When The Bad Days Outweigh The Good

When you travel to Africa, North America, or Asia, and you walk away from the typical tourist attractions you will see people sing and laugh, and you will be surprised to notice that often the loudest laughter and the greatest joy comes from the poorest of the poor.

When the bad days outnumber the good days, perhaps that’s when you truly appreciate the slightest glimpse of hope and all the short happy moments in your life. We take so much for granted. Food, transportation, shelter, clothes and so much more. We have it, and we expect all of it to be there the next day and the day after, for the rest of our lives.

When the bad days outnumber the good! That’s more often the case than the other way around.

In my life so far, the good days outnumber the bad days by a lot, and I am very grateful for it. I didn’t always see it this way. Back then my life didn’t seem worth living anymore. It felt like I didn’t have a life because it wasn’t the life I had been used to. When dreams shatter, the sun stops shining, and dark clouds block your view.

The panic and the anxiety I felt after the phone conversation with my brother-in-law, are something I cannot describe. I wanted to scream loud. I wanted to crawl under the covers and hide. I wanted to run as fast as I could. Can you hide from pain? Can you outrun hurt? Can you shout and yell at sadness?

It felt dream-like. This happens to others, not to us. We are good people! Could life get any worse?

The next morning we had a cup of coffee together like we always did. We discussed the day and spoiled the little dogs with a slice of THEIR cheese. The conversation and my ‘demands’ were not mentioned again. My friend didn’t bring it up for three more days -neither did I.

I went back to the Hilton that afternoon. They had left a message, a more than welcome distraction from my daily routine. The hotel chef wanted to place another order, and the manager had asked me to come by. On our way back I would meet with the owner of a new Cajun bistro close to my friend’s home. Wherever we went, we had the $50 emergency money with us, in case the car would break down or there would be a crisis. When we came back from a trip, we put the money back in an envelope that read “Emergency money.” It was kept on the desk, beside the computer in MY office. It was untouchable.

At the hotel, I was escorted to the booth beside the kitchen, the waitress asked if I wanted something to drink. I wanted a cappuccino or any kind of drinkable coffee so badly, I almost gave in. “Just a glass of water, please,” I said. Cappuccino or espresso had become a luxury.

I had $10 of my own money in my pocket but not knowing how much the coffee would cost in a fine hotel, I didn’t dare. When the manager came, he sat down and we went over the Cajun buffet plans the chef had printed out. Mardi Grass was only one month away. Superbowl was coming up. Partytime!

Poverty! How does it feel to not belong, because you don’t have a job or a home? It’s like being a little kid, pressing your nose against the window at a toy store, wishing so badly the teddy bear or the locomotive you see behind the glass would be yours, but deep down you know you will never get it.

If you can’t afford a simple cup of cappuccino, that’s like pressing your whole body against a glass window showing you Paradise. Everybody around me had a normal life, we didn’t fit in anymore -we had become outsiders.

Coffee and culture: discover Florence's historic cafes - Lonely Planet

The manager got a cup of coffee and a piece of cheesecake. It looked divine. “You want a cup of coffee?” he asked me. I got the $10 bill out of my pocket. “Yes, please, how much is it.”

“It’s on the house,” he said and I wanted to hug him. A short while later I left with a big order which included an automatic weekly reorder.

When I got back to the car I told my husband, “I had the best cappuccino I have ever had in my whole life.” He grinned from one ear to the next. This would become our slogan for many months. I had the best…

On our way home I met the bistro owner and he ‘made me’ try a cup of his gumbo, which of course didn’t come even close to the one we made. I told him so and he ordered a 5-gallon bucket of our gumbo for a test run. I could sell snow to the Eskimos, who would have thought?

By the end of the week, right before Kurt came back, my wonderful friend finally shared with me the decision she had made. She would not pay us for our work in the kitchen, but, if I would sort all her receipts, prepare all the taxes, including her income tax and all the quarterly forms and deal with the upcoming health inspection, she would pay us $1,000. Her tax accountant had asked for $1,700 just for the income tax preparation.

If we would stay until the end of March and would continue to work in the kitchen and run the smokehouse, she would borrow us $1,000, so that we would have $2,000 altogether. We would get the money the day before we would leave. When I mentioned we were out of cigarettes, she said she would buy them for all of us from now on. Between the three of us, we smoked two cartons a week. I had mentioned the cigarettes in the hope she would change her mind about paying us.

She didn’t discuss our big dogs but she brought up our little pup. “Perhaps you can leave her with me for a few weeks or months until you are settled in?” This way her dog would not be so lonely after we all left. I nodded. I loved my friend’s dog and the love was mutual. I knew we didn’t stand a chance to find a home with three big dogs anyway, not to mention with four dogs.

My friend had loved our little dog from the day she had been born in her bed eight years earlier.

I felt like she was keeping us on a short leash. I had hoped for more and felt terrible about my greed. Then panic set in. We now had a leaving date but nowhere to go. Ten weeks to make a few miracles happen.

“I appreciate all you have done for us and will never forget your generosity,” I said and I meant it. I accepted her offer without any negotiation. It was not what I had hoped for but it was a start.

