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#51 When You Grow Up Poor…

… the only holidays you recognize are the ones that get you a day off work. If it’s not a day off then by definition it is absolutely not a holiday. Valentine’s day? What is that? What are you talking about when you use those words? St. Patrick’s day is a non paid holiday where you get drunk and pinch people? Sounds like a regular Tuesday. Holidays are also not for “doing things” or for “being together”. They are for watching whatever movie marathon is on TBS without speaking and hopefully without moving except for to pee or get more animal crackers and cereal and not talking to anyone unless it’s to offer them animal crackers or cereal or powdered milk. Here is a glossary of holiday terms for the poor:

  • Thanksgiving – The Wizard of Oz marathon. Pie from the store. More food than usual. All the canned green beans you could need
  • Christmas – A Christmas Story marathon in the morning, Die Hard marathon at night. Pie from the store. Funeral potatoes. Candy and chocolate. Sleep in all the wrapping paper on the floor
  • New Year’s – that old guy’s gonna be on TV tonight for the apple drop in New York. It goes til midnight. Yes you can stay up and watch it. But you have to go to work in the morning still. Okay goodnight
  • Valentine’s Day – a day of the week. I tell you I love you everyday why should today be different? Yes we can get the clearance candy tomorrow
  • St. Patrick’s Day – Your aunt’s throwing a rager on Saturday. 
  • Easter – Christ died for your sins no you cannot have a chocolate bunny! The Greatest Story Ever Told is on TBS. Happy Easter
  • Memorial Day – We don’t have to go in to work today. No, I don’t know why. There is a Clint Eastwood marathon on TBS though
  • Independence Day – turn the g**d**mn TV off its the Fourth of July! We’re going to a parade and then walking around a festival and then having a picnic at the park and then taking a historical tour of the city then watching Saving Private Ryan because you’re spoiled and don’t know what it means to be a real patriot, speaking of which after Saving Private Ryan we’re watching The Patriot because Mel Gibson is an American and then we’re going to the pool and watching fireworks because brave men died for you to have a day off of work and you better never forget it
  • Labor Day – we don’t have to work today. I don’t know why. I don’t know why it’s called Labor Day if we don’t have to work. Stop asking questions, Rush Hour II is on

#50 When You Grow Up Poor…

… you get detention but you can’t go to detention because you have to go to work. Your teacher tells you that your boss will understand and to call in. You tell your teacher that she obviously doesn’t know your boss. Bill is a total basket case. If I called in he would find me. And hurt me. I’ve seen him smash plates over kids head’s for showing up late.

So you don’t show up for detention. The next day your teacher says you have Saturday school. Nope. Sorry teach, can’t do it. I got work. On Saturday? she asks. Yeah, unlike teaching Monday through Friday I have a real job. Washing dishes at the pizza place. That doesn’t go over well.

You go home and tell your parents you have Saturday school. Your dad says you can’t because you have work. He asks what you got it for. You say because you didn’t go to detention because you had work. Good man, he says. Why did you get detention he asks. I left school early last week to cover a shift for Orlando so he could go to his daughter’s soccer game. Good man, says dad.

If I don’t go to Saturday school I’ll be expelled for a week, I explain.

Good man, dad says. You could pick up some day shifts at the pizza place and pay for your own damn soccer cleats for a change.

I love you dad. A whole bunch.

#49 When You Grow Up Poor…

… your friend Ryan gets you an alien figurine from the movie Alien for Valentines Day in 3rd grade. This is obviously infuriating to you for a handful of the following reasons:

  1. What the hell bro! You got me something for Valentines Day?! I didn’t even know what that was when I walked into class this morning. Then our teacher tells us that its for girl and boys to write cute notes to each other and to give chalk candy hearts back and forth. So when everyone notices that you got me an alien figurine they put two and two together – I’m a boy. You’re a boy. Neither of us are girls. You got me an alien figurine – and they begin to immediately make fun of us. This will go on for weeks. “Hows your doll dude? You and Ryan cuddle it at night together … or something?” Ugh. Third grade and I’m already at the bottom of the high school totem pole. I’ll never recover.
  2. What the hell bro! You didn’t say we were doing a gift exchange! Now I have to get you something and my parents both just got 2nd jobs so we could get another hundred AOL minutes on CD-ROM in the mail! What am I supposed to get you!? And how do I give it to you without anyone knowing. I feel like this stupid alien figurine when you push the button on its back and the little alien weenie comes out of the alien mouth. I want to throw up alien weenies.
  3. Dude. What the hell bro! I’ve never even seen Alien! I’m Mormon. I’m not allowed to watch Southpark. I can’t watch Toy Story because Sid is a bad example. I can’t leave the house on Sundays! How the hell am I going to bring home an Alien doll? Thanks for getting me grounded. Some friend.

