Sunday, 3 March 2013

The upside of poverty

We were just beginning our excellent shopping adventure yesterday, after the dogs had been walked, watered and fed, when a bad thing happened in the Loblaw parking lot.
Our beloved Subaru 2000 died. You know the sound, that rur-rur, when the engine won't turn over and you have the same fluttery feeling in your gut?
There we were, fists full of heavy bags stuffed with canned goods and milk, feeling very much like the climbers of Everest who had to stop when the air got too thin.
Fortunately, we live just four blocks from the Elmvale store and we were able to schlepp home our bags on foot.
I had a flashback to the really broke days when I didn't have a car at all. The kids and I had to find a way to get a week's groceries home. If we were lucky, I'd have taxi fare. Otherwise, me and my little ducklings would make the trek on foot. I tried to make it fun. I'd bribe them with candy and suggest that we were living an exciting adventure foraging for our food.
The lies we tell our children.
Didn't work then, and I suspected yesterday that kind of magical thinking wouldn't work on Scott, either.
Turned out, it was just the battery. What a relief. A hundred bucks, not the usual six hundred we've come to expect as the owners of a pre-owned, elderly vehicle.
Scott didn't want to get a new battery. He said he could charge the old one but I sent him off to Canadian Tire to get a new one.
"What happens if it dies for good and we don't have a hundred dollars?"
"I guess that makes sense."
All day, he kept apologizing for the battery. I couldn't figure out why. And then I realized a week before, we couldn't have bought a battery. Heck, there wasn't even bus fare for one.
This week we have been flush, at least temporarily. We paid all the back bills (two months, some three months), finally got Sophie to the vet for her shots, loaded up on supplies that will hopefully last us another two months -- when I get paid again -- and bought a stinking battery for the car.
Oh yes, it was Scott's birthday, so I took him to Kelsey's for chicken wings and a couple of beers. Also to the liquor barn for a huge bottle of Scotch which will have to last him sixty days.
Me, I'm lucky to be drinking the free wine he brings home from his part-time job at a wine-making shop. But even I must be careful.
It's one of the upsides of poverty -- no money for drinking -- only enough for gas and my little gym membership. And smoothies -- lots of smoothies.
Perhaps a hair cut at First Choice.
No, I thought. I'll just cut it myself as I've been doing for the past two years.
Snip, snip.
Fifteen bucks saved. Enough for the color to hide the grey on top.
We're livin' large in a country I cannot recognize.
A place where we used to pride ourselves on having a safety net.
Today, most of us are living without any net at all.
RSP season has come and gone without a penny saved for a rainy day.
I realized this week that many of us in Canada have become survivalists.
Like our grandparents who lived through the Depression, we are in the "making do" phase of our life, when work is scarce and the money's a joke. We have to live within our means and we've learned to do so.
Funny thing is that I get even more depressed when I do get paid than when I'm subsisting on scraps. I fear for my future.
We are not young, and we must be brave.
When I got home, I turned on the telly, which thankfully had not been cut off, unlike the phone, and I saw Stephen Harper's Economic Action Plan commercials, peppered through the news, congratulating Canadians on their prosperty.
People, it seems are building new in-law suites with tax credits from the Government of Canada. They are getting trained for really good jobs -- somewhere -- and the future looks golden.
But sitting here working on my old and crabby computer, looking out on St. Laurent Boulevard onto the crack building kitty corner from my house, it doesn't look like prosperty.
For this old girl, it just looks like getting by.

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