"I got the golden ticket!"
Three of my friends (who do not know each other and live thousands of miles apart) posted that jubilant announcement on Facebook yesterday.
They are referring to their new iPhones. One waited in line for 10 hours. The other two paid someone to wait in line for a couple days to ensure golden phones.
As of this morning all but four of my friends/family on Facebook have posted photos of themselves (and their spouses, children, and in a few cases cats and dogs) showing off their new 5S 64G iPhones. One of my friends who scored a gold iPhone bought new iPhones for the entire family: Her, her husband, their three children (aged 6, 8 and 11*) and her parents and in-laws. That's nine iPhones at one go. At $399 each that's $3,591. Plus tax.
One of my friends, who never figured out how to fully use her last iPhone made the cloy comment, "What can I say? We're early adapters!"
Meanwhile, at chez Trill, I had a sloooooow month freelance-wise. I had to borrow money from my mother to pay my phone bill. I've been rationing a bag of apples, Tupperware tub of cherry tomatoes from a friend's garden, two boxes of cereal, a box of crackers, a bag of rice, a half box of Bisquick (that expired four months ago), a half bottle of mustard and a jar of peanut butter for the past week...and it has to last me until a client pays me the $150 they owe me for a small project I did for them last week. I borrowed two eggs from a neighbor so I could make pancakes from the Bisquick. She also gave me a bag of laundry detergent pods because she didn't like the way the smell. I don't either, but I'm nearing my clean underwear threshold and I have an interview next week, so, any overly fragrant port in the laundry room. She has no idea was a huge deal that laundry detergent is to me. I've been washing my underwear in the kitchen sink with dish soap.
Noticing a huge stockpile of toilet paper in her pantry, I asked a friend if I could take a couple. I lied. I tried to sound all casual and impromptu, "Oh! I was going to have to stop at the store on the way home - but can I snag a couple rolls? I'm not sure I'll make it there before they close and I'm almost out..." Poverty is a series of compromises. I don't like lying. But I also didn't want this particular friend to know I don't have money for toilet paper. She's not the most empathetic person and has been critical of me and my lack of ability to land a full-time job since day I was laid off. I don't see her very often but she asked me to meet with the party planner for her son's birthday party. Yes. She uses party planners for her children's birthday parties. She wanted me there because the last meeting with the party planner resulted in ideas the birthday boy hated. She thought I could offer insight into the mind of boy on the cusp of his eighth year. She offered to buy me lunch. I had money left on a train pass. So. It was a free meal.
Yep. It's come to that. Helping my friend decide how to spend thousands of dollars on a birthday party for her soon-to-be eight-year-old so I can get a decent meal.
I'm not trying to garner pity. I'm dealing with poverty. Most days I can find something humorous about it, or at the very least, not cry about it. Most days I'm consumed with finding a job: full-time, freelance or any other way to make money.
And I'm not jealous of my friends' and family's things. I do not want a gold iPhone. A gold iPhone is not my equivalent of Charlie's golden ticket. My big dream, my golden ticket, is a steady job. With a steady paycheck. After that...fresh produce every week would be nice. Money to buy toilet paper and laundry detergent would be super cool. Paying my phone bill with my own money would would make me pretty darned happy. Working, giving my experience, knowledge and dedication to an employer would bring me Charlie Bucket and the golden ticket joy.
The contrast between my life and my friends' and family's lives continues to be a source of fascination for me. It's not so much my personal experiences, but that my "situation" mirrors that of millions of other people. Educated, experienced, dedicated professionals who were living the kinds of normal lives that a steady paycheck brings, maybe not keeping up with the Jones', but not worrying about food, shelter and toilet paper. And now they, we, are deeply grateful for a surprise bounty of laundry detergent. The fact that there are millions of us living in such high contrast to our friends' and family's lives (full of new iPhones and new cars and lavish birthday parties) is what fascinates me. I don't dwell on it, but the obvious parallels to pre-revolutionary France are interesting. Except instead of out-of-touch nobility apathetic to a nameless mass of peasants, it's out-of-touch friends, friends, and family who are apathetic to their own friends and relatives. Did I mention one of my cousins just bought his second Porsche? He'll take delivery on it when he returns from his vacation in Switzerland. He showed off his new 5S iPhone on Facebook, too. I'm happy for his success, truly I am. I don't want his money or cars (or iPhone). But I find it socially interesting that no one would ever expect a guy "like that" to have a cousin who can't afford food or toilet paper...and yet...here I am.
And no, it's not that I expect anyone to help me. I do not want friends and family to help me. I certainly do not expect
them to help me. I probably wouldn't accept money from friends or family. Not because of pride, but because money brings an uncomfortable dynamic into friendships and family relationships. But so far it's a moot point because no one other than my mother has offered to help financially. Well, okay, there was that box of handbags and sweaters my friends sent me
. They tried, they made an attempt to help a down-on-her-luck friend.
My friends and family are charitable. Ish. They're charitable as long as there's a tax deduction in it for them. I presume other people in my situation have noticed the same thing.
The bigger picture, the real nagging issue, is that I don't want to be in a position of needing help. I want a job. I want an income that will cover food, shelter, toilet paper and the occasional fresh green vegetables.
Here's my haiku summing up the whole thing:
I can't afford food.
My friend got a gold iPhone.
*Apparently 8 and 11 year old children not only need phones, they need the most current smart phones. My friends often stress how necessary it is, imperative, even, that their children have smartphones. Most of the reasons they cite are things like "to let me know when to pick them up from la crosse practice" or "it keeps them busy and quiet in the car." Which seems more of a conduit to make the parents' lives easier than the children. The more honest of my friends admit that they buy iPhones for their (very) young children because of peer pressure: Other kids at school have them and they don't want to their kids to be left out or teased because they don't have an iPhone. Which is part of the reason why my friend bought one for the 6 year old - they didn't want the child to "feel left out of the family dynamic." By that reasoning the younger children will have a drivers' licenses at the ages of 11 and 13.
"Family dynamic" is a thing, now, in case your friends with children haven't been tossing the phrase around. Just wait, they will. Phraseology like that spreads like wildfire in parental circles. "Family dynamic" is nothing new, of course, but it used to refer to things like how many children are in the family, married v. divorced parents, step parent situation, grandparents living with the family, the work routines, how money is spent, urban or rural, you know, the basic demographics of the family. Which is why I was kind of confused when my friends started tossing it around in terms of things. Things they all have because if one person in the family has something, they all have that thing because it's part of the family dynamic. Certain types of sneakers, brands of clothes, soccer balls...you name it, if one person in the family has it, the rest of them do, too. Not a lot of sharing going on in these households, by the way. Not a lot of autonomy, either. I suppose since technology is an extension of ourselves it's not a big leap to extrapolate it to the family dynamic, but the misuse and overuse of the term, especially by people who know better, bugs me. A 6 year old getting a 64G 5s iPhone solely to keep him in the family dynamic pushed me over the edge on this issue.
Just once, just one time in my life, I would love to hear a parent say, "I give my child (age-inappropriate gizmo) because he's a spoiled brat, a monster of my own making, and he will cry, whine and make my life miserable if I don't give him what he wants. I can't stand the sound of his voice when he whines and I just want him to shut up, and the only way I can do that is by giving him whatever it is he wants, no matter how expensive or inappropriate. I fully realize I'm instilling disturbing values, but I really don't care. I just want to make my life as cushy as possible, and that includes not listening to a whiny brat of a child."