Curse of the City - a rambling rant

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I'm feeling better now... of course you didn't know I was feeling less well earlier, but you almost did a few hours ago. I was pissed/frustrated/tired/feeling guilty when I got home and I almost ranted here... but I was hungry and a bowl of cereal is not conducive to typing a rant, so I cooled my heels. A few episodes of Law & Order and six innings of pre-season baseball, and I'm not quite so exasperated with life.

I don't even know where to start, but I guess it starts with the seemingly irrelevant American Idol results show... or perhaps that work has been especially stressful the last week and a half, but the American Ido results show was the boiling point where the excitement of too much to do changed into more stress than I wanted to handle.

So, Chris Sligh, a guy I'd hoped would make it far in the competition got voted off the show on Wednesday. This shouldn't have been remarkable, but I was primed to be pissed, so it pissed me off. As a result, I surfed the internets later than normal (watching amusing JibJab clips) and when I finally decided to go to sleep on Thursday morning, I couldn't. Not quite sure why, but the things I've been putting off started lining up in my head and I didn't get much sleep.

Thursday I woke up ten minutes late (because I was tired) and so in my rush to get to work, I forgot my wallet. Of course I had managed to take extra time to find my contact lens prescription and some other stuff I needed to do. So, wallet-less I got to the El station and realized my horrible morning (it had taken 15 minutes in the shower to feel semi-human) was going to turn into a long day.

Fortunately, I had a few bucks in my pocket, so I could afford the train fare to work, but I was late, which probably wasn't appreciated by my boss since we had 170 wires to send on Thursday. Still, I came out okay at work because I've been putting in some extra hours the last two weeks to get ready for Thursday's onslaught. The new bank wire system that I've been tasked to head up the switchover finally paid some dividends and saved about three hours of work for me. You would think this was good, but all it let me do was pack more work into a day where I already felt hungover, despite the lack of alcohol on Wednesday.

On Thursday night, I was planning on going to sleep early, but I was also really hungry. When I came home, I turned on the oven to make some dinner and then promptly forgot about it and went to do some work in my room. Then, I was going to go to sleep, but Eric needed his cake pan back and I realized the oven was on, so I made dinner... and then sat on the couch to eat... and flipped on the TV... and then it was a commercial break so I wanted to check my email... and then I had to balance my checkbook after closing on my condo... and then it was midnight and I hadn't gotten to bed early at all.

After not being able to get to sleep again last night, I again woke up late, but managed to remember my wallet and still get to work within my 'grace period.' Fortunately, today was much less stressful than yesterday, so at lunch I had time to go down to ForEyes and order contact lenses and then stop in at Walgreens to buy $20 of flex-spending-eligible medical expenses. Both the contacts and the Walgreens stuff was because I thought today was the deadline for using my remaining 2006 Flex spending account. Of course, after dropping $90 because it was "use it or lose it" I logged into the system and found out that the deadline was March 15. Crap! I submitted the Flex Spending request and wrote a note on the claim explaining that I thought the grace period ended on 3-31... but they'll probably charge it to 2007, which translates into a loss of the $90 I had in the account from 2006 and $90 off my 2007 balance. So, it's essentially a loss of $180 on stuff I didn't need.

After returning from lunch, I also paid the $100 I need to renew my license plate for the year. That sucks.

Around two, my boss announced she would be leaving an hour early. Normally when she does this and we're not doing anything, she tells us we can go home, too. So I was sort of expecting it... but she didn't... and there wasn't anyone else around who could tell me I could go early, so I was stuck staying til five.

Around 4:40, I called GEICO to cross off the third item on my to-do list. I need Condo Insurance so the Mortgage doesn't default... I figured that since they advertise that it takes 15 minutes, I'd be done right around 5:00. Well, it does take about 15 minutes, but GEICO informed me that I had to have two policies: Landlord's insurance for the first two months while my tenant is in there, and Condo insurance afterward. So what do they do? They fill out all the paperwork for the Condo insurance FIRST, and then tell me the Condo insurance can't be started if I don't live there... so then I have to get Landlord's insurance. Without giving me my policy #, the agent tells me she's going to put me on hold for a moment and transfer the information to the landlord's insurance. I say 'alright' and then wait for 25 minutes while she does whatever the hell she was doing. By the time she finally picks up again, it's 5:30 and I've been sitting at work on a Friday half an hour after quiting time... on hold! It then takes 15 minutes for the Landlord's policy and then she informs me that I have to pay a minimum of 6 months for each policy, even though I only need the landlord stuff for two minutes. ("Oh, it's not a problem, you'll get a credit when you cancel.")

So, by the time I get out of work at 5:40 on Friday, I've dropped $400 bucks, and the only thing I actually wanted out of all that was my $6 lunch. ERG!

