Technology & The Art of Being Poor

Art.  No, not really, but it makes for a catchy title.  I do not consider being poor “art”, that would be way too petit bourgeois.  It just helps, sometimes, to think of my economic situation in different ways, so I don’t let it depress me – too much.

Today was supposed to be grocery-shopping day.

After I had the awful experience (at Martin’s Foods in Duncansville) of having my EBT card declined due to their mistake, I am doubly paranoid about having my card declined, and as I sat on my porch waiting for the van to pick me up, I realized I needed to check my balance.

So I picked up my phone, looked up the EBT Hotline in contacts, and pressed the number.


No ring sound, no “Thank you for calling Pennsylvania EBT customer service.  For English, press 1.”

I hung up and tried again.


I went to check all my sound settings.  They were all ok.  Then I decided to see if any of the sounds played.

No.  No “Oye” by Pitbull (default ringtone, heh).  No notification sound.  No nothing.

Van pulls up.  Oh good, I can ask the driver.

The driver is my age.  He laughs.  “You’re asking the wrong person.”


I told him I couldn’t go because I couldn’t call for a pickup, and I couldn’t call to check my EBT balance to make sure I didn’t get declined when it came time to check out.  He understood, and left.

In a fit of pique and swearing like a sailor, I stomped up the stairs to my apt.

Cursing Motorola.  Cursing Moto.  Cursing technology.

Got on the internet and realized 2 things: 1. I could have looked up my balance on the internet, and 2. many people are having this issue with Moto G 1st gen.

The solution?  Reboot.  So I did.

No.  Still no Pit Bull.

Read a few forums and one said to go into developer mode – which I had miraculously unlocked on my phone when I first got it, in order to change some settings to cut down on the amount of space things take up (or something, I forget what, exactly).  And change from ART to Dalvik, which apparently messes up your “optimal performance”, but fixes the “no sound” issue.

So I did.  And Pit Bull was rapping and singing again!

Called the EBT Hotline.  Got my balance.  Yay!

Called the van place and booked for tomorrow.

It’s these little things that drive me crazy, and almost all of them are connected in some way to technology.  I admit, some of it is my fault, because I have always had one of my kids or someone else (usually a boyfriend) fix my technology problems or at least told me how I could fix them.

Now that I live alone, the only ones I can ask are the cats.  And they aren’t telling.

Now nearly everything has technology connected to it.  Had I not had a phone or an internet connection – both of which I often think I should get rid of when I am frustrated – I wouldn’t have had any way to check my food stamp balance.  Because they aren’t even food stamps anymore, they’re credits on a card.

And I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but when was the last time you saw a pay phone?  As in, phone booth, put quarter in, make call?

Yeah, I thought so.  Me neither.

It was technology that led to the Martin’s Incident, and the same goes for today.

The smallest, seemingly easiest things to do with technology are all way over my head.  And it frustrates me to no end that I can’t do stuff that, say, a 12 yr old can do.

I know, I sound like an old bat.

Verizon has a how-to class on Moto G.  I would love to take that class, as it is free.  But it’s on Saturdays.

Van doesn’t run on Saturdays.  So that’s a no-go.

This is where the being poor part intersects the technology dummy part.  Too poor to own a car, can’t take classes to use technology.

And it is pretty much this way for most things.  Being poor is not only a matter of not being able to afford things, it also makes errands and things people take for granted about 10 times harder than they should be.

Got to do laundry?  Two choices: either lug your laundry to the laudromat on foot (which is difficult, try it sometime), or call the van and pay $6 round trip to go do your laundry.

Run out of milk?  Catfood? Garbage bags?  (I chose those because I frequently run out of them)  Got $6 in exact change?  No?

Tough shit.  Walk to the store that’s 3/4 of a mile one-way from your apt?  That’s my new goal.  But if I didn’t have the “Rest-n-Roll” cart that comes with a fold-down seat, I wouldn’t even attempt it.  Because I would probably need to sit down along the way and…

When was the last time you saw a bench on the street, that wasn’t a bus stop?

Yeah, I thought so.  Me neither.

Further compounding things – and preventing me from ever being able to walk to the bank if I had to – is that this area of PA, for some extremely weird reason, has very few crosswalks.

I’m serious.  Drive down any street in Altoona and thereabouts, and you will see traffic lights on corners, but signs that indicate you cannot cross the street on foot.  Signs with a person on them and a big red slash across it.  It’s one of the strangest things I’ve seen here.

And yes, people do get tickets for jaywalking if they try to cross the street.  Really.

So, if I need to go someplace that I cannot walk to, it’s $6.  The nearest branch of my bank has “no pedestrian” signs, AND no walk-up ATM.  Last time I went, they wanted to charge me FOR CASHING A CHECK AT MY OWN BANK!

New policy.  “You can use the ATM outside,” she said.

“But I don’t have a car!”

Blank look.  Crickets chirp.

So, I got behind a car in the drive-thru ATM.  That was really weird and embarrassing, standing out in the drive-thru lane.

And in the car in front of me, the woman who I noticed had seen me standing there, finished her transaction.  Then, put on her makeup, put on her seat belt, looked in the glove compartment for something, and basically twiddled around for 5 minutes before she left.

And all the while I am hoping a car doesn’t come up behind me.

Little things.  Being poor makes everything unnecessarily hard.  Everything you do takes twice as long, usually, too.  It makes going to the grocery store an all-day adventure.

And not in a good way, either.

Goddess help you if you’re disabled or frail.  (I am disabled, but not frail, thankfully)

I mentioned the lottery to a van driver once.  Told him if I ever won, the first thing I would do is buy a car.

“No you won’t,” he said.

“Why not? I asked.

“There’s insurance and gas. You can’t afford those on disability.”

I realized that, if I did win enough to buy a car, and nothing else, he was right.  Compounding this would be that SSI would cut me off, and so would the EBT people.  Even if I cashed the check immediately and spent it all on a car.  Income is income, and even if you are broke the very next day, it would take at least another month to get your benefits back.

“It’s like they want you to stay poor,” many people have remarked to me.


Today’s recommendation for books is….

“The Murder Pit”, by Jeff Shelby.  It’s what you call a “cozy mystery”, which are books that feature an amateur sleuth (usually female), are set in a small town (usually), downplay violence and sex, are funny (sometimes), and have a love interest for the sleuth.

Basically, “Murder She Wrote”, in book form.

There is a subgenre that features cats as helpers to the sleuth, or sometimes they solve the crime all by themselves and then get a human to help them.

Those are my favorite kinds of cozies.

As for movies?  I highly recommend “The Imitation Game”, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing.  No, I haven’t seen it but many people tell me it’s good.

I haven’t seen it because the van doesn’t run past 4PM (or thereabouts on weekdays), and not at all on weekends.  See?  See what I mean?

Be good.  Be kind.  Don’t get run over in an ATM drive-thru.







2 thoughts on “Technology & The Art of Being Poor

  1. charlies5169

    You are correct, being poor is not an art. However, navigating it and surviving it certainly could be considered an art. Once again, my hat’s off to you for being able to do so and still retain a bit of sanity. Good post.



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