So here’s what I have to do. You’ve forced my hand. I have to make fun of you to your face in front of everyone at recess. Its just the rules. Then I have to go home and hide the doll until Saturday, when I know that I’m having a bomb ass liquidation sale (thats what I call Lemonade Stands) in the morning. I’m gonna hock some wares next to my lemonade -my sisters homemade  bracelets, apples with faces carved in them, and Alien action figures- and hopefully I can sell the damn thing, turn a profit and use it to buy a different toy from Jeff McDonald down the street (known for his collection of the finest action figures out there).

I work the system and get a sweet deck of Reboot cards. I hand them off to Ryan on the down low in between the buses after school one day as I look over my shoulder to make sure nobody sees. Then I apologize under my breath for making fun of him. He says its cool. It’s cool. Reboot rules.

Happy Valentines Day Ryan.

#48 When You Grow Up Poor…

… it takes you a long time to get into the habit of washing your hands. A long time. Like… 30 years long. There’s just no point really. You’re always dirty. Having clean hands is abnormal. If you eat dinner with clean hands you actually are more at risk of getting sick because your body is used to your food being accompanied by an ever so slight dusting of dirt and grime. Lets elaborate. Here are the rules:

  • If you go to the bathroom to pee, don’t wash your hands. The logic here is why should I wash my hands for touching my own peeper. It’s my peeper. Your peeper is the dirty one.
  • If you go to the bathroom to poopie you have some options. If you successfully can pull off a ghost poop ( a poop in which you wipe afterwards and there is nothing on the toilet paper) you are in the clear. If you can’t see it, it doesn’t exist. You are not obligated to wash. If you have anything from a regular Jamie Lee Curtis style poopie to a full on juicy poop, you should at least run your wiping hand under some water. The messy factor directly correlates to the amount of hand washing.
  • If you use the bathroom after your sister in any way or in any capacity, you have to take a shower.
  • Don’t wash your hands before eating. Its dangerous to your health. Don’t wash your hands after eating because now its too late.
  • If you’re hand is dirty and bleeding don’t wash your hands. This is a perfect opportunity to introduce new foreign material to your body to make your body stronger. Mana from poor people heaven. You’ll get strong and never have to go to the doctor again. Last time you went to the doctor your dad had to get another job.
  • If you’re about to touch a newborn baby you wash your damn hands.

It wont be until you turn 30 that you realize that these rules are not universal and you made most of them up while dealing with poopies that were not ghosts.

#47 When You Grow Up Poor…

…food is fuel. Thats it. You grow up eating such a small variety of foods that your pallet adapts and becomes what you call a “trailer pallet”. This means that things don’t taste exquisite, or delectable, or earthy, or splendid, or umami. What the hell does that even mean? Food taste good or it tastes not good. So for a while you’ll have a skewed view of what great food tastes like. In your mind the three best restaurants in the country are Chili’s, Boston Market, and the creme de la creme….Red Lobster (Curiously enough, when you’re poor, Applebee’s still sucks).

You’ll sit around a table at a Texas Roadhouse at your friend’s birthday party in high school wishing more than anything that you had a Nokia cell phone to call your parents and ask them to bring you the five dollars in your piggy bank you’ve been saving so that you can afford the New York strip meal like everyone else. Instead you have to buy the !@$%ing Cobb salad. You keep asking the waiter to refill the free rolls basket. He does. But there are 10 people at this table. You hesitate but then give him and ask him if he can bring more than one basket. He does. Its not enough. You tug on his shirt sleeve and beckon him to lean down so you can whisper to him. “Hey man, could you bring like one basket just for me? Is that okay? Please? Please?” He looks at you funny but brings one out anyway. You get your damn Cobb salad and the girl across from you asks you how you like it. Your mouth is full and you put your finger up and start trying to push whats in your mouth down your throat because the girl is pretty. While you struggle she says “my steak is medium but I ordered medium rare. It a bit overdone but the horseradish gives it a tangy kick thats just irresistible.” You swallow. You blink. She is now not pretty anymore. “So how’s the salad?” You pause. “Its good”. She asks you what kind of dressing you got – house, raspberry balsamic, or cilantro ranch? “I don’t know” you reply. Thats the end of that conversation.

