Friday, November 23, 2018

Black Friday VI— the Von Trappening Pt.2

            So, hey, at the risk of being a bit of a killjoy, let’s talk about Black Friday and the holidays and being poor for a couple of minutes.
            Actually, no.  Let’s talk about moving and forgetting your wallet.
            Well, about me moving and forgetting my wallet.
            Because it happened.  As some of you know, I bought a house this year.  But I was also trying to finish a book, which meant I didn’t really have time to move.  So for a few months my partner and I did this slow dance of packing up a few things and driving them down to the house whenever we could.
            I was doing this back in June and noticed about halfway through the drive that I was low on gas.  And quickly discovered I had forgotten my wallet.  I shouted in the car a lot, and then the dread creeped in.
            Dread I was, alas, all too familiar with.
            I spent the next hour watching the gas gauge creep down, hoping I was going to make it and just kinda knowing I wouldn’t.
            I ended up at the Arco gas station just off Via de le Valle.  No gas.  No money.  Just trapped and powerless.
            That’s what being poor is.  Pretty much a constant feeling of being trapped and powerless.  Of having no agency, as some might like to say.
            And, yeah, I’m speaking from experience. I grew up kinda poor at points in my childhood, but when I became a full time writer I was very poor for almost three years. Phone-shut-off-and-stealing-toilet-paper-from-the-library poor.  All-our-shopping-at-the-99-Cent-Store poor.  I had a chance to sit down with Shane Black for a coffee or two as part of a work assignment and I had to turn it down.  I didn’t have enough money to buy a coffee, and possibly not even enough to get me across the city to where he was.  Yeah, I didn’t have enough money to go work.
            Being poor is just a constant feeling of tension.  Of being painfully aware of what you don’t have and what you can’t do.  And in today’s climate... hell, for the past ten or fifteen years, a lot of people have made it painfully clear that they judge you because of that.  They find you lacking as a person because of your poverty.
            And it’s even worse at the holidays.  Because so much of the holidays is about giving, and when you’re poor you just... you’ve got nothing to give.  It doesn’t matter how much you care about that person, it doesn’t matter how much you want to.  It doesn’t matter because you’ve got nothing.
            And again... you can feel people judging you over it.  At every office party or gathering of friends or family dinner.  Judging you for being trapped and powerless.
            It sucks.
            At which point... I would like to tell you about the redheaded woman in the sundress who came to my rescue.  She parked across from me at the Arco, started pumping gas, I begged her to take pity on someone moving and if she could spare three dollars.  Three dollars of gas could get me home.  Or to the big empty house that would hopefully soon be home.
            And she smiled and said sure.  And offered me her credit card.
            Dead serious.  She just swiped her credit card on my pump and told me to pump whatever I needed so I could get where I was going.
            Thank you, mystery redhead.  You were—and are—fantastic.
            There are good people out there.  People who want to help.  Especially at this time of the year.
            So if I can help some of you avoid feeling that miserably low this season—the low I had to feel for those Christmases—I’d like to do it, as I have on Black Fridays past.
            If you’re feeling trapped and powerless because you can’t afford gifts for your family or friends, shoot me note at PeterClines101@yahoo.com.  I’ve got sixteen or seventeen random books that I’ll autograph to whoever you want and mail out to you—or to someone else, if you need it shipped.  I’ll even gift wrap if you need it.  I’ll send them out for as long as the books last (or until it gets too close to the holidays). You can request a specific book but I can’t promise anything on that end. 
            You know what?  I’ve got two or three audiobook sets, too.  Those big wallets of CDs.  If audiobooks work better,  just say so.  I still can’t promise which one you’ll get, but if it’d be better for the person you’re gifting, just say so.
            And look—every year people offer to chip in and help me out with this.  You don’t need me to do that.  You can go be fantastic people all on your own.  I guarantee, there’s a toy bank or gift bank or food bank or some kind of program within ten miles of you right now.  You could help out with that.
            Again, this is only for those of you who need some help getting gifts for others. The people who are pulling unemployment, cutting back on everything, and feeling like trapped because they can’t afford gifts for family or friends.  It’s not so you can recommend someone who might like a free book.  You could do that for them, too—go get them a book.
            Also... I’m also doing this on the honor system, so if you’re only trying to save yourself some money or score an autographed book, I won’t be able to stop you.  Just know that you’re a deplorable person and you’re taking a potential bright moment away from someone who needs it this holiday season.  And you’ll probably burn in the fiery pits before Krampus feeds your cajun-fried corpse to a squale.
            Happy Holidays.

5 comments:

  1. Wow. You got my respect, sir! There should be more people like you.

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  2. I have no real words for how much that impressed me. For a while I've loved you as an author but now I ALSO love you as a human being.
    Oh, I also love the redhead, but then that's pretty much just a given with me. :)

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  3. I've been poor, I've been homeless (and once you cross the line from being broke to not having a place to sleep and wash, it's pretty much impossible to get back without somebody stepping in and helping you).

    I'm glad you're doing this, Peter, and hope to do the same someday. (And glad that lady helped you out!)

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