This month I needed to earn some extra cash. Fortunately, overtime at work became available. In addition, I decided to take a seasonal part-time job. If that wasn’t enough I had a bright idea to give plasma. Working on fine tuning personality flaws and various levels of unhealthy habits takes time, but physically rebuilding your kingdom takes money. Allow me to get a little materialistic.
Riding around on a Whatcom Transit Authority bus from Fairhaven to Bakerview, I’m on my way to sell plasma. If I make a “donation” of plasma which, incidentally, stated in the fine print, will be used for scientific research, five times within 30 days they will pay me $300. That’s 300 bucks! This seems like an easy way to make money so I take two buses and walk three blocks in the rain on a Saturday morning to get there. Literally, licking my lips, thinking about how I’ll spend the introductory payment of 50 bucks.
Checking in I’m handed a large happy-blue laminated card with my name written in dry marker. The card uses pictures and simple words to illustrate how the next two hours of my day will unfold. The six stages of plasma donation are: check-in, exam, survey, blood test, donation (relax) and reschedule. At each stage, the clerk initials it. “Your card is blue so the staff will see you are a NEW person.”
This is a large building, tall ceilings, bright and clean with the slight smell of bleach. The place is full of activity, full of donors. Downtrodden, impatient faces wait in roped lines, these are my people. Middle-aged people who need to supplement their income seem to be the majority of the donators. It enrages me. How is it so many people who should be far into their careers making decent money be HERE selling plasma?
Rebuilding a life takes time and patience, oh, and money. Without any thought of where to pitch my castle, I sort of selected the worst place to do it, well the 50th worst place. The city of Bellingham is ranked number 50 in America’s top 50 worst cities to live in due to the high cost of homes. The financial news and opinion website 24/7 Wall St reported: “The median home value is 7.3 times greater than the median income, making Bellingham one of the least affordable cities in the county.” The cost of living is way up, wages are too low.
Nationwide, the picture is even more discouraging for those with gilded aspirations. The Pew Research Center compared the annual income of a middle-class household in 1979 to those in 2011. In 1979 the average middle-class household brought in $61,542. In 2011 it only increased 17% to $72,036. “The EPI estimates that if middle-class household incomes had kept pace with the top 1% between 1979 and 2011, they would have had an average annual income of $156,318 in 2011.”
The residual middle-class habits still exist. Often I shop for new cars online, look at homes for sale, window shop at expensive shoe stores downtown and flip through racks in boutiques, I’ll sneak into an art gallery or a furniture store make a mental list of what I like then lie to myself saying “when I can, I need to come back and get this.” WHY do I do this to myself? WHY do I believe one day I’ll own a home? Today, after seven years of living on my own I am ready to face my reality. Unless something significant happens, I’ll never return to a middle-class lifestyle. The time of personal kingdom building is over!
The plasma place rejected me for donation.
I came up one vein short.
“You’ve only got one good vein. You need two for a donation. We do that for your safety.
You have to wait three weeks before you can be seen again.”
Let me run around the block for a half hour.
Drink some water or something…
No 50 bucks today.
No 300 bucks by mid-October.
That was a power bill, a phone bill, lunch money, school money. It was money!
At the first bus stop on the way home, I wait 20 minutes for the 232 back with three other folks. I notice they are in their 60’s, 70’s limping, carrying bags of groceries, backpacks, their mouths turned down, pressed tight. They are my future. What I may become.
We sit there in silence, in the rain.
fuck this day.