Friday, January 30, 2009

It's Possible I'm a "Bum"

There's a semi-controversial article over on wisebread. I've worked in a breadth of poverty advocacy so obviously I'm a little disappointed that someone would write something so ridiculous. A "grain of salt" preface doesn't help - promoting half-facts about a vulnerable group is kind of embarrassing, especially since a number of wisebread readers may be facing really bad financial situations and not see the black humor. Anyways, I thought it would be interesting to go through his list.

37 ways you’d be better off as a bum.

1. You don’t pay taxes on any money you collect

I haven't paid taxes, ever, because I've never made enough in a year to qualify. This year I finally do make enough but it will be entirely refunded because of an assortment of credits from my 'poverty' years. Technically, I pay EI and CPP but I can also collect from those things - and partly according to what I pay in.

2. You don’t have a mortgage

I don't have, nor have ever had, a mortgage. I don't see one in my future for the next few years.

3. You don’t have a boss

I don't technically have a boss. Long story. Neither do a lot of people. They're called small business owners and freelancers.

4. You can never get fired
5. You have zero debt
I have some debt, but I'm well versed in how bankruptcy works (another long story, not mine) and it would follow me even if I became a bum.

6. You can pick up and move anytime you want

I do pick up and move whenever I want. Of the last two years, I've spent max four months at any fixed address.

7. You don’t have a car payment

No mortgage and no car for this girl

8. You don’t get stuck in traffic jams

See above

9. You’ll never break down on the motorway

And again!

10. You don’t have to pay bills
11. Or remember to pay bills

12. You don’t care about your credit report

I really don't care about my credit report. I've never seen it. It doesn't matter to my lifestyle choices. From what I've read, it's probably really good.

13. You don’t get harassing calls from collection agencies

I don't get calls from collection agencies.

14. You don’t get calls…period

I get, max, four phone calls per week that aren't to my office and absolutely no unsolicited calls - a never listed pay as you go number will do that.

15. You don’t have to deal with junk mail

I don't get junk mail. You can actually put up a sign not to have any delivered. I'm also not on any lists (probably because I don't get most paper mail).

16. You don’t have to wake up to an annoying alarm
No, you just have to get up when someone is telling you to move it along (sidewalk) or the shelter is emptying for the day, or when someone lays the boots to you well you sleep. Sorry, I had to.
17. You don’t have to do laundry
18. You don’t get criticized for bad fashion choices
19. You don’t have email to check (Well, apart from PayPal dude)

20. You don’t have to wait three hours in security at the airport

I have to say, this is purely an American thing. I get through security in two to ten minutes at any airport in Canada except over Christmas. So, maybe it's not better to be a bum, it's just better to be Canadian? Or Canadians are bums??

21. You don’t have to attend parties with people you hate

I, uh, don't attend parties with people I hate. Nor do I feel I have to. This guy needs to make better friends or get a better social life or just start RSVPing "no."

22. You don’t have to fix yet another paper jam

I don't have a printer and my administrative staff does that for me at work.

23. You never have to sit through an ad featuring Billy Mays

I don't have a television. Or know who Billy Mays is.

24. You don’t have to vacuum

There is no carpet in my apartment.

25. Or spring clean
26. Or scrub the toilet

27. You don’t get bothered by cell-phone salesmen in malls

Again, this must be American as no person attempting to vend a cell phone has ever approached me except in American malls.

28. You don’t care about identity theft

29. You don't give a crap about reality shows (you're living one every day)

I have no TV.

30. Going to jail for the night means a warm bed and a meal
Although, as someone who's put a few drunks in tanks (ANOTHER story), I wouldn't exactly characterize the experience as pleasurable - those cells are pretty cold and empty, usually. If you're lucky.

31. You've (probably) never heard of Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian.

Interestingly, I don't really know who Kim Kardashian is.

32. Newspapers are actually handy; and you can read them too

My office subscribes to multiple papers. We are encouraged to read them. I read three papers a day, most days.

33. You don't care if gas hits $4 a gallon

I don't really care much about the price of gas - I buy a lot of local food anyways, and I don't drive. The inconveniences to me are outweighed by public transit improvements, better air quality and so on.

34. Sell-by dates are your friend

I totally buy half-off food at the grocery store (because the sell-by is imminent), albeit within limits. So does my roommate (we're frugal-ish soulmates). The sell-by date has certainly been my friend before.

35. Every cent is valuable to you; spare change is an oxymoron

I collect my change and regularly dispense of it at my convenience store for treats. I like a plastic-plan because in minimizes change altogether.

36. Hair salons are a joke

There was once a period where I went over a year without cutting my hair. It was prolonged by figuring out how to cut hair myself, which I totally got my best friend doing and we would call each other and giggle about how fun it is. My brother hasn't had a haircut in years. All three of us have successful jobs in professional industries, go figure. If you've never given yourself even a tiny trim, I suggest you try it and see how liberating it feels. [I do, for the record, get my hair cut a few times per year now. I have really long easy maintenance hair that looks best with less attention]

37. You can say you're free...and mean it

I really think I am pretty free. That's why I'm taking a few months off this year. Because I can.

Ok. So, roughly 2/3 of these criteria apply to me. But, I'm not a bum?!! I'm an independent woman (than you, Destiny's Child, for your lyrical leadership in my formative years). With an enviable education and a decent post-grad job. Most of the hassles this guy seems to feel really impinge on his daily life are far more linked to active lifestyle choices - whereas a lot of my life, and the life of "bums" may be passive lifestyle choices. No one makes you buy a car/house/television. No one makes you consume unhealthy pop culture and avoid reading things that matter. No one, as one of my friends and mentors once said to me, is making you do anything. And you don't even have to be indigent to capitalize on this opportunity!

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