July 22, 2011

"Grippers" #6 (how to get homeless without even trying)

Episode #6: Out of money (click on "the grippers" tab for previous 5 episodes)

The Slider family was now, like so many many others, part of an American paradox. They were both rich and poor. They had everything money could buy; a place to live, a refrigerator, a washer and dryer, a personal computer, two TVs, a DVD player, a stove and oven, central heat and air, a microwave, internet service, two vehicles, cell phones, and even a video game system. They had managed to take vacations every summer and had been to Disney World numerous times. However, they were now bringing in zero income and were $14,710.00 below the national poverty level. Bob reluctantly succumbed to Tracey's common sense and it was 10:15 when they both left for the unemployment office.

They walked into the unemployment office and Bob was surprised that it was not more crowded. Tracey said in a low voice, "Most people apply on-line. Hardly anyone comes here to sign up. If they did the lines would be around the block."

"Well then, what are we doing here?"

"I swear Bob, what's wrong with you? Our computer does not work---remember? We have to use their computer. We have to take a number and wait for one of the computers to open up. That's them by the wall over there."

"Oh my God, there are only five of them and they're all being used and there are people waiting."

"I know, I know. But we have no choice. We have to do this. We'll probably be here a few hours. Let's just try to make the best of it."

They took numbers from the number dispenser and sat down. The number on the board flashed #23. They had numbers 41 and 42 respectively. "Dang Tracey, we'll be here all day."

"No, no, no. It's not so bad. There are five machines, remember."

At 12:30, # 41 flashed on the board. Tracey hurried over to the computer and tried to sign in. Clicking enter nothing happened. She clicked again--nothing---and again--nothing. The on-line assistant came over, "Is everything all right?"

"I can't access my page. Look for yourself."

The lady looked at the screen and shrugged, "It's a code 9. You did not re-certify and were dropped from the system. You have to re-apply."

"But all my information was there. The storm last week fried our computer. I could not sign in and then my car didn't start and I could not get over here until after you closed. It takes a few weeks to get a check when you start, right? I mean, this is crazy. I was supposed to get a check today but you're telling me the computer just kicked me out, just like that. The damn thing is not even a person and it can just kick you out. Can't you people override it. I mean, it is not my fault."

"I'm sorry ma'am. My our hands are tied. You are not the first person this has happened to. They set the system up this way. The only people that can change this are the folks in Tallahassee. My advice is to fill out the forms and get yourself back into the system. And don't forget that every week you claim benefits you have to show that you applied for at least five jobs. That's VERY important. Okay?"

Three and a half hours after arriving at the unemployment office they were finished applying and headed home. There was very little talk going on. As they headed down Madison Ave. Tracey said, "Pull into the bank. I'll drop off the truck payment. It is too far 'past due' to mail it. This way we'll get credit for the payment immediately."

Ten minutes later Tracey came out, got into the truck and began to cry. "What's wrong? Why you crying?"

Trying to speak through her sobs Tracey sounded like she was talking underwater. "They bllb--want--bllp--two payments." Forcing out the words she went on, "They won't take one payment because today is the beginning of a new month. They want two or they want the truck."

"WHAT! Are they crazy. We only have five payments left. We've been paying like clockwork for three years. I'm going in there. Give me the payment stubs."

Bob headed into the bank and ten minutes later out he came. "So, what happened?"

"I'll tell you what happened. I had to give them the two payments. That's what happened. Whatever. Plus a $25.00 late fee. I think that leaves us with maybe $40.00 to our name."

"Oh my God, Bob. The electric bill. We have to pay the electric bill. They'll turn us off if we don't."

"Yeah, yeah. I know. And the water and the phones and the cable and the insurance---and. Oh man, let's just go home and try to figure something out. Maybe we can have a big yard sale. One thing is for sure, I have to find work and fast."