Monday, January 11, 2010

A Horrible Saturday with a Small, Silver Lining

I’ve had one full day to mull over the train wreck that was this past Saturday.  And the only logical way I can see explaining the events is by first listing a few facts.


  • I’ve been trying to stay afloat financially, since I’ve been waiting for several weeks for my four separate student loans to get consolidated, thus lowering the four individual payments (total=$212) into one lump payment of somewhere around $50.
  • I’ve always had a heart for the homeless and those in need, especially after all the things that our Sunday School class has been doing.
  • It snowed and snowed and snowed on Wednesday night, Thursday, and all day Friday, dropping a few inches of snow and ice onto Western Kentucky.
  • A light on my dashboard kept popping up.  I bought my car (used) in July.
  • Mine and Keisha’s cell phones were both eligible for upgrades.
  • We got a grant that let us pay off all our credit card debt, which happened on Thursday.

Now that the facts are out there, I hope this may make more sense.  Though I don’t believe in luck, I have bad luck.  And, as Keisha said Saturday night lying in bed, the world took a big crap on me that day.


Keisha has to take her Praxis Saturday morning.  Since the roads are still snowy/icy, I’ll drive her over to the test site.  While I’m out on the town at 7:30 am, I need to stop by the grocery store and pick up a few things.  Cinnamon, Bread, Doritos, Keisha’s birthday present.  Check, check, check, and check.

Next up I think I’ll head on over to the Toyota dealer and let them check out this light that keeps coming on, since that’s what the manual recommends.  “Sir, it’s going to cost you $55 to run the diagnostic test on your car to see what’s the problem,” says the very nice Nichole.  “That’s okay,” I answered, figuring as much.  “You can wait in the lounge.  There’s coffee and a cappuccino machine.”  So I fix my beverage of choice, plop down at a chair and pull out Boneshaker.  (Always, always have a book with you.  That’s a word of strong advice.)

The minutes and pages pass and Nichole returns.  “I noticed that you needed an oil change around 300 miles ago.  We can do it here with the actual Toyota oil that goes in and we’ll get it winterized, too.”  “How much?”  “$33.”  Knowing that I need this done anyway, I give the go ahead.

More minutes more pages later and back comes Nichole.  “The test is giving an error code for your car that’s somewhat common (not too common, but not too uncommon, either).  Blah blah blah.  Your computer is dying and needs replacing.  Blah blah blah.   $750.”  That’s when a sinking, sick feeling connected.  I explain how I just bought the car a few months ago and it may be under some kind of extended warranty.  I say I’ll call and check and get back with her on whether or not to order the part. 

A phone call later and the gut feeling is worse.  No extended warranty after 90k miles.  I’m at 107k.  Nichole has more good news.  Thankfully she was kind and understanding about my plight.  “While doing the oil inspection we noticed that your tires are getting pretty bald.  Blah blah blah.  $510 or $380.”  Aha, I have a secret weapon here.  “My uncle is a manager at a tire store and I can get my tires there, much cheaper.  And go ahead and order that part.  I’ll apply for 90 days same as cash.”

So I leave the dealer and decide that the local bookstore will make me feel better.  I get there and call my Uncle Brian, who happens to be a bit sick.  I tell him all about the stuff and he says that he can probably order part and put it in at a much cheaper cost, in addition to the tires.  So I drive back to the dealer, pay for the diagnostic test and oil change, and tell Nichole to hold off on the computer purchase.  A little happier, I head to the bookstore.

Within two minutes of entering the store, a man approaches me and begins talking.  He’s wearing a ragged looking jacket with his hood up.  “I’m stranded here.  I broke down last night in Evansville, got a ride from Henderson to here, and now I’m waiting on my momma to come pick me up from Louisville.  If you can give me $14 I can have some place to stay until Tuesday.” 

Here it is.  After discovering that I’m going to be out a wad of cash I get approached by a stranger asking for more money.  How…fitting.  “I don’t have any cash on me, but if you want to ride with me to the ATM I can get some.”  On our way to the ATM I explain how I’d love to be able to give him more, but I just found out about my car problems.  He understands.  At the ATM he tells me that for $54 he can hop a bus that will take him back to Louisville.  I tell him I can’t do that, but I give him $30 and ask if there’s somewhere he’d like me to take him.  His name is Sean.

We drive down the street and we talk for a bit.  Eventually he asks if I think Wal-Mart would have any shoes.  Heartbroken, afflicted, upset, worried, confused, but eager, I say yes.  We go to Wal-Mart and he picks out two pair of shoes.  Unfortunately, the shoes aren’t the price he tells me, and I tell him that I can’t get both of them.  They’re going on credit, after all.  So he picks out one pair and we leave.  I tell him I want to get him lunch and then I have to go pick up Keisha from her test. 

