Monday, May 16, 2011

Dispatches from a Refugee in the Land of Privilege, Episode 3: Note to Self, Must Buy Hat

There is something about poverty that smells like death.
--Zora Neale Hurston
For those who know me, it will come as no surprise for me to say that I am broke(n) in many ways , financially being the most salient one of them here. While I do blame certain outside factors on this situation, I want to make it clear (before some irate person jumps all over me) that I do understand that my poor economic skills contribute to the problem. However bad they may be, though, they are not the only cause. Anyway, this blog is being brought to you by a bougey woman at my landlord's office and an article on yahoo...

"My wallet's too small for my fifties, and my diamond shoes are too tight!"
--Chandler Bing

I went in today to pay the rent, which yes, was late, but I called them 2 weeks ago and arranged this. While I was waiting, I wrote out the money order and overheard the receptionist's conversation with another tenant. She was digging in her expensive purse going on and on about her upcoming expensive vacation and the new car they just bought and etc etc etc. Normally, this would be nothing important...everyone here seems to be more affluent than we are, and I am quite used to hearing these sorts of conversations. The problem started when I got to the counter and was talking to her myself. I apologized for being late again and commented that next month's ought to be on time for once (*insert embarrassed laugh*). She decided that was an excellent segway to complaining about how damn hard it is to work where you have to call (poor) people all day to get them to pay their rent. "It really takes it out of you," she said. Now, I'm sure that calling around to ensure payment of rent is one of the least pleasurable portions of her job. I dont' dispute this; it sucks. BUT the fact of the matter is that it is no easier being the person who has to call every other month and beg a few extra days on the rent. Lately, I've begun to feel like I should carry an old fedora in my purse to twist in my hands at appropriate moments. I can assure you, ma'am, as one of those people you have to call sometimes, that our part sucks worse than yours ever will. Here's why: while your job is uncomfortable, it is simply what you are paid to do. Our lot, on the other hand, is to be the perpetually impoverished, begging for understanding from those with more money and power than ourselves. Also, given your tone and demeanor when discussing the topic, you are obviously not among our number, making your little whine-fest the ridiculous ramblings of the privileged. (I do realize that as a receptionist in a real estate office, she is not exactly pulling in six figures here, but can we agree that she is comfortable and no where near the level of most of the people she is complaining about?) I wanted to reach across the counter, grab her by her lapels, and explain loudly and clearly that HELLO, we do not enjoy being poor and late with the rent (or anything else). I'm sure there is some ass out there who has to get an extension on bills because they spend too much partying or some such nonsense...but most of us are simply trying to make it on what we have and do not need your bullshit to make us feel worse about it.

Poverty must not be a bar to learning and learning must offer an escape from poverty.
--Lyndon Johnson
On to the Yahoo article: Apparently a significant portion of college presidents are of the opinion that higher education is so affordable that most students could pay for it themselves (sans loans and grants). Excuse me, but WHAT? Just as an example, let us look at my recent foray into academia. For the first couple of years back, I was paying out of state tuition (because someone in an office was misinformed...) which means I was charged approximately $2000 per class, bringing my total to over $8000 before textbooks and supplies. After the mistake with my residency was cleared up, classes dropped to a little less than $500 each, plus books, etc. I understand that there are people who were raised in families which apparently have this sort of money lying about for just such an occasion, but I am not one of them. The term "college fund" was one of those phrases I associated only with sitcom families (literally), and it was understood that if I was to earn a degree, it would be on scholarships, grants, and federal loans. Otherwise, no college. And while I rant about the privilege that constantly smacks me in the face here, it is not lost on me that I am not alone in my loan-dependence. If the federal loan/grant program was suddenly to be taken away, no one below a certain tax bracket would ever be able to attend college. It's already rare enough for people who grew up similar to myself and others like me to earn a degree without boot stomping our last chances into the pavement.

Poverty is no disgrace to a man, but it is confoundedly inconvenient.
--Sydney Smith

This blog is unusually scattered for me, but I simply have no idea right now what to do with this information. Does this mean that people of my particular socioeconomic class and lower should simply forget college all together? What then? There aren't enough jobs that don't require degrees to go around if you hadn't noticed. And what about the attitudes of those more privileged than us? Are we really, in the 21st century, still in this feudal mindset of the poor being ridiculously inferior and distasteful to deal with?


S. Russell said...

1st, I'm concerned about you. This completely ridiculous excuse for an article is way below your usual blog material. I'm surprised you gave it credence enough to even mention.

Aside from that, I wonder what would happen if all those who were educated using loans and grants were to disappear from the workforce? Really? Do people with college funds become teachers (or other similar types of careers)?

There is a group that falls into worse than we (those who were able to get grants) though. Those lower to mid middle class whose families make enough to live okay, but not enough to support a college student, but too much to qualify for grants.

This is something I'll be working with as a school counselor and it scares me to know that I'll be helping children begin lives of debt. Ug.

S. Russell said...

and yes, my comment is as scattered as your blog post, lol.

obsessive compulsive dawn said...

I paid it enough attention to blog about because it reflects a lot of the attitudes I come into contact with on a regular basis...unfortunate but true.