long bus pass that had been dropped by a coworker. There was no one around when I found it, and I waited a long time and no one returned to get it. These bus passes are issued to employees for free, but they probably cost the company over $1000 (I know that they are worth around $1500).  I was a temp and did not get the year-long bus pass — I had to pay $90 a month for my own. The pass was brand new. I found it in July, and it’s good through next July. I fully intended to turn it in to security, but at some point it occurred to me that the pass was worth much more to me than to whoever had lost it. After all, they had a real job and I didn’t. Also, I’ve had so many bad things happen, that maybe this was a break for me. I don’t believe in Karma, but if I did, I’d actually think this was the universe trying to throw me a bone for once. Well, maybe I do believe in Karma after all. I kept the pass. I never heard anything about anyone looking for it, so I ride the bus to save gas, and I don’t pay a penny for it. I won tickets to a movie last night, and that bus pass was the only way I could have gone to the only fun thing I’ve done recently. I could not have paid for parking, and I did not have enough money for bus fare. Keeping the pass was wrong of me, but I’m doing it for survival.

So, that is how I’m “getting by,” if you want to call it that. I don’t even want a job right now because a job will not save me from eviction, and I need to be ready. I’m too depressed to make progress quickly, and I know in my heart that I’d be too distracted at a job, even a simple one. I had enough trouble focusing at my last job. I am using this time to focus on liquidating my belongings and finding a transitional shelter to move into, no matter how frustrating that may be.

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Filed under "In this economy", Depression, Food, Home Life, Materialism, Obstacles, Work