We drive to McDonalds.  He asks for two Big Macs.  I want a Diet Coke.  I ask him if he has a Bible, he says no, and I give him one of mine.  (I always try to keep Bibles in the car to give to someone, just in case.)  Sean asks me to drop him off at Subway and he’ll go in and eat his Big Macs and read his Bible.  I tell him I’ll pray for him.  He asks me to pray for him there in the car, so I do, and then he leaves.

I drive and pick up Keisha.  I tell her how I spent two hours and $80 with a stranger.  I tell her about my car.  I tell her I’m hungry and want to go to Arby’s.  While there, we’re eating and Sean walks in with another man.  I’m not sure if he sees me, but I don’t say or do anything.  My mind is too exhausted.

We leave and go to AT&T to get Keisha a new phone and to look at one for me.  The one I want is $179 new at the store, $99 new online, and $0 refurbished online.  I say I’ll get mine on the internet.  Keisha gets her a $0 phone at the store.  She’s happy, I’m happy, and we head home.  I hop on the computer to order my free refurbished one and discover that it’s no longer available.  Again, the world dumps a load on me.  I resign myself to having a bad day and a case of misfortune.


I guess I should mention that Saturday night was poker night.  I knew there was no way I was going to do any good, but I went any way.  With a day like Saturday I stood no chance.  There were 21 guys from church, each with a $5 buy-in, but I went out early.  Heck, on my last hand I went All In with pocket kings, but I didn’t get anything on the subsequent cards to help me.  Oh well, it was fun.

Saturday’s also taught me a bit about trusting in God.  Financially I tithe, and of my time I tithe, but still I have some small worries about money.  Deep down, I know that God will provide and take care of everything, but it’s still a bit disheartening to know that credit card debt was erased and replaced two days later.  It’s disheartening to have a relatively new car that’s having these kinds of problems.  It’s disheartening that there are people trying to live and survive in this world and most people turn them away.  The world’s a crazy place, filled with both beauty and vile.  I do what I can to make it a bit more shiny, even if I have bad days.


Crystal said...

How did you get a grant to pay off your credit card debt?

I totally understand car problems. I need a new timing belt, water pump, thermostat, my tires are almost bald and every once in a while it will die on me for no reason. Oh, and I have no extra money after my bills are paid.

I'm sorry to hear about the homeless guy you helped out. I believe that God puts people like that in our lives to test our hearts.

logankstewart said...

Crystal: The grant was actually for Keisha's schooling. Since she has a scholarship that pays for tuition, any extra aid (i.e. federal grants) that we qualify for comes to us as a check to use for whatever we need (housing, etc.) This has been a huge part of our budget for these past two years.

Yeah, money pretty much sucks. Sorry about your car, too. Best of luck on getting it how you want it.

Yeah, tests are always fun, eh? I hope I passed, but somehow I feel like I came up short, too.

David Wagner said...

Dang, that's a lot to have to deal with in a single day. My guess is that God puts it on those that can take it, which must mean you have both the heart and the strength. Probably doesn't make it any easier to deal with.

Hoping tomorrow's post starts out "Wow, with as bad a day as I had on Saturday, wait till I tell you how awesome my Monday was!"

logankstewart said...

Dave: Yeah, I kind of felt overloaded by the end of the day. Like God said, "let's open the floodgates and pour it out on him today." But thanks for the encouraging words.

Stephanie Fey said...

Hi Logan,

It's odd but you were on my mind over the weekend. I don't know why, but I just sensed that you weren't having a good time of it, so I made a point of checking your blog a few times today to see if there was anything there.

I'm sorry that you've had a bad time of it, really I am. I don't have any words of comfort - I think the previous comments have given you great insight and advice. I think the best therapy was writing it down, structuring it and being clear on what it was that made it a bad day.

I'm just going to say one thing, that's all, and I hope it means something to you. And it's the same thing that your wife and Keisha will tell you and no doubt do. You're a great guy. Never change.

Steph Fey x

logankstewart said...

Steph: Y'know, I tend to find writing or playing my guitar or piano very therapeutic. Thanks for the kind words. Keisha tells me that, too.

Kristopher A. Denby said...

I think the car problems would have been enough to sink me in terms of morale, but you're right to put your problems in a higher power. Give them up and move on. It gets better.

As far as the guy asking for money goes, I have very mixed feelings about that. We have a large panhandling population here in Austin. With a very liberal social mentality it is easy for them to get hand outs and you end up seeing the same faces year after year all over town. I try to give food or something to drink rather than money.

logankstewart said...

Yuck, a spammer. And even past the robot tester word, too.

