04 June 2015

water, money, and DVDs

on the way home i heard this story on the radio about how the detroit city government is shutting off people's water. not randomly, of course. these people haven't paid their bills for quite some time. it's like 18,000 people in arrears on their water bills to the tune of $47million.

i can't find a transcript for the story, and i don't remember if it was last year or before that - but - most of these same people were not paying their water bills in a previous time. at that time, the water department arranged to put them on payment plans, so that they could keep their water on and so that the city could recoup some of the cost of filtering and piping the water out.

so, these people have been given a lot of help towards paying their bills, but i get it -- detroit is a pit of poverty, so where are they supposed to get this money to pay for this water?

at this point, i am feel pretty compassionate and wondering if i can help these people out and whatnot, when they make it personal and start talking to one particular detroitian. she's a single mom of a nine-year old girl, trying to make ends meet. during the past year, her daughter has been sick and in the hospital, putting even more pressure on funds. she talked about robbing peter to pay paul, choosing between water or food or electricity or medical bills.

part of the story captured her calling the water company to find out her total balance and to see what she could do to keep the water on. her total balance is $587 and now i am totally on board with writing her a damn check. tell me where to send it, kai ryssdol -- tell me where to send the check!

and then, just like that, in a blink, i am over it. why? well, as this single mom continued to talk about what she could do to get some money to pay part of this water bill, she said she guessed she could pawn the DVD player.

okay. what?

see, this where it all breaks down for me. why the hell haven't you already pawned the DVD player? why the hell do i think you should pawn your DVD player? back and forth i go.

on the one hand, how can you keep a luxury like a DVD player when you can't pay your bills? on the other hand, if you were to pawn it you might get like $50, and how far will that go? i guess it comes down to making an effort to get your bills paid. if you have a DVD player, have you made that effort?

i want her to prove her worthiness before i spare any more compassion, not to mention that money i was on the verge of forking over. if i were to pay her water bill, what then? maybe she's really in need, but that DVD player is testament that she's not. i could pay her water bill and then she'd go out and get more DVDs.

on the one hand, that's terrible. she's cheated me and made a fool of me. on the other hand, why do i care? on the other hand, why am i reading so much into one (likely near worthless) piece of technology? on the other hand, why isn't she (or the reporter) reading more?

there will be no conclusions today.

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