Have you ever been in the position where you have absolutely no money? I mean, your bank accounts are cleaned out, you have no credit cards, there’s no money under the sofa cushions, you have nothing in the change jar, you’ve checked the car, under the seats and every place else. You don’t bother to check your wallet because there hasn’t been anything in there but lint and a few over-the-limit credit cards, for months. There is no cash. Nada. Nothing. It’s a horrible, frightening, miserable, debilitating, dreadful feeling.
You’re going to need money for gas in a few days. The cigarettes are going to run out…most of you probably think that’s not such a bad thing. I do. You keep thinking about the things that are going to come up that you’re going to need to have some cash to solve. What if I run out of toilet paper? I don’t get the paper anymore. Or mouthwash, shampoo? What if I get a massive headache and there isn’t an aspirin in the house?
What can I sell? Where else could I have stashed money I can’t remember? Does anyone owe me any? And then, is there anyone who will spot me a few hundred for the next two weeks? Probably not. Most everybody I know isn’t in a position to part with any “spare” cash.
What about one of those “title loans” or “payday loans?” Yeah, that would be really smart. Pay two-thousand percent – and I’m not kidding – interest on a few hundred dollars. Those loans never seem to get paid back. You make payments, hell, you give them your whole paycheck, and the principal never goes away.
But my money problems are only going to last two weeks. Until the paycheck gets direct-deposited, hopefully before the checking account is hit with fifteen overdraft fees. What about those people who don’t have jobs and are in a similar situation? What are they going to do? How are they going to keep their sanity? Because not having money, not knowing where you’re going to get that next dollar, has got to be the worst exaction on your sanity there is and I don’t have a lot left to exact.
I’m always aggravated by people walking up to me and asking me for money. “Get a job,” I say to myself as I ignore them and walk away. I see a homeless guy on 4th Street, almost every morning on the way to work, carrying branches under his arm. He goes out, collects branches every day and takes them somewhere. I don’t know what he does with them, but I’m forced to think about it. Does he make a bed out of them? Use them for firewood? I have no idea, but he always drops one or two on the way across the intersection and goes back to pick them up. Strange. He never leaves a stray branch in the street. I imagine he has an enormous pile of dead tree branches somewhere.
Broke, insolvent, destitute, impoverished. Yep, that’s me, but is it really? Aren’t we talking about cash flow. Good image, “flow”. Cash has to flow. My cash flow looks a lot like the rivers in New Mexico. They have bridges over them, they have signs announcing their names, there’s a “channel” where water could flow, but there’s no water in them. Nothing. Nada.
I remember being told once that you would know you were rich if you didn’t have to ask how much something cost. If you wanted it, and you had a lot of money, it wouldn’t matter how much it cost. Makes sense. Not a situation I have ever been in, however. I can’t say I haven’t bought things I couldn’t afford, but I was damn clear about how much it cost. Always. I suppose a rich person wouldn’t suffer the cash flow problems I did after I bought something I couldn’t afford, whether I asked how much it was or not.
There was a very rich architect that lived in Santa Fe, NM. His name was John Gaw Meem. Mr. Meem died on August 4th, 1983, ten years after I moved away from the “City Different.” John Gaw Meem had what could be termed, “boatloads of money.” He was famous for revitalizing the “Pueblo Revival” style of architecture, and he designed many of the buildings on the University of New Mexico campus. He drove an old pickup truck and dressed like, well, a bum. At least someone who didn’t have boatloads of money. He would go out to dinner in his old pickup truck, plaid shirt and old jeans at the “Inn of the Governor’s.” Usually once a week, I was told. And if you happened to be in the restaurant at the “Inn of the Governor’s” when he came in, he would pay your dinner tab. Pretty cool.
Now, I never met John Gaw Meem, nor have I ever had dinner at the “Inn of the Governor’s.” I couldn’t even afford a cup of coffee in there at the time, and, come to think of it, not much has changed. Even if I practiced up my staged food-poisoning routine to get out of paying the bill, I’m pretty sure I would have picked a night that Mr. Meem wasn’t there. And I can’t say for certain that the story is true, but I’ve heard it from a couple of different sources, so I’m going to chose to believe it, because I think it is something I would enjoy doing if I was, in fact, someone who didn’t have to ask how much things cost.
And one thing I know for certain, is if I didn’t know that a paycheck was going to be direct-deposited in two weeks, I would never make it. I couldn’t go out every day to collect branches to sleep on or to keep warm. I wouldn’t keep my sanity for a week. I’m sure of it. So how do those thousands of homeless people do it? How does that homeless guy on 4th street do it? He’s got to be as crazy as a loon.
I’ve been in this situation more times than I want to remember. I’ve made it through each time. There is no way to vouch for any sanity that may have evaporated during those times though. Not having money has got to be the worst drain on your physique there is. Wouldn’t I be a whole different person if I didn’t have to ask how much things cost? I guess, probably not.
By now you’re probably thinking that I should stop feeling sorry for myself. You’re probably right. I’m not that bad off. I’ll make it until payday, and I should be damn glad that I have a “payday” to look forward to. (Sorry I ended that sentence in a preposition, but it just sounded right.) In the end, I have money in my wallet at the moment – I won’t tell you how I got it – and it would be awesome if I could go down to the “Lone Star Steakhouse” for dinner, and pick up everyone’s tab. Wouldn’t that be cool? But I’d have to ask how much it was going to cost.