So what happens? I get to the EL platform and have to wait 20 minutes for a train to come by. We go one stop down the tracks and then the train stops for another 10 minutes before continuing on. Finally we get to my stop and I'm walking west toward my car when a crippled homeless guy nearly runs into me walking the other way. I'm already pissed and I'm about ready to start yelling at this guy, but I have more sense than to yell at a crippled homeless guy. So, I'm walking down the stairs to my car thinking about the short prayer I had said this morning after dropping the F-bomb because someone cut me off while I was trying to park (of course on a day like today, I had to park a block further up because of too many cars).

So, I'm already feeling guilty because my temper fuse has been EXTREMELY SHORT this week. I get into the car, turn around and am stopped at a light driving east when I see the crippled homeless guy hobbling as fast as he possibly can, shouting for the bus at the stop to wait. I suddenly feel bad for the guy because I can see he's struggling to cover ground, rather than running into me. My first reaction was that he really was out of place hoping to catch the bus since he still had to cross four lanes of street and the bus was already loading, but then I thought the bus driver was waiting for him because the bus waited forever... and then when the man was about ten feet from the bus door, the bus just pulls away and leaves the crippled guy breathing diesel exhaust.

Now, I don't care how tired you are, but if you've seen a crippled guy hobbling as fast as he can toward a bus and then it just pulls away, you'll feel bad for him. And then imagine you read your bible last night and you were reading in James and this particular verse stuck out to you and you've been thinking about it every time you pass by a homeless guy downtown:

Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins.
James 4:17

So you have compassion for a guy who's just been left (literally) in the dust by a bus and that verse pops into your head, and the voice in your head says: "Maybe I should drive that guy wherever he's going."

And then another voice pops up. "It's the wrong way. Look at that guy. I'll bet he smells," (don't forget you can't actually smell), "I don't think he's bathed in two weeks. What if he wanted to take that bus pretty far? Look at the seat next to me. It's got a newspaper and some Granola bar wrappers in it. I'd have to put them in the back. I'm tired."

So what did I do? I turned north. I literally turned my back on the guy. And then I spent the next ten minutes trying to make excuses. Another bus is coming... It wouldn't be safe for me to pick up a complete stranger, especially in that part of town... I'm tired.

And then the guilt sets in and I'm just feeling like a total schmuck.

The guilt is a new thing. I didn't really used to feel bad, but city living is tough. I want to move back to Valparaiso. We don't have homeless... we don't have poor... you don't have to pass a dozen beggars on the way to work. How did Jesus manage? Did he ever just pass by a beggar because he was tired? How can I live in the city and get to and from work? I'd have to leave three hours early and arrive home at midnight. I can't help everyone, so I don't try. Dumb as it may sound, I read an article about that today (Numbed by Numbers by Paul Slovic).

Two weeks ago, our pastor was in Africa, so the youth minister delivered the sermon. It was a disaster by most accounts... except he talked about the Good Samaritan and related it to a guy he passed while he was downtown. It was a way I'd never thought of that story... and suddenly I have another passage to add to my growing list of "least favorite bible passages" that are convicting me and needling at my conscience.

Anyhow, so I'm struggling with a lot of things right now, but majorly struggling with the fact that God regularly speaks to me, pointing out opportunities to help, and I routinely ignore him. Why? Why can't I just listen to God? It's not like I don't know he's talking to me... I'm just always 'too busy.' Why can't I change?

1 Comment

Yeah, I hear you! Thanks for the article link. I think that's why sponsoring just one child can make such an impact. (in our lives and theirs) I've got several of those pots bubbling on my stove-top conciousness.. both the situations where I know what I should do, and then the ones that just tug at my heart even if I'm murky on the solution. There are two kids that I really got to know working at stars, Adolfo and Perla. From what I hear they are not doing well at all in school right now, and need some serious intervention. I am full of reasons why its not practical for me to be that person- Samantha, my class load, the unpaid church internship that is rapidly surpassing the ten hour a week mark and heading on towards 15.. but there's still the knowledge that if they were my kids somehow I would make the time... Another one is the guy, Mr Donald Morton, who reminds me sooo much of Grandpa Jesse its just a little weird. He's about the same height, similar build, a WWII vet (80+), and deaf for the same reasons.. He's homeless, always scruffy, and sets up camp routinely right around Fuller. I come out of my night class at 10 on my way home to a nice warm bed with soft sheets and he's there sittting on a 5 gallon bucket or covered up with cardboard. there are times when I miss Valpo too... but then again I'm not sure what's worse; having these situations make us routinely feel uncomfortable and occasionally guilty or never having to think about them in the first place because we are so insulated..