Lifestyles of the Poor and Unknown
Lee Ann Leach (no kidding on the last name!)
The house I am currently living in is about to fall down around me… literally. We’ve been in it about 3 years now. When we moved in, the carpet was already well over 25 years old; as a matter of fact, everything in it was well over 25 years old. From the concrete elephant planters with dead geraniums that greet you at the front door, to the harvest gold curling linoleum, to the avocado green packed-down aforementioned carpet, but the rent was cheap for our area ($500.00 a month), and the landlady stayed out of our hair. We haven’t asked much from the landlady as far as repairs were concerned, and have paid our rent on time every month.
Recently, we did ask for some repairs, though. The toilets were not flushing, the ceiling over the front porch was caving in, the front door had a hole at the bottom the size of a grapefruit, and the bathroom wall was falling in from the roof leaking water down the inside after it rained. So, the landlady tells us she is going to send over someone to make some repairs. Very happy that something was about to get fixed around here, I happily opened the front door when they repairmen arrived, only to find that they spoke no English at all. Not only did they not have the ability to communicate with me, they didn’t know what the hell they were doing either.
It started with the front door replacement. This “job” that would take a normal, single person a couple of hours to complete took three grown men four days to finish, and left Taco Bell wrappers, Burger King cups, and half-eaten burritos all over my yard for me to clean up at the end of their work day. I called the landlady to complain, and her response was a nasty little letter that informed me if I wasn’t going to let “her workers” in to complete the repairs, then I would just have to live with the disrepair. Time to find a new place to live, in other words!
So, I begin my search for the Holy Grail of the perfect house in a state that allows you to rent decent properties only if you are 55+ with no kids, no pets, and no life. This is when I realize that old saying… “them’s that has… gets… ” rings true, as one owner wanted me to overnight $2,500.00 in deposits and first month’s rent a full 3 weeks prior to my even picking up the key on move-in day! As my “retirement age, but still working a full-time job plus overtime” mother and I have walked through these houses and condos, I realize that a lot of this wealth stuff is really people living on the edge of disaster. People are desperate to take you for all you’re worth in deposits, application fees, first, last, and middle rent payments, and after financially raping you, they still go over your whole past life with a fine toothed comb just to make sure you are worthy of living in their run-down rental properties! The reason behind all this investigating? These people are all spending their way into fine luxury cars, homes of distinction, and clothes that rival those of the Hollywood (and Washington) elite, and doing it on the pittance of income we “poor folks” give them in rent money.
Here’s the catch to all these beautiful, shiny new cars and elegant homes with waterfall swimming pools, designer clothes and private schools for their spoiled little snot nosed kids… all of these “societies elite” are up to their haunches in hock to Master Card, Visa, Discover, American Express, and every financial institution with an FDIC sticker pasted on their door (and then some that don’t, as well).
Back to my 65 year-old-full-time-job-working mother… she just happens to work in the billing department at one of the various “entertainment utility” companies… won’t mention any names here, but it has a lot to do with Mr. Ted Turner (ahem) and surprisingly, it’s not the lower income neighborhoods and the people that live in them that are late payers of their bills and/or no payers of the bills! It is the people in the upper crust, elite neighborhoods with homes of distinction and luxury cars that rack up the late fees and make calls to her complaining that they have been billed for various things that have obviously been ordered by them, and these same people that skip and leave unpaid bills. Now, I don’t know about you, but that is starting to tell me something. As we make the long daily drive home to our “poor house,” she tells me stories that would curl your hair of how the people living in “the lap of luxury” are doing so by the skin of their teeth, and by scamming and slinking their way into the privileges of the rich and the trouble they cause simply because they don’t want to pay the bills that we all are paying, whether we like it or not.
Another example of the outrageous overspending going on in this country is the fact that any person who knows anything about banking realizes that the banks are about to crumble under the burden of the enormous amounts of money overextended to credit card purchasers. This country is living on plastic dreams being fulfilled. Who is going to pay for all this credit card purchasing abuse? The middle class and poor people will, with higher taxes, when the Federal government has to go in and bail out failing banks again, just as what happened in the ’80s with the banks and savings and loans failings due to insider embezzlements within the institutions themselves. The country has gone mad trying to keep up with the Joneses, the Smiths, and the Bushes… spending like crazy people with that wondrous little plastic card!
OK, so it may look good to the neighbors and your former classmates in high school and college when you pull up in your Lexus or Cadillac… yeah, it’s a major trip to throw a Christmas party in your gated community 7 bedroom, 4 bath house with waterfall pool and 12 person Jacuzzi… I’ll admit, it would be a kick in the pants to “vacation” in the South of France twice a year, but I’m gonna be the very first to tell you this bit of wisdom… it’s a damn good feeling knowing that I owe not one dime to anyone after all the checks are written out at the end of the month. I buy my kids tennis shoes and jeans at K-Mart and Wal-Mart… that is, if there is a good sale going on; we go out to dinner as a treat once a month… usually to a Bar B Que place that is all you can eat; I limited my weekly grocery bill to $100.00 a week; we budget every penny; my car is a 1988 Ford Taurus that seriously needs a new transmission (hey buddy, it’s paid for); and our vacation this year was a three day road trip through Florida while our favorite rock band was on tour here… and we were on the guest list at all shows (Bonus! I didn’t have to pay for tickets!). We don’t have a lot materially to show off to everyone we pass on US19 or when we have a few limited guests in, but there really aren’t many people that want to hang out with people that don’t show off their way into unending debt.
Here’s the kicker: I honestly believe we are happier people because of it! I don’t stress when the power bill is late or if the phone company wants to turn the phone off for a late pay, because it never happens! You can have all the wealth and riches your little piece of plastic can get you right now… as for me… my wealth lies in peace of mind, no stress, and the telephone not ringing off the wall with people wanting payments. Wealth in America is a fairy tale that will one day come to an end… and what’s going to happen? All those snot-nosed private-school-educated children of the plastic cash parents are going to be stuck with their parents’ extravagant tastes and bills! When that time comes, my two boys will know how to survive on a budget, and be aware of the fact that it’s OK not to have $200.00 Nike tennis shoes or Tommy Hilfiger jeans, and the pleasure of a rip-roaring game of Monopoly with a good CD on the player.
Let Robin Leach show off his champagne wishes and caviar dreams to those with the desire to indebt themselves to that little plastic card with the shiny picture on it… Lee Ann Leach can show everyone else what “wealth” really means… thumbing your nose at the money grubbers!!