Wednesday, June 28, 2006


This is what happens to poor people:

I got sick. And didn't make as much as I needed. So I used my savings to pay my rent. It was exactly enough.

The next month, I was still sick, but I worked as much as I could. I earned just barely enough. Only my client didn't pay me on time. Some mix up with the contracts, they said.

So for a month, I didn't get paid. And I ran out of money. I used my last two dollars to buy six watermelon plants at the farmers' market so I could grow some fruit of my own.

When the money was gone, I paid for things--like groceries and the phone and doctor's visits--with my credit card, which means I borrowed the money at 17%. And I waited and I waited for the checks to come. But each day, they didn't. My client's records showed that they had paid me, but they hadn't.

After a few weeks, my truck needed gas. At first, I walked a lot. Or put things off. But my knee was injured, so I couldn't walk much. The limp was getting worse, so I had a choice: charge gas on a credit card or create more pain and swelling, which would cost money and time to treat, and which also makes basic life things, like standing on my feet to do dishes, very difficult.

What would you do?

I bought the gas.

But I waited too long. The tank had gotten so low that a bunch of junk got sucked into the fuel line, and clogged the fuel pump. And my truck stopped working. So I was stranded for a while. And I got rides places. And I tried to fix it myself, with Techron. But after a week, I took the truck to the garage.

The bill was $373.75. The fuel pump had to be replaced. It was only two years old.

I also took $20 from the ATM, because I thought I had enough--my balance showed I did--and because I thought the checks would come. It turns out that even though the ATM said I had enough, my actual balance was $4.35. So I was overdrawn by about $16. The bank charged me $28.

I'm wondering why they let me have the money at all, if it wasn't there, why they didn't warn me. Can that be legal?

But I'm still sick, and tired, and one of the checks still hasn't come. So I haven't called the bank to try to fix the fee. And I don't know how I'll pay my rent on time if that check doesn't come. They say it'll be direct-deposited friday, but that's the last day of the month...that's cutting it awfully close, especially since it's more than 30 days overdue. But they say it's the best they can do. They say they are sorry.

In December 1999, in my capacity as an e-commerce expert, I was the holiday spokesperson for MasterCard International. I wonder what they would think of this ad?

New fuel pump and oil pressure gauge, plus labor: $373.75
Overdraft charges: $28
Interest accruing on living expenses charged to VISA: 17%
Ability to put gas in your car and food in your mouth when you need it? Priceless.


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