On Going Around the Block, and Where It Gets You

I had a magical moment in the spring of 1988. While I was at work as night shift cleaner at McDonalds, the shift supervisor came up to me and handed me an envelope. I stared at it in confusion and asked him what it was. He told me it was my paycheck. So I said “Oh,” tucked it in my breast pocket, and didn’t think about it again for three days.

Perhaps some background is in order. I had a weekday job as walker courier, in which I hand-delivered letters and small parcels from one location to another in Toronto, mostly downtown. The job usually had me on the go from 8 am to 6 pm, Monday to Friday, walking nearly constantly. Then, on the weekends, I was working the cleaner job. So I had two jobs and was piling up the bucks. I had completely ceased to think about money because I always had enough of it.

Then there was the ugly moment on Christmas Day in 1999. I took a trip to the old casino in Windsor, about a five-hour drive southwest of here. At the time I had a job earning more than $35,000 a year (in 1990s dollars) and could afford casino trips. At the tables, I turned $500 into $4,000, then went back to my hotel room happy. But the money in that safe in the room kept gnawing at me. I wanted more. So I kept going back downstairs to the casino until dawn had come and I had only $300 left. I wanted to die. My observation is that people who want more and more and more without limit, do often end up wanting to die just to escape their own greed.

These two memories jostle for space in my head as that special time in my monthly cycle arrives. No, not that kind of monthly cycle. I mean the monthly cycle of all of us who subsist off handouts from the disability folks in government. The current special time is called “check time.” It’s when our monthly subsistence money arrives in the mail. If I were practical and level-headed, I wouldn’t care about check time. I have to disburse most of my check anyway, so I end up with not much more left than I have at any other time in the month. Also, it’s not really my money; it’s money our government happens to give me because it feels like it. But it’s not something I’m rational about. Around this time every month, I enter a mental state I call the check vigil, in which I try in futility to stop thinking about the mail arriving and not to go downstairs to the block of mailboxes more than once an hour. And I never know on which day the check will arrive anyway. When the mail comes on a particular day and the check isn’t in it, I feel deflated and demotivated, as if I had suffered some real and substantial disappointment rather than just being a de facto bookkeeper for the landlord and grocery store.

So that’s where my mind is right now. Where is yours?

2 thoughts on “On Going Around the Block, and Where It Gets You

  1. My mind has been on my monthly allowance lately too. We have a cat outside, who belongs somewhere in the neighborhood I’m sure, that seems to have a bad case of fleas. This cat seems to want to live here lately, on our back patio deck where my little dog spends several hours every afternoon. Well now my dog of 5 plus years, for the first time has a case of fleas. As he sits here at my feet, as usual, scratching at them I can’t wait to order flea collars and such for both animals. Now that I have a flea bite on my foot I am even more eager, so much so on my mind it’s in the way of other thoughts. By the way my soc. sec. is only $686 a month, so I know how you are feeling.


    1. Pet illnesses are SCARY for someone on a fixed income! I really feel for you. As I just told someone else somewhere else, one reason I don’t have a pet is that I couldn’t afford the vet bills.

      Fleas can get into the carpet and bedding and be a major nuisance. If your dog now has fleas, you are in some danger of your whole residence bieng infested. That involves an expensive extermination. Back in 1993 such an extermination cost me $200–at 1993 prices in 1990s dollars.

      Our disability system here in Ontario is much better than the horrible one you have in the US. We actually get our rent paid separately, directly to the landlord, and we can get extra money for things like special diet and medical transportation expenses. People with children also get extra money to help pay for the expenses of raising kids. Not including rental payment, our monthly check is in the $600 range, maybe a bit more, but with rent taken care of separately it ends up feeling like more than it is.

      But don’t get me started on the US disability government-run fraud committed upon disability applicants. If you apply for disability in the US for mental health reasons, the denial rate is 86%, and it takes as much as two and a half years to hear an appeal. In the meantime you have to eat, so either you force yourself to have a string of part-time jobs you get fired from or you find money from some other source. Then, at the appeal, the judge tells you you’ve been working part-time jobs for two and a half years, so you’re not really disabled; or you have other sources of support and don’t qualify for benefits. The cynical American government wants to look good in front of the international community, so it pretends to be compassionate toward the disabled, but it’s a total fraud, because it takes the most ruthlessly predatory and spiteful approach to disability in any “civilized” country in the world.


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