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5 Things Nobody Tells You About Being Poor

Your Next Expensive Disaster is Always Around the Corner

Shit happens, always at the exact worst time. A tire blows on my car and, without a spare, it instantly becomes a paperweight. There's $80 for a new tire, $50 for a tow. Now, it's a good idea to have a separate bank account set up specifically for these situations because they are unavoidable. It's also a good idea to have a sex slave or two just sitting around in case your balls need shaved. It's not that fucking simple.

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Just a little further, sir. We need to be able to stab your heart with our dicks.

You get the same domino effect with sudden financial disasters as you do with the bank fees. For instance, I worked a shitty service industry job, which meant I got paid by the hour, and didn't get paid unless I showed up -- no paid time off. But I couldn't physically get to work because of the goddamned flat tire. It's a rural area, no subway or buses. So it's double penetration -- not just lost work time, but lost time that is spent paying for a tow and a tire. And if I didn't happen to have that money sitting around, it meant waiting until payday, and missing work until then.

Which meant my next paycheck would be short. By the time I get it fixed and add in the missed work time, that $80 tire just turned into a $250 enema. That's life in a world with no financial margin for error. It's like trying to climb out of a dick pit but the ladder is also made of dicks.

Years ago, we bought a house with the help of our in-laws. You know, because owning property is the responsible adult thing to do. The very first fucking night of moving in, we got a massive water leak. I couldn't just call the landlord -- I was the landlord. I couldn't call a plumber because we didn't have the $150 to pay the guy, not until payday. So the leak was allowed to run until we could put the money together to pay one. So two weeks later, we hand the guy $150. And then, a week later, the water bill arrives.

$500.

You find yourself thinking, "Man, we could get caught up if this bad shit wouldn't keep happening!" Then it finally hits you that bad shit happens like clockwork. Not because God hates you, but because you're poor and you're using cheap shit that breaks. Maybe you don't pay the $150 for a plumber, but have a handy friend fix it for you for $50. Awesome, you saved $100! Then six months later you have a leak again, because it turns out he fixed it with rubber bands and Fruit Roll-ups.

Everything in a poor person's life is a cash vampire. My truck has 170,000 miles on it and the MPG is so bad that every time I start it, the ghost of an Indian appears in the passenger seat and cries. About twice a year, something under the hood grinds to a halt or melts -- always another $500 on a tow and repairs. And that was the money I was saving to get a more reliable car.

Hell, even my own body does it to me. I lost my last job because of chronic back pain, losing my health insurance in the process. Which means I can't treat my chronic back pain. Can't afford to get dentist check-ups, so more expensive problems are allowed to grow and fester. And so on.

You're Always in Survival Mode

There's a phrase in the working world that drives me crazy. One guy says, "The money's not great, but I love my job." And somebody responds, "Hey, happiness is all that really matters."

To be clear, that's probably true for people at a certain level of income. If you aren't struggling to pay the bills, then happiness is indeed a pretty damn awesome extra. But you know those movies like American Beauty, about the guy with the unfulfilling career who abandons it to live life to its fullest? Yeah, don't forget that after quitting their jobs they still come home to houses that look like this:

But down here, at this level, you take what you can fucking get. Fantasies about holding out for that dream job will ruin you.

For instance, long before reading to this part, some helpful commenter has surely skipped down and chimed in with, "Why don't you just get a job, you lazy fuck!" Wait, did you think I was unemployed? Hell no, it's been years since I was out of work for any long period of time. I've always had jobs. Shitty, shitty jobs.

A huge chunk of this economy runs on shitty jobs now. Recently, McDonald's held a job fair with 50,000 openings. They got more than 1,000,000 applications. Tens of millions of you will wind up in one of these jobs, it's sheer math.

These service jobs pay hourly, they give you little or nothing in terms of benefits and there is nothing in the way of security even from week to week -- your hours could get cut at any time, for any reason. Sure, you can take a second part-time job. Though, that's assuming you can find one that works around your primary job's schedule -- just mentioning that you have another job in an interview is often enough to stop that interview mid-sentence. Why hire you when there are 30 guys in line behind you with completely free schedules?

So in answer to the inevitable, "You need to dream bigger, and strive forth to get a new career for yourself!" Hey, I totally agree. But now we're back in the Catch-22 poverty fuck gauntlet. Once you're in this tier of jobs, getting out isn't just hard, it's expensive.

Sure, you can take classes at night at a community college or something. Maybe you'll even get financial aid or loans to pay for your books or tuition. What they will not pay for is the time you missed at work while you were in classes or for a babysitter or for transportation. And you sure as fuck better be certain that you have some kind of aptitude for whatever you're studying (which, by the way, you won't know until you've spent a year or two studying it) because that's the only chance you're going to get.

You can do it the old-fashioned way, by working your way up the corporate ladder from within whatever shitty job you have. But that is also expensive because promotions often require you to move. I got offered a promotion at my shitty service job (washing semi trucks with high-pressure hoses, the job that eventually destroyed my back) that would have required me to move several hours away. And moving costs money -- remember what I said about the cost of getting utilities turned on? And how landlords check your credit?

And then there are the intangible costs. I would be abandoning my children, for instance -- I share custody with my ex-wife, who obviously was not going to be moving with me. How many visits would I get in before my car broke down? And moving away from friends and family also comes with a cost -- think of the favors you do for each other (i.e. the friend/brother/uncle willing to fix the truck for free, because you helped paint his porch, etc).

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Rounding each other's fros.

It's not impossible, but it's taking a huge risk. And if the new job doesn't work out after you bet all of your chips, you're triple fucked. And at that point the world will wag its finger at you and tell you how irresponsible it was to move when you were so poor. "Ha, you poor people are always doing stupid shit like that!"

And on and on. People do get out of this situation -- I got paid to write this, for instance. All I'm saying is that the journey is something like trying to go from the Earth to the Moon. By letting them launch a Saturn V rocket directly into your butthole.

For more from Cheese, check out Quitting Smoking: 6 Things You Notice About the Stupid World and 5 Things Nobody Tells You About Quitting Drinking.

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John Cheese

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