Friday, May 02, 2008

The Pawn Shop Memories

Mish had a post that hit me hard for how it reminded me of the challenges of my youth.

The post features two links, one about how the pawnshop business is booming as people hand over things to get instant cash.

"We never saw so many people in here 30 and younger," Society Hill associate Damien Robinson said. He spoke as a 22-year-old Neumann College graduate walked out with a $75 loan on her Dell laptop computer. "What are young people going to do for rent now that apartments are so expensive?"

I never got cash for things from a pawn shop in my youth, but I have had to sell furnishing to pay the rent and buy food in the past. The stress of living like that is incredible, and that was happening to me in the later 80s.

Being down on your luck is hard, but the attitude in the economy when I was young was very much to blame young people for the position they found themselves in. The position I found myself in was because my mother had died when I was a child and I held some illiquid assets I had bought with insurance money. It made me ineligible for student loans. After I had sold everything in my home that I could, I was forced to make a choice between quitting university or selling those assets for 40c on the dollar.

Dealing with this kind of thing is hard enough on its own, but it was tied to my mother, who died tragically at age 32. Dealing with it brought all the pain and grief of losing her as if it had been yesterday. It was like she died twice.

But, like I said, there was a lot of blame. I was an emotional wreck. I ended up dropping one class, finding a part-time job, but I was too distraught to manage everything. I let one class slide figuring I could bring it back up when I was better able to handle it. I failed the first test miserably. My professor, Dr. Slessor, had joked with me before class daily until that test. After I was greeted with a coldness that could save the world from global warming.

After about six weeks I was getting through the days without breaking down like you do when you are in the midst of tragic grief. I suppose I'd pulled it together enough to pull an 80 on my next exam with that prof. He'd heard I was having a rough time and he apologized for his abominable behaviour, but getting that kind of kick when you are down, and from a professor that has been a recipient of an award for excellence in teaching, it really didn't undo the damage. What was the apology for, to suggest it would have been OK behaviour had I not been in distress?

And then there was the guy that helped me put my sign up on my property. I heard through someone else that lived in the neighbourhood that he'd been bragging he took my sign down as soon as I drove away as he knew I was in a forced sale position and figured he could squeeze me for an even lower price if I had no interested buyers.

So, for me, reading that post brings back the memories of selling my TV, my early generation computer games - colecovision, and all the pain that goes with it. I supposed I managed to sell enough stuff to pay the bills for about a month, but then it gets to what do you do for the next month? I got the part-time job, I had a credit card and I planned to finish my semester and then wait until I saved enough for each semester.

I've been an advocate for how bad things are for young people since the 97 census. I worked that census and I saw 3 single young people living one bedroom apartments due to under employment and low wages. I always managed to have a home where I had my own room, yet for over 11 years there has been young people who have not managed to do this, and never mind sharing a 1 bedroom unit, there were several with 3 people sharing. There are 11 years of this kind of thing getting worse.

I constantly run into people who talk about how they had to get 2 jobs when they were young to get where they are today and they fail to see the wealth of opportunity they had simply because jobs were abundant. The wages these people are making means you probably need more than 2 jobs to make ends meet.

It is interesting the comment of the woman trading her watch in for $20 for gas. She is not poor, but "middle-class."

I tend to think she grew up middle class, but her standard of living has declined.


Kelechi said...

Good post. It's nice to see you've turned things around in your life financially. Also thanks for returning to this traditional format post and not that docstoc crap.

Deborah said...

Sorry for the docstoc posting. I do it simply because the tools to post with graphs, pictures and such are absolute garbage. It can take hours to get a table on your blog and then modifying or finding an error you know is there is a nightmare.