One Bad Bounce Away

Go read:

The trouble started two years ago. Lenise had a job working in a
nursing home making $9 an hour. It wasn’t enough to make ends meet, but
she did what she could to raise two boys, she says. Sometimes, she
admits, she fell behind on her rent.

So when she got a new job in mid-2007 making more money, she went to
the management office to try to figure out how to pay off her balance
and keep paying her rent.

To help her out, the manager enrolled her in a program called EID –Earned Income Disallowance – that would hold Lenise’s rent steady for awhile until she was able to get on her feet.

Well, she thought the manager had enrolled her.

That same month, a tragedy happened in Cabrini-Green.A gate fell on a three-year-old boy, killing him, and the management company was fired.

Lenise assumed the EID paperwork had gone through. Until earlier
this year, when she received a notice from the new management company
that she owed thousands of dollars in rent.

If she didn’t pay, they told her, she was out.

She hired a lawyer, but not a very good one. A guy her neighbor had
hired to get him out of a traffic ticket. But Lenise didn’t know where
else to turn. He was all she could afford.

Then, she was laid off from her job.

Sometimes I think a lot of the “well, she should have just done something else, then” defensive bitchery that stories like this always engender is a way of keeping ourselves from thinking about just how fragile our lives really are.

When I was spending a lot of time covering weekend cops I began to get intensely freaked out every time Mr. A left the house without me. Which, considering he works in an office and likes to, on occasion, socialize with other humans, was fairly often.

But I had read and written so many stories about guys who just went out for milk and got shot in drive-bys or pasted by drunk drivers all over the freeway or just didn’t come home that I became convinced he’d die if he left my sight. Because really, that’s all it takes. One second, and your life as you know it is over.And you don’t have to do a damn thing.

One second, one death, one layoff, one bounced check, one fire, one flood … if we really thought about it, we’d go fucking crazy.


5 thoughts on “One Bad Bounce Away

  1. You’re right. We all have the sword of Damocles dangling above our heads, every minute of every day. Shit, even if you’re richer than god, the supervolcano under Yellowstone could explode at any second, and then you’re just as fucked as the poor folks.
    It’s not fun to think about, and, lazy biological organisms that we are, we prefer not to contemplate those possibilities. I think I’ve said before that this is why the oh-no-the-sky-is-falling-things-just-ain’t-what-they-used-to-be dipshittery bugs me so much. Life hasalways been fucked up. It’s only when you look at a historical narrative that it seems stable and inevitable. Living through it is and always will be confusing, unnerving, fraught with peril, and containing far more foul contingencies than fair ones.
    That “defensive bitchery” is why libertarian bullshit appeals to lots of people. They like to feel accomplished rather than grateful and smug rather than lucky.
    Shit, what’s wrong with admitting that you’ve been lucky in the great life lottery?

  2. Here’s an example:
    Raimy Rosenduft is a young dj/blogger/media person (if you ever watched Liz Feldman’s webisodes on afterellen, Raimy did the music segments.)
    Anyway, so in September, Raimy slipped on wet grass. Yep, she was just walking. On wet grass. Oh, and because she is young and self-employed, she didn’t have insurance.
    She slipped and ended up with a very badly broken ankle and also, within a day or two, after emergency surgery and hospitalization, thousands of dollars in medical debt. Luckily her parents could take her in and help with care but she’s still had to rely on donations to cover the medical bills. And because she’s smart and resourceful and internet savvy and knew how to reach out, and had a bit of support, I guess you could say she’s lucky. [ if you wanna help out]

  3. Just tell Raimy to watch out for the pulmonary embolism. A few years back I was two feet up on a stepladder reattaching the gutter on our garage after getting it painted and something gave way. Stepladder acted as a sort of a nutcracker, and the fall to the concrete managed tobreak my heel, my tibia, and my fibula, as well as a number of small ankle bones. Spent a couple months on crutches and had just gotten off them when I started having problems breathing. Two months to the day after I broke the ankle, my wife whisked me to the ER, where they found multiple blood clots in both lungs. Waaaay worse than the break itself. Spent a night in ICU, a week in the pulmonary ward, and a year on blood thinners. And I can assure you that that’s an experience you do not want to go through without insurance, because even back in 2002 just the hospital stay cost over $20K.

  4. I can look back on my life ans see many times when just one tiny thing happening differently would have totally changed my life, and not for the better. And, some not so tiny things, like driving home from a wine tasting party down a mountain road. For most of us the tiny things don’t go that badly, but some just aren’t that lucky.
    I even went 3 months without a job once, but had not been spending a lot, so I had enough in the bank, along with unemployment checks to weather that rather easily. While desperately searching for a job, day after day, I decided to take a break and drive to San Francisco (about 6o miles, as I recall) for the day. Just for curiosity I looked through the newspaper help wanted ads to see what jobs might be available along the way. One was right along my route, sounded like nothing I would be considered for, but I figured I would take 15 minutes and stop to check it out. Two weeks later I was working there, and stayed for almost 30 years. What if I had just kept driving?

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