if i were a normal, average, middle-class, "real" job-holding, responsible person, i would be the kind of annoyingly on-top-it person who would take their car for its regularly scheduled, every-so-many-thousand, eighty-seven-point maintenance inspection from some sunshiny attendant named chip who calls you mister or miss or missus and offers you coffee with real liquid cream
instead of that godawful powedery stuff. the appointment would be marked on the calendar, maybe, or programmed into my snazzy p.d.a. it would certainly be factored into the budget--you know, a budget
, that kind of money-managing tool that helps you organize what you spend, and what you save
. what you might save for a rainy day like today.
well, i'm obviously not that person. i'm more like the kind of person who lives paycheck to paycheck, who barely manages to mix the fine art of bill-paying with, oh, let's say...eating. when i put twenty five dollars worth of grossly overpriced gas in my car i'm also filling the tank with campaign-style promises tinged with positive psychology and optimism: "when i have money, i'm gonna treat you to a real tune-up. when i have money you're going to get new brakes. hell, when i have money you're going to get washed!" i'm the kind of person who goes to a local 'lube' shop to get a much needed oil-change while on a work break, and who winds up being helped by a fast-talking homeboy named "dwuane" who tries to give me a grinning version of the guilt trip, chiding me about the apparent sad state under the hood of my car. i need a little of this, a little of that, he tells me between toothy smiles.
do i tell dwuane that i'm just managing to make ends meet on the small check i get from all the hours i put in at a neighborhood retail store? do i bore him with the paper-chasing facts about my student loans that take week upon miserable week to process? do i explain to him how the deceptively kind guy on the phone at financial aid last week promised me he'd process my tuition grant so that in a couple of weeks i'd get a check from them that would almost cover all the money i borrowed from my boss to pay the tuition in the first place? do i revisit the car's history of repossession, how i have an outstanding ticket for not having my registration decals because i can't afford the time or the money to go to the dmv to square things with them? do i tell dwuane that i really fucking tired from getting up at six most days of the week and going from one stressful job to the other, and from having piles of reading boring literary criticism to wade through (i mean, rest in peace and all, derrida, but, come on, what are you talking about most of the time?) and a paper due?
instead i grimaced, forced a laugh, and told dwuane that if i could trade in on my good looks to get the work done we'd have a deal.
but dwuane wasn't in a bartering mood. he came back with: "i can give you coupons."
i laughed. "unless you can get it all done for around, oh...four dollars, well, sorry, i just can't."
if i were the kind of person who took their car to one of those detailed inspections i'd have had some heads up and cash to spare so that i could get some new brakes. instead i'm the kind of person who sees her "brake" light go on and just adds "when i have money i'm going to look in to that" to the list of promises i make on a daily basis. and in my defense, the warning light panel on my car has done some deceptive things in the past. and my brakes never squealed. and i've been driving waaaaaaaaay more than i ever have before in this car. and they went from feeling maybe-a-little-worn to pushing-air-towards-the-floor in a matter of hours.
it's come to the point of my being unstoppable. literally. i do know i don't
want to be the kind of person who just keeps rolling through major intersections on red lights because of that physics law that has to do with motion and weight (and it's no wonder i was never good at math or science).
so i've had to go and find myself another lending branch of the extended family tree to hang myself from. i've had to plot the routes of bus lines, subways, and transfer points that will get from my home in what i like to call the 'northern part of hollywood' to the west side of south central to the academic abyss of east l.a. and back again, starting at the crack of dawn and ending late at night. i've had to investigate the financial impact of the day pas versus the week-long pass. i've had to make peace with biting the bullet and just dealing with it. i've had to realize i just don't have a choice.
look at me go...i'm unstoppable.