Brief Stay in the Bottom 95%

Sometimes life just smacks you in the face. You wake up at 23, addicted to heroin, multi-partner sex, and every pharmaceutical patented by Mereck and Pzizer after 1984. To round out this soul crushing mix of addictions, you also find yourself waiting tables at a Chilli’s in Crystal City.

If you were less intelligent you may whine to your therapist that you don’t know how you got here, maybe throw in a few tears to garner some sympathy. Unfortunately, your entire family is brilliant, so you know exactly how you got here, and dammit it may have been worth it. Your wealthy parents have some bizarre moral objection to your life choices, and you find yourself exiled from the family payroll.

Do not despair because I’m sure they love you enough not to write you out of the will, and they can’t live forever. There are also some distinct advantages to being on the bottom rung of the socioeconomic ladder.

They will give food stamps to anyone.

And I mean anyone. All you have to do is show up at the welfare office downtown (I know, what if someone sees you? Best to wear an Amanda Byne’s style wig), and say “Help me, I’m poor“. Two to three business days, later a card will arrive in the mail with $150 worth of free food dollars on it. I assume you get more if you have kids, but I’m in my 20s and not a complete moron, so that didn’t apply. The best part is that you can buy anything with them. Go to BP and buy 50 red bulls, no one’s going to stop you. No wonder our government can’t balance the budget.

You can learn how to ride a bus.

Turns out you can’t just stand on the side of the road and hail a bus. It’s very different from a cab, who knew? There are designated stops and routes, and even a handy app that lets you know exactly when the bus will be there. I could travel almost anywhere in less time than it took in a car if you factored in traffic and parking. I should warn you that it’s best not to ask public transit workers questions like ‘do you have any change?’ or ‘what made you want to become a bus driver?“.

You’ll stop getting parking tickets.

It was always my habit to put my tickets under other people’s windshields, hoping they wouldn’t look at it closely and just pay. Either that or I’d just toss it in the trash. This system worked until I received a notice of suspension of my license which really didn’t matter because the car had already been sold.

Welfare insurance kicks ass.

No, I’m not exaggerating, that thing was like a black card. I’ve had some excellent insurance, mostly through my parents, but nothing compared to Medicaid. No deductibles and no copayments. If I ever get cancer, I hope that I’m poor so I can afford treatment. Again, no wonder our government is in trouble.

You pay way less taxes.

No further explanation needed there.

You don’t have to dress up.

Hell, you may not even have a job at this point, and no dating wealthy socialites is not a job Alexa. If you are working though, I doubt it’s at the kind of place that requires a tie. For the ladies this could include business suits or scratchy dresses. Dress clothes fucking suck. Sure they can be flattering, but there’s a reason everyone changes the second they get home. And let’s not forget about dress shoes or heals. Nothing put a smug look of self-satisfaction on my face like sitting at a Starbucks at 2pm, having just woken up. I’d be in a track suit and slippers, sipping a chi tea latte. From my booth, I’d watch all of the twitchy office drones scamper in so they could power through another ten TPS Reports before the day ended.

People don’t call you as often.

For lonely or desperate people this may not seem like a benefit. But for someone who likes to be left alone most of the time, this was almost magical. Friends tend not to call you since you never have money to go out or chip in for party favors. Family members tend not to call because they will assume that you’ll be asking for money. With all of the time that would have been wasted on mindless chatter, you can finish your manifesto or start moderating a right-wing hate group on Facebook.

The homeless can be a lot of fun.

Now I’m not suggesting that you actually be-friend a homeless because they smell and are hard to look at. But now that you’re riding the bus and walking the eight blocks between bars instead of using Uber, you should learn to get all you can from them. Always have your phone ready to take videos. The homeless say and do some hilarious shit. Like the bald black lady on the bus who claimed she was on the Price is Right before naming all 15 strains of weed she sells. I’m not encouraging you to make fun of the mentally ill, having seen the inside of a psych ward myself, I’m just saying learn to join in on the fun. Let’s also not forget that the homeless always know where to get the best drugs. Just never give them cash until you have the product in hand.

I’m sure there are some things I forgot to add to the list, but now that I’ve regained my footing, I have better things to do than help the disenfranchised. Which brings me to my last helpful hint. Do NOT stay poor forever. Sure the benefits are amazing, but who will you look down on when you stroll Fifth Avenue in $300 shoes and a Burberry trench-coat?