I'm not poor, but a couple of unpleasant events while spending the weekend in Burlington have reminded me that life is unpredictable and if you don't have a little cushion of money, small events can really be a pain. I'm driving my daughter's car because my car has a little undiagnosable intermittent hesitating problem. It's in the shop. My daughter's not using her 1998 Hyundai Sonata while in her first year of college. So I drove the heavily worked-on Sonata to Burlington yesterday (Saturday) and quickly realized it sounded like the muffler was ready to fall off. So I located a muffler repair place and made an appointment for early Monday morning. It snowed heavily Saturday night and when I started the car Sunday morning, the windshield wipers wouldn't work. Not frozen, they just didn't work. It was still snowing. I made it barely downtown to the parking garage where they don't charge on Sunday and parked it, planning to stay put until it stopped snowing. I found Henry's Diner and decided to drown my stress in a pancake breakfast and then spend the day doing some Christmas shopping. I was hoping the snow would stop before I had to pick up my daughter at her job in the mall and drive her back to her dorm, where I planned to stay overnight.
Now all of this might seem not too much of a problem, but just think about how it would have been with no money to spare. The muffler will be expensive and even more with the windshield wiper repair. But no repair, no way to get home to work Monday night. How to pay for it? With no money to spare it would probably go on credit. With my job as a nurse, I'll be able to pay for it. The terrific pancake breakfast? Almost $20 with tip. A couple of cups of coffee, while I passed the day on Church Street, another $5. Shopping I never would have been able to afford without a decent job, so I probably would have just sat all day. But of course I could amuse myself with reading the New York Times on my Kindle. Which I probably wouldn't own if I was poor, and of course i wouldn't be able to afford the $20 a month subscription. Most low income people I know are just trying to keep food on the table and the house heated.
In an earlier blog post, a friend of mine on a very low income posted about how much harder everything is if you're poor. Life's little trials and tribulations become grating unpleasantness. Anxiety mounts up. It's not enough to just give people enough income to keep them from starving to death. People need a decent income, one with enough wiggle room to survive emergencies, maybe even save for a better future.
In times of emergency, my ex-husband used to say "I guess we'll just have to throw money at it" (Maybe that's an old Vermont expression.) That's great if you have money to throw. If you don't even little emergencies become insurmountable problems. Poverty sucks.