Denby: Aye, I don't typically give as much cash as I did, but this was a case where I did. Our homeless/panhandling population here in OBKY is rather low, as most of them stay in shelters, but there are still some. It always depends on the situation, I think.

marky said...

Ah, mate. You got stung by the ‘I need money to get home’ line. It’s been used on me so many times.

Over here we’ve got a magazine called the big issue. The homeless sell it for a pound, and they get to keep some of the money. I always thought this was a good idea as it gives a modicum of self respect back to the people that sell it.

Glasgow, unfortunately, has a lot of homeless people. Most, if not all of them have substance abuse problems. I’ve been threatened with needles, chased junkies who are shooting up outside my flat, and have witnessed the aftermath of family members who have been robbed.

I’m reading into the wild just now, and I can see how bumming your way across the USA or world could be rewarding, but the real life story for most of these folks is one of poor upbringing and substance abuse. It’s a social problem, and people like your good self, and the few people that care enough to make a difference are sadly few and far between.

Again, I can only speak for the society I live in, but I feel that we are now becoming a society of people who don’t care anymore.

We see war, murders ect, ect on the TV all the time and it’s getting to the stage it’s not effecting us in the same way it used to. We’ve become insulated from the world. Most people are happy to see it as they drive by it secure in their own cars. But try and get them to give up a bit of their time to help an old neighbour out, or spend five minutes chatting about a homeless persons troubles and you’ll see the true nature of what we’ve become. Most people would rather give up money than five minutes of their time to make somebody feel human again.

I’m glad there are people like you on this planet. But why when we are becoming vastly over populated to a world destroying level, aren’t there more like you?

logankstewart said...

Marky: Yeah, and I hope Sean was telling the truth and was really just trying to get back home. My heart beats for the homeless and people in need, and I guess I'll keep on trying to help where and when I can.

I read Into the Wild back in 2008 and found it fascinating. I felt sad for Alexander Supertramp, but I also felt happy for him, too, and mad as well. What a life.

Once we all get desensitized to the world we might as well replace our human selves with robots.

Thank you for the kind words, friend, and I wish you the very best.

Kristopher A. Denby said...

I don't want to become desensitized to the world, but I can agree that we are to an extent. I could turn this into a rant about government, but I'll try and hold back.

I draw the line with children. Children are innocents in this world and did not have a hand in making their station in life. Whether good or bad. Adults can make choices that either benefit or hurt them. I am not unsympathetic to the plight of the homeless or poor (hell, I'm not wealthy by any stretch), but people in this country (USA) have every opportunity to better themselves. The difference between the ones who succeed in this goal amounts to the choices they make. If you choose to believe that you are no good, or that you have bad luck then you will be those things. Conversely, if you tell yourself that you are a winner and that you will better yourself or go down fighting to do so, chances are you will find that success. Obviously there are exceptions to everything like the mentally ill but I would guess they make up a small percentage of the whole population of poor and homeless.

I've just seen too many examples of people who have succeeded against all odds, who've come from nothing. The people who stand on the corner with their hands out are not choosing to better themselves or help themselves. Especially when we've got day labor stations all over the city where a man or woman can do an honest day's work for an honest day's pay.

Okay, sorry for all that. I just think that nothing is ever black and white, no matter what side of the line you fall on.

logankstewart said...

Denby: I completely agree with the children, and for the most part of the rest of what you say. However, as you pointed out, there are exceptions and things aren't black and white.

My Sunday School class is currently helping a family of 5 get by. Neither of them are able to drive, and that tremendously restricts their chance at getting a job, especially in a town where public transit is mostly non-existent and heavily restricted. The man walks everywhere he can, applying for jobs in order to take care of his family. As a temp, when he works, he's able to supply, but the work is very unsteady. He makes around $10k per year, and the Gov't said that was too much money for him and his family to qualify for any assistance. It is people like this that fall through the cracks and get screwed by the world, especially by the Gov't.

Perhaps some of the folks on the streets are too proud to be truthful about their situation, but at the bottom line they are still likely hungry and cold. Whether or not they are responsible for their plight is nearly irrelevant (in my opinion), and they'll likely never succeed against the odds unless people help them out. In cities that aren't large enough to have day labor stations (I've never heard of one), people have to find ways to survive, and one of those ways is looking for handouts on the street. While this isn't sustainable or practical, it is somewhat effective, especially if the person puts aside some cash and saves it for later use.

I just don't think it's very likely for the oppressed and poor to rise above the crap of the world and make it without outside help and intervention. There are the rare cases where they do, but again, just unlikely.

Tough issues, friend, and unfortunately we'll always have the poor and needy. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and great commenting!