The idea that we wouldn’t get any money before the day of leaving made me a bit nervous, but I trusted her. She was my best friend. If you can’t trust your best friend, who can you trust?

When Kurt came home Friday night, we stayed in the room we used as an office and searched the internet for job openings. Now we were willing to go anywhere. There were no more limits set on states or cities we didn’t want to live in.

On TV they mentioned all the new jobs that had been created -we were hopeful. Nothing for me. Nobody was looking for a translator or an interpreter and so we concentrated on my husband.

Only three job advertisements, one in Seattle, Washington, the other ones in Indianapolis, Indiana, and Lincoln, Nebraska. Seattle was too far away but we applied anyway. We used our friend’s address, changed the resume, and changed my husband’s work history. We lied on his application because we felt we had to. We didn’t mention that his company had closed down, and listed his business as his employer, with my phone number. We left out the fact that he had been the owner. We deleted the end date of his last job, so it looked like he was still working there.

We lied and we cheated. We didn’t like it, but we couldn’t afford the luxury of honesty. We figured the less we would have to explain, the better it would be for us.

Who would want to hear the truths:

“Sorry, we are homeless (houseless) and I haven’t worked in a few months because my company went belly up and we lost everything we had. Now I am making sausages in a Smokehouse and live with a friend of ours. I don’t get paid, I work for cigarettes, food, and shelter. I still have transportation but only for three more months. You know what else, I don’t have any money. Would you please consider me to be your new project manager? Oh, and before I forget, I might be living in my car.”

In the short cover letter we sent with the application and his resume, we mentioned that we wanted to move to (……) for personal reasons. We made it sound like we had a choice.

I often wonder how a therapist or psychiatrist would react to the choices we made back then. Perhaps it’s good that we couldn’t afford one.

We answered the three job ads and started looking for rental places in the cities right away. Turned out Seattle was not just far away, but also out of reach financially. We could not afford the West Coast, and so we focused on Indiana and Nebraska.

We went to Craigslist and started looking at the classified ads. Appartments allowing dogs, small houses with a yard. We didn’t need much. A bedroom, a living room, a yard, a kitchen, a bathroom.

We wrote down everything we could afford. It wasn’t a long list, but it was a list full of places in our price range. $750 was our limit and doing the math, we could not even afford that.

The next day was eventful. My friend and Kurt left early in the morning, they had some shopping to do. It couldn’t have been more perfect. One of us could work in the kitchen, while the other could call the phone numbers to find our future place to call home. Job and home, we needed both.

It didn’t take long. All the places asked for the same -background check and credit report. When I mentioned our situation I was told a double deposit (first and last month’s rent) would be necessary because of our problematic money situation. Also, all the places asked for a $200 deposit for each dog.

It went exactly how I thought it would go. It was hopeless.

When you are down and out of luck, they will kick you hard. When you lay on the ground, they will continue kicking you. When you are in a situation like ours, desperately hoping for a miracle or a helping hand, they will bring you down even more. People’s stories or life experiences don’t matter, all that matters are numbers. Numbers are turned into character points. A bad credit seemed to mean we were unreliable and would not pay our rent on time -ever. We were bad people.

The dogs were not our biggest problem, we were.

17 thoughts on “When The Bad Days Outweigh The Good

  1. You do have the best followers, don’t you? Well, you deserve them, especially given what seemed to me to be a difficult childhood, at least in comparison with mine, followed by this hard time you are writing about now.

    I understand your thoughts and many of the others here about the difficulty of applying for government aid, limited as it may be in times of national crisis like yours then and the world’s now. I think they may have done then and are certainly doing the best they can now.

    I do think, though, you may have been a little harsh on the people you contacted when looking for places to live. I think another comment pointed out that now (as then) pretty much everyone is struggling and again just doing the best they can.

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  2. Dark days indeed. Your story resonates with the situation many people are finding themselves in as a result of the pandemic. One would hope that landlords would be more understanding, that governments would reach out to those in need … instead it is left to charities, friends, and those with hearts bigger than their wallets to do so.

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  3. Wow! It is really troubling that the losses you incurred were part of a national story. You weren’t alone in losing everything. And yet there weren’t hands reaching out to help lift you up. That’s a troubling realization, and yet I shouldn’t be at all surprised. Your friend was a good friend. She had some limits, I suppose, and some of her ways seem a little harsh, but I am really touched by what good friends you were then…and I wonder about now. I’ll keep reading and try to be patient with all my questions! LOL!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s the only reason I am writing this because I know many will be in the same situation next year, or are already living the same nightmare. Prices are going up and up, wages stay low. I am not sure how young families will be able to afford their old lifestyle.

      As for lending people a helping hand, our system is not meant to do that. Too much paperwork and too much bureaucracy, the help comes -if there is any to begin with, from private organisations and private people.

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  4. I am hoping things get better soon. I don’t blame you for lying on the applications. In my mind, I think about why you did. The purpose of it was to get a job and support yourselves. At least you had each other.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh Betty, it wasn’t rigth but as I said, we did a few things that we felt we had to do. I am not proud of it. I wish society would be more accepting of the fact that not everybody is perfect or has a perfect life. Social media seems to make matters worse.
      I will not even try to excuse our lies because I don’t lie. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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