When you grow up you still can’t stand people talking about their food while they eat it. Just eat your damn food! It there! Right in front of you! Why are you talking about it. Just eat it. And when someone asks you how your food is your blood boils a little every time as you smile and say “Good.”

Its quantity over quality. Every time. Thats why Golden Corral exists. Thats why chocolate drizzled cotton candy exists. The chocolate gives the fluffy airiness of the cotton candy an irresistible, but subtle kick.

#46 When You Grow Up Poor…

…you don’t know how to save money. You’ll hear teachers, and the news, and “smart people who wear Izod polos” tell you that the reason people are poor is because they don’t know how to manage their money. You’ll believe them for a long time. Then you’ll grow up and stay poor through college. You’ll get married and be super poor and move into a 4-plex that was built two centuries ago. You’ll notice one day while sweeping the floor in the kitchen that instead of sweeping dirt and crumbs into a dust pan you could just sweep it into the gaping crack between the wooden floor and the brick wall. You sweep all that stuff into the black hole in that gap between the floor and the wall and don’t realize that that stuff is going right down into the kitchen of the tenants below you. Anyways, you get it. We were so poor. We ate “fish tacos” every night, which were corn tortillas, ranch dressing, and fish sticks. We were very poor. So you have no money making $9 an hour beating up little kids at a treatment center. You can’t pay bills monthly, so you pay them every other month and just get further and further into the hole every other month. So you decide to enlist help from the holy grail of financial angels, Dave Ramsey. He told us to cash out all our money and use envelopes to keep track of our funds. This was huge for us because we had an epiphany after the first month. We found that we had no money in the envelopes. None. And then it dawned on us: You can’t manage your money when you have no money. It was sad to see, but very freeing. We gave up on budgeting. Budgeting is for rich people. Budgeting is for those people who have money to budget.

I realized that all those Izod pricks were wrong. You’re not poor because you can’t manage your money. You’re poor because you don’t have money.

So when you realize this you’ll never feel bad about spending your Christmas bonus of $250 bucks on a TV ever again. You could put $250 into savings, sure. Then next month you’d get a bill with a late payment penalty on it for two months delinquent charges on your utility bill and your $250 would be gone. Or you could keep paying the minimum payment and then go watch Dr. Who on your brand new Vizio flatscreen. Yeah. I’m getting more mileage out of the TV. The doctor wisks me away to distant universes. What have you ever done for me?

#45 When You Grow Up Poor…

…you wear your older brother’s tighty whiteys when he is old enough to get a job and start buying boxer shorts. Boxer shorts become a lofty goal that you will reach for for years. You walk around at school, constantly and obsessively self-conscious that all of your classmates have X-ray vision and can see straight through your Wal-Mart khaki cargo pants and know that you’re still wearing tighty whiteys! It will take you several months into your 8th grade year to even realize, to your utter mortification and adding serious insult to injury, that you are wearing your brother’s undies wrong. Unlike the rest of the world, you are too poor to put your pants on “one leg at a time”. Wasting your time getting dressed slowly is for the upper middle class. So you step into your brother’s underwear which is too small for you now and just pull ’em right up to their resting place, a little too snugly around your waist. By pulling your undies up this way, your weener and berries end up being pulled up along with your undies and pinned in a bulge between you and said undies. You don’t look at other people’s crotches (at least not yet anyway) and so you don’t know that having a weenerberry bulge in 8th grade is not common. It will take a very embarrassing public humiliation incident to call this to your attention.

When you turn 14 you can get a job and finally have money and do whatever you want with your life. So you get a job at a pizza place. With your first paycheck you make almost $40. You go to Structure at the mall and they have a sale on boxer shorts. You buy two pair and wear one out of the store. You’re free! Literally and metaphorically! You start the practice of sagging your pants because you want people to see that you wear boxers like every other man on earth. Then you realized you are wearing the same two pairs of boxers over and over again and so you stop sagging.

Ultimately, you’ve improved your life drastically in the weenerberry arena. You walk around school confidently, swaying freely in the breeze, kind of sort of hoping that someone would pants you.

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