Note: I started my volunteer gig on Monday. My very first day, I sort of got in trouble for reporting a problem that the “powers that be” subsequently told me wasn’t a problem.
So, I am going to avoid situations where the “not-a-problem” comes up, in order to stay clean if the shit hits the fan. Because I take these kinds of “not-a-problem” things really seriously and will not risk my reputation – such as it is – for social reasons and to “get along”.
Yesterday I atoned for it by repackaging 160 bags of candy for resale. And was chatty and pretended to like being bossed around by 80 year old women who get sarcastic and mean if things are not done “just so”.
I marveled at the fact that they were able to sit and stand for much longer periods of time than I was. Physically, these first days were hard on me. The walk to the bus stop to go home is uphill and difficult. I fell asleep both days during the hour-long trip on the bus going home.
Thankfully, I have today off.
Today’s blog post is about something that happened last week on the van…
I recently wrote a blog post called “Free Garbage is Still…Garbage”, in which I mentioned that many people do not understand how poor folk live in America. I was writing mainly about people who have never “been there”, people who never think about unpleasant things like hunger and poverty, or people who basically think that being poor is self-inflicted.
Well, I ran into another representative of a group of people who like to complain about people who live on disability – that small but vocal percentage of people who are on disability themselves, but who deserve it! Because they’re really sick! They really can’t work!
But those “other” lazy bums, they can! It’s not right!
I was riding the senior van to a facility, going to my volunteer gig orientation. A very obese man sat in a wheelchair behind me and started the conversation with, “I used to be in a workfare program, and they were supposed to hire me at the job I worked after 2 years, but after 4 years I hadn’t been hired so I demanded that they hire me!”
“Uh oh,” thought I, “a real charmer.”
“Of course,” he continued, “they said why should they hire me when they can get welfare to pay me?”
By now I am rolling my eyes. Because you just know that no one said any such thing.
Aside #1: It may have actually been true, but I don’t think they would have told him that to his face – that kind of stuff results in lawsuits.
So he was embellishing somewhat, ok. We all do it sometimes.
“But then I got arthritis,” he said, “and I couldn’t work.”
He paused, then angrily stated, “It doesn’t matter anyway, because you have to know someone or be related to someone in order to get a job here. I even went to go see the guy I used to caddy for, and told him I needed a job, but he wouldn’t hire me! I told him he could either hire me, or pay my way through his social security payments!”
Yeah, because that will surely convince someone to give you a job.
Aside #2: Again, there is some truth to the idea that, in provincial Altoona and in the even more provincial surrounding small towns, you have to know someone/be related to someone to get a job. Mostly because everyone around here is related to someone, or knows someone who is connected to them in some way, who is in a position to hire them/give them a reference (or talk unkindly about them being a troublemaker, in my case).
He was on a roll now. “But you know what makes me so mad? All these bums on social security who say they can’t work because they have drug and alcohol problems. They just have to set their minds to not using or drinking, and go back to work! They’re just lazy!”
Ding ding ding – hot button pushed, right there.
“Now wait a minute,” I objected, “people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol do have a hard time holding a job. They have a problem that needs to be addressed.”
“Yeah, but it’s all in their heads! They could work if they wanted to!” he argued.
I sighed. “You would agree that these substances affect your brain, right?”
“Yeah,” he replied.
“And you would agree that your brain is the thing you think with? So these substances cause an impairment in the way people think,” I tried to explain.
“Exactly!” he beamed. “That’s why they can just set their minds to not doing it anymore, and go to work!”
I gave up. He clearly wasn’t going to get it. I tried another tactic.
“Welfare and social security fraud is only at about 2%, that’s less than just about at any other government program. So it’s not that many people,” I stated.
“I know TONS of guys who just sit around all day. Why, just look at THEM!” He pointed to 3 guys crossing the street. They were all about 30, I guess, and were not white.
“Do you know them?” I asked.
“Well, no, but they should be at work!” he exclaimed.
Ok, this guy was just not going to get it. He has decided that any minority person who is ambulatory and “doesn’t look sick” is just scamming the system. People like him never seem to change.
So I dropped the subject and stared out the window at the scenery, annoyed.
With all the problems this guy has – health being the major one – he is worried about people he thinks might be taking advantage of the opulent living we on social security disability have?
But he himself is on social security disability. Surely he knows this ain’t no “high-on-the-hog” living.