“I Can’t Pay the Rent” is Only Funny on Rocky and Bullwinkle

My cup of coffee is the rent I have paid to this local establishment for the use of this chair and their free Wi-Fi. I suspect the Wi-Fi is free to anyone who camps out here even if they don’t buy something. I’ve never actually done that because I like the coffee. Also, that’s sort of a douche move. Unless you legitimately can’t afford the coffee. Then you hope the baristas are friendly.

I am camped out at this locale, not for the ambiance (though that is quaint—Paul Simon is playing) but because I had to vacate my house for several hours while the inspector does his thing. I hope they don’t look in my underwear drawer. Just kidding. I don’t have any drawers. I am living out of plastic tubs. They better not look in my tubs.

So, I am writing a blog in a coffee shop while wearing clothes I got out of a tub, while my car (which is parked on the street) is full of junk. This is what temporary transience looks like. It is annoying but it beats more permanent transience. I tried that and I didn’t care for it. Fortunately, I am of sound body and mostly not too mentally deficient, so I was able to bootstrap myself out of that situation. Some folks aren’t as lucky; they don’t have bootstraps. Or boots. Or straps.

There is an essay called “On Dumpster Diving” by a man named Lars Eighner who went from homeownership to homelessness after a series of unfortunate economic difficulties. (I have not included a link out of respect for Eighner’s copyright.) In it, he documents his experiences living on the streets (with his dog because Eighner knows about pathos) but instead of being about how bad his life is, the essay is a how-to of making the most of transience and the goodies you find in the trash. Also, he explains what to do when your pup gets into fire ants. It’s not as bad as it sounds, apparently.

I made my students rhetorically analyze this essay last year and some of them even figured out that they were part of the target audience. The line between middle class comfort and first world poverty is closer than many of them realize. In my course, we also have a conversation about what “income-dependent socio-economic status” is. Many young people haven’t considered what happens to middle class folks when they can’t work for whatever reason.

So, while I am experiencing some temporary transience, I have been keenly aware of what actual transience might be like. I always wonder about the mysterious people behind the abandoned storage units on the TV show “Storage Wars.” What happened that they left all their stuff behind for human vultures to come along and bid on? Did they lose their jobs and thus their ability to pay for the storage? Did they go to prison? Did they die? I doubt they won the lottery and decided to move to Tahiti unencumbered by the possessions of their old lives, though I guess that’s a possibility. My money’s on death or taxes.

So, although my transience is self-inflicted and temporary, I can envision the sequence of decline, which might occur should I lose my job like Eighner did. It’s a sobering thought and I won’t spell it out here even though I’ve played it through in my head. Trust me, it isn’t pretty; my cats end up eating me.

In summation, transience is depressing and I want to go home. Stay out of my tubs.