Working Class Poverty

published July 12, 2014

I was on my way home today and the idling problem, you know the way my car shakes and wheezes a little at traffic lights? Well. It does. I think it always did. I bought it used and for the most part it-

It’s been reliable. It’s a Toyota Corolla I bought used six years ago, with over a hundred and fifty thousand miles on it. I’ve put another 50 on it. So it has an idling problem. If I could afford to have it fixed I wouldn’t have bought it in the first place. I bought it like a used pair of pants for a job interview. Will these do? Just let them do. And I’ll drop some money in the next guy’s cup I see.

I was on my way home today (got the job, months ago, top of the world ma!) and the usual shake and wheeze finally turned into a shudder. A cough. And poof. I had no car anymore. A homeless guy helped me push it to the side of the road and once it was there I knew it was really gone.

“It’s nice.”

“It’s not.”

“Well. It’s relative.”

“I hear you. Sorry. Thanks for helping me push.”

“We could get it a little farther.”

“Farther? Where did you have in mind?”

The homeless man introduced himself then as Benny and I suddenly felt like an asshole. I told him my name,

“Dave.”

And he told me it was nice to meet me in a way that I knew I had a pass from him. If he’d been a guy waiting for the bus or another driver of course I’d have exchanged names with him sooner. But Benny, I probably wouldn’t have asked. I was too concerned with what happens next to acknowledge this guy in front of me.

Benny didn’t have it easy. I could tell. Why? Because he was homeless? I don’t know. There I go ass holing it up again. What the hell do I know about Benny other than the crap I project onto him. He’s helpful and seems like an everyday guy. Except for the fact he has a strong odor and visible dirt in the all the places you’d expect from a guy who has been out here a while.

“We could push it up to this underpass. Out of the way.”

He was right. It was a good place and not too far. Gravity was in our favor. We got it rolling again and to the underpass. The temperature dropped like we’d walked into a department store. Deep shade and a breeze getting pushed through.

“Damn!”

“You should feel it at night.”

Benny was home I realized. I thanked him, gave him the keys, and started walking. He followed alongside asking me what the game was.

“It’s dead Benny. That car has been dying a slow death for months, years even. But it’ll keep you a little warmer there won’t it?”

Benny still wasn’t having any. I didn’t get it. But I got that there was something I should be getting so I stopped and looked at him.

“I’d have to pay to have it hauled away. Tell you what. How about I come down there with the title tomorrow and sign it over to you?”

Benny still looked like he didn’t trust me, but slid the keys in his pocket.

“Don’t come tomorrow. Come Sunday.”

“Okay Benny. I’ll come back Sunday.”

I walked about a mile to a gas station and called a car service. I didn’t work again until Monday and getting a ride home meant peanut butter and jelly till then.

It’s impossible to feel sorry for yourself after spending any amount of time with someone living on the street, but I managed to do it anyway. I had a bottle of Scotch I’d been saving. I swiped it from a company party. The caterer let me do it and I was grateful. I couldn’t believe they bothered to throw us a holiday thing in the first place, but I guess it was cheaper than bonuses. Anyway. It was a little over half empty when I took it and I finished it over the course of several sandwiches. I wasn’t falling down just sort of pleasantly toasted for 18 hours.

It was a real shit show. Crying. I called my brother in Minneapolis and told him how much easier it was for him and how he never had to worry about the things I had to worry about. It went on forever. He was a pretty good sport and promised he’d call me next weekend when we were both sober.

It was at the height of this pity party that I found that at some drunken point I’d pulled out my car title and signed it over simply to “Benny.” I got on my piece of shit old bicycle and started peddling down there with it. It was only about 12 miles or so and not a bad ride. I almost felt sober by the time I got down there.

To make a long story short when I went to look for Benny sleeping away in my old dead Corolla I instead found him standing beside it.

“Did you ever even use it man?”

Benny had a pretty big smile on his face. I slapped the title down on the hood of the car and asked what his last name was.

“Save it man. Check this out.”

Then Benny climbed into the driver’s seat and turned it over. Sounded better than ever. He stood up and left it running and there was no shudder, no wheezing. It wasn’t purring like a kitten or anything, but it was a solid motor sound. A reliable growl even. What the hell if there was still a small hole in the muffler and rust just about everywhere?

“Holy shit Benny! How’d you do that?”

It was nothing he told me. Something about build up in the throttle body. It was part the excitement and part the booze, but I tripped over my bike and fell on the ground beside him. He picked me up. And then the bastard drove me home. I didn’t have to tell him twice this time when I told him to keep my old bike.

I don’t appreciate shit, but Benny? I love that guy.