Vermont gets cold.
Winter lasts a long time. It is March and it snowed last night. I’m glad to be inside. Most days I’m trudging through whatever weather to work. But today I have the day off.
And I’m warm enough and so is my family.
Friday night I was scared we wouldn’t be. We ran out of oil. I was hoping what little we had left in the tanks would stretch until warmer weather or until I could find a better-paying job, whichever came first; both seeming equally elusive right now.
But Friday night, the worst possible night for such things, hope sputtered out and the temperature in our house started dropping. I thought of my ill husband. I thought of our 19-year-old cat with his thin skin.
I thought of Edgar Allan Poe’s cat providing warmth to the impoverished writer’s dying wife; they couldn’t afford heat.
We can’t afford heat. We also really can’t afford the additional cost of an “emergency” oil delivery either. But I leaned on my already strained credit to get us oil that night.
Maybe we could have toughened it out till Monday when there would be no extra charge. Maybe our two-year-old long-haired cat would have been kind enough to act as an extra quilt. Maybe odds are our older cat would have survived the weekend anyway without costly intervention.
But I’d rather not rely on playing the odds when it comes to taking care of my family. Yet, that is often what being poor means, with stakes a lot higher than the stocks in one’s portfolio dipping a little.
How delinquent can you be before electricity gets shut off? What are the rules of eviction? Can you use the food pantry more than once a month?
People of means do not ask such questions nor do they lie awake worrying about such things.
Keeping the car insured takes up a lot of grocery money. A fifteen-dollar co-pay for medicine is at least three meals. Muffins closer to the expiration date get marked down 50%.
People with means don’t spend time making such comparisons.
Yet our government – and much of the private sector, actually — is full of people with means making decisions about things far removed from their daily experience and, at the end of their privileged place-at-the-table day, of little consequence to their world.
Just a little food for thought for those of us who have trouble affording any other kind.