The Poor Part of Town

You can tell that you are in a poor part of town when there are no banks or credit unions, yet abundance of check cashing and payday loan establishments. There are liquor stores and titty bars , yet no grocery stores. There are fast food restaurants, yet no sitdown entries. There is retail vacancy aplenty; old big box entities sit empty and idle, having fled to the suburbs.

Poverty is dirty. Parking lots are dusty, filled with mud-caked cars and pickup trucks. Laundrimats are common, big women with lots of small kids crowd them. They unload old dirty SUVs with dirty clothes. When they are finished the clothes are clean for an instant: loaded back in filthy cars with dirty kids that have mopped the dirty floor of the laundrimat with little hands. Never really clean, because of the dust and dirt and the fumes in the air. The poor part of town smells bad.

The reek of the sewage treatment plant is noticeable on warm days when the wind is right. Factories spew out fumes and waste that are supposedly safe, but everyone knows better. This is the poor part of town, the dumping ground for things that people with more money and connections don’t have in their part of town. The dump is just down the road, even in this encapsulated age the sticky sweet-sour smell of garbage wafts to neighborhoods not far away in the poor part of town.

The poor part of town is a dumping ground for people too. Nicer clothes and cars, ill at ease in a garishly lit discount superstore, navigating narrow isles, appalled at prices. A frozen pizza at Walmart costs $3.00 out in the burbs, but here it’s $4.35. The store has no real selection, the floors are dirty, the shelves poorly merchandised, and often depleted, empty of goods, like suppliers and vendors are unwilling to stock a store for the forgotten.

These people are the foreclosed, the evicted, the repossessed, the out-of-benefits unemployed who have vainly searched for a way to crawl back into the middle class, now subsisting on food stamps and the charity of friends, often for years, sometimes as long as half a decade. They are here because it is cheap, walking distance or on the bus line. These same people you sometimes see on the bus, all polished and well dressed, hoping for a gig or job or anything that will be a step towards a goal. You see in their faces that they know already it will be another “no” – risk adverse employers don’t want to train any body, especially if they are white, male and over 50.

Friends, ex-collegues, family, all the networking in the world, does not seem to help. There is a great deal of advice, most of it bad, often impatient, not wanting to be reminded of the truth standing outside their doors. No one wants to help, or even listen.

They try to keep up, but prescriptions are not refilled, doctors are not consulted because there is no insurance anymore. Health and stamina fail. They are really sick at heart. There was some kind of implicit promise of access to opportunity that has been abandoned. All those years of school and experience under the yoke of bad bosses has yielded betrayal. The marketplace does not want them anymore.

It’s probably already happened, some older guy with great experience and education but out of work for the longest time will pull out a gun and shoot the next person that manages his expectations, a political way of saying no. He’ll blaze his way out of the office, then shaking in the elevator, finishing the job on himself in the lobby restroom.

When they wake from their depression and malase, they will be angry, realizing they have nothing to lose. The young attractive, arrogant HR Barbie Doll gatekeeper will bleed out her life on the conference room floor. She could have done something for the guy who shot her, used her contacts, introduced him around the office. She wasn’t programmed to be helpful, but rather to be a parrot of all that is wrong at present.

If he had good impulse control he didn’t pull out the gun. Back on the bus, back in the poor part of town, shorn of his carefully preserved good suit, he’d realize that the real solution is inside him. Instead of doing the same thing over and over again, he has a brainwave, looking stuff up, writing stuff down. What to do will come to him: next time he puts on his suit he’ll be the boss, not a victim.

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