Tuesday, August 09, 2011

An Unexpected Benefit

According to the Social Security Administration in 2007, I have been totally and permanently disabled since 2003. I did not know that I was disabled and continued to try to work with rather disastrous results to my health.

Thus, I have lived on very little money since my savings ran out in 2005; since then I have learned the ways of the poor. One of those is what an economist told me is called opportunity cost. It’s really quite simple: all resources are limited. When one decides to use a resource in one way, another way is blocked. That’s what I have done this month.

Twice last month I pawned my guitar at 240% APR. With the help of dear friends from Indianapolis, I retrieved it from the pawnshop the first time. I pawned it a second time at the end of the month because I was out of food and gasoline; I had an appointment at the V.A. hospital to have my hearing aids repaired and I did not want to break it becuase I had no fuel and have to wait another three months for another appointment to be able to hear again. I figured that I could retrieve it when my Social Security check arrived on August 3rd.

Like so much in life these days, that plan went down the drain.  Due to my low income, I am exempt from paying the $8.00/month/prescription co-pay required by the Veterans Administration. Until last year, I did not realize that the VA took into my account medical costs as deductions from one’s income; so, prior to 2011 I was paying the $8.00/month/prescription co-pay required by the Veterans Administration.

At the end on 2010 I still owed the VA some of that co-pay and have been paying off the debt at what I could afford: $20.00/month. However, for a VA employee with a strong German accent named Hilda in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, that wasn’t fast enough. So she had the Treasury Department hold the reminder that I owed plus an extra $29.00 to Treasury for the privilege to do so from my August Social Security check. (VA still cashed my $20.00 August payment check; I wonder if I’ll ever have that money returned?)

Sooooo, the VA made an opportunity cost decision for me. I cannot retrieve my guitar from the pawnshop and pay my Direct-TV bill. Since the guitar is valued at close to $3,000.00 (and I love to pay it) I have chosen to retrieve that and let the TV go until next month.

Of course, Direct-TV has canceled my service until I pay the bill. That is the unexpected benefit of this fiasco. With no TV to numb my brain this month, I have been reading—reading a lot. I have read mysteries by Agatha Christie, Georges Simeon, Ellery Queen, Raymond Chandler, Dorothy Sayers, Rex Stout, and Ngaio Marsh. I have read from Malachy McCourt’s anthology, The Voices of Ireland.

And, most uniquely, I have begun reading again The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge by Carlos Castanda. I say “most uniquely” because with this reading I have gained just enough wisdom to begin to understand the book.

So, thank you Hilda in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, with the difficult to understand (even for one who speaks a bit the deutschsprachlich) German accent. You have blessed me with an unexpected and marvelous benefit.

The Teachings of Don Juan by Carlos Castanada


  1. I know all too well of the frustration you are going through. The govt. is taking its toll on my poor sister. She sold a wedding ring to make ends meet.

    I'm glad that you could see a positive outcome. TV is highly over rated.

    Keep your spirits high.

  2. u remind me its bin a long time since i read a mystery

  3. Congratulations for finding something good in this.

  4. I think more and more people are forced to make such choices these days.

  5. I think that you are finding yourself in a situation similar to a lot of people. That's not to say that I don't feel for ya! We are living in very different times from those of a few years back.

    I'm so glad that you chose your guitar over television! Reading and playing your guitar are much better for the brain and soul than television could ever be!

    Hang in there, Nick!