On Monday morning, January 9, 2009, I officially moved from my quaint little apartment with the neat washer and dryer in my closet that smelled of cheeze, into my very spacious Volvo, that also smelled of cheeze. I never thought I’d be in such a situation, but then again, I always thought Charlie Sheen would stay sane forever, too.
But follow along.
I got to thinking about how we view this phenomenon of being without a home. It’s SUCH a social club. It’s real estate snobbery in its purest form. If you have no home, then you’re suddenly asked to leave the imaginary clique, and that hurts. People begin treating you differently. If you have no money and nowhere to be for the day, it’s called being homeless. But if you have money and nowhere to be, it’s called Society. The only difference between myself and someone from Beverly Hills is where we wash out our underwear.
I was at least lucky enough to have had my car. There are some advantages to it: First, it’s private. Second, you have a kick-ass stereo system, and third, you’re not expected to clean up after yourself.
The worst part about it, though, was not having cable. You thought I was going to say stinky clothes or not being able to brush my teeth. Well, think again. It was not being able to keep up with new episodes of Burn Notice. At first it’s fun, but soon the novelty wears off and then it’s just like any other life: Begging for food, begging for change, begging for televisions....
The hard part was in knowing my cats didn’t have a home. I would’ve much rather they had a place to sleep than myself. And I hated having to run down to the local fast food place to pee. I had their litter box on the front passenger floorboard, and I tell ya by day two I was eye-balling that litterbox in a whole new way.
Everyone gets so serious when you tell them you’re now homeless. These same people that, before, couldn’t get their considerable asses blown off sofas with C-4, suddenly turn into mini-Houdinis and make one hell of an exit. They want you to know they seem sympathetic to your plight, but any more expended energy on your situation would remove the attention from theirs, and God knows when you’re busy spending money you need all the concentration you can muster. Empathy is as far as it goes, too. That exit usually comes long before you’ve had the chance to ask if you can use one of their twelve spare bedrooms in their guesthouse on the back 40-acres over in the next county. However, that doesn’t matter. You could be deaf, dumb and have lost your fingerprints in a horrible Sudoku accident, and no one wants to be troubled.
Fact is, people can be selfish, fully satisfied in the knowledge that giving that one last old can of last year’s leftover Cranberry Sauce when the post office leaves that Second Harvest food bag on your mailbox is a good enough act of charity, without being bothered with someone having to dodge bullets in between dreams while snoozing under the nearest interstate overpass.
I even found myself doing things I would never do, like begging strangers for cat food. I once got thrown out of a Dollar General. Dollar General! It’s a toilet with a place to swipe a credit card. Macy’s I can understand. Dillard’s? Oh, hell yeah, any day of the week. And on days when I’ve done too many Benadryl shooters and need to cash my economic stimulus cheque of $12.50, K-Mart.
But Dollar General? That’s like getting thrown out of a soup kitchen for not busing your own table.
Since mine was a forced eviction, I also had the privilege of watching the Sheriff toss my crap out into the yard, which is humiliating, because anyone can just walk up and take it. But, I learned something valuable from that experience, and walked away with a bit of street-smart savvy: Forget going to yard sales. Just go to evictions. There, you don’t have to haggle. I learned that there were so many forced evictions happening in our neighbourhood, that eventually I went to enough and was able to get every bit of my crap back.
So. The next time we bump into each other on the street and you begin asking me how many square feet my car has and if I have room in my spare backseat, don’t be surprised if I have to make a hasty exit because I need to be at an “appointment” at the nearest shopping mall.