Most of us have been poor at one point or another. Maybe you were flat broke in college, or immediately post graduation, or that fateful day six months after graduation when you had to begin repaying your student loans. Maybe you could make rent, but couldn’t eat. Or maybe you had to take up residence in the library for the free internet and books. The point is, it wasn’t that bad. In hindsight. On that note, here are the five best things about being broke.
5. That diet you’ve been meaning to go on…? Done. Also, the idea of extra food is rather astounding. You might even learn 30 different ways to cook ramen.
4. You started thrift shopping before it was cool. Now you’re a hipster. Win?
3. You’re rarely hung over because drinking requires money. And maybe, someday (soon, hopefully) wine will no longer come in a box.
2. You never have to be stuck in traffic as you can only afford to take the bus and train. It’s quite possible the bus is never on time, but you’ll get plenty of extra reading time in.
1. No matter what you have to do to scrape by, and I’ve had quite a few questionable (though not morally so) jobs*, you’ll never have to stoop to renting a moving truck, filling it up with empty glass beer bottles, and driving from Texas to Michigan to deposit the bottles at a recycling plant for ten cents apiece. If you haven’t done that, you’re doing okay.
Number one is the plot of the short story Michigan, Ten Cents by Doctor Gaines. Leon wants to be rich. The problem is he doesn’t want to work any harder than he already is – which isn’t that hard to begin with. He develops an unconventional scheme to make it happen. He begins by collecting empty beer bottles from behind dive bars. Leon encounters various issues on the road to realizing his dream, mostly involving guns, beer, and breaking glass.
Michigan, Ten Cents** is an absurd, mildly disturbing short story about the desire to make a little extra money. It very much follows the old adage in for a penny, in for a pound. Because what’s one dead body when you can have two? And all for the price of ten cents…(or .99 cents if you choose to buy the story.)
Gaines has crafted an intriguing story. He has taken what could be a ridiculous storyline and made it work. Leon is a good ol’ boy who likes beer, guns, and money, not necessarily in that order. His priorities solidify when he starts reading the initials on the side of his beer can – his brilliant idea is born. He’s gonna be rich. The dialogue is sharp, the music selection is excellent, and the drinks flow freely on this blood soaked road trip. It’s a good time. 3.5/5. If you think you’d like a less violent Frank Bill and a cheerier Donald Ray Pollock, I’d suggest giving this one a try.
So what’s your favorite thing about being poor (assuming you’ve made it sufficiently past the part where it’s not any fun at all)? I know I’ve already mentioned it, but my student loans will be paid off in May. Let’s all celebrate with me. Please excuse me while I fly to Europe once every month.
In the easiest pairing I’ve ever made, serve this one with beer.
*I’ve been a strawberry picker and a produce sorter (way more disgusting than you might think). I’ve ironed shirts and cleaned clothes, been an assistant accountant, a page, a teaching assistant, a tutor, and finally, a librarian. You may not think being a librarian is odd, but I spend my days answering questions like “Do you have any original recordings of dinosaurs?” and “How do you grow a pizza?”. Seriously, it’s good fun.
**I received a review copy of this story in exchange for my honest opinion. Doctor Gaines is a local Denver author.
11 thoughts on “Michigan, Ten Cents by Doctor Gaines”
This is a Seinfeld episode! Except Kramer used Newman’s mail truck to load up the bottles and attempt to take them to Michigan. Hahaha!
I don’t think I had a silver lining when I was broke. It was a pretty terrible time. The best part? Literally begging my mother to let me come home (yes, she made me beg) because we didn’t get along so well back then. And I had to sign a house rule list. Great times. Hahaha!
You know I’ve never really seen Seinfeld, only a few episodes here or there. I have sadly never lived in a place that will pay you to recycle bottles (except Maine, but I was too young to understand), because I would totally do it. Though I wouldn’t dumpster dive…
My time spent being poor was really shitty, I mostly don’t have good memories of it. I couldn’t have gone back home. At one point I rented a single room (shared with two other guys) in a fraternity house. It was only $100 a month. I’ve also eaten ketchup sandwiches and made tomato soup from free ketchup packets (the latter was not a success). I haven’t been really poor in about 8 years, but I still actively fear ending up back there.
Oh, your poor definitely was definitely worse because you didn’t have a “home” to go back to. I got very lucky in that respect. The rest of our stories sound eerily similar. I also shared an apartment with two guys because it was cheap. They had more money than I did so they are these really great meals while I ate bread and/or ramen noodles for meals (they never shared, and I hate ketchup, so…).
I fear ever ending up like that again, too. It was stressful and horrendous, and those are both understatements.
I was broke all through university, but because most of us were, it didn’t seem like a big deal. The best part about it is not having to make any buying decisions (hmm, do I want the red pants or the blue pants?). Also, my worst job ever was raking blueberries. Ugh.
I’ve picked blueberries several times, but I’ve never had the pleasure of raking them. It sounds awful. My worst was probably working in a laundry plant, it was so hot and my hands were always so dry that the skin would crack. Yuck.
And yeah, if I was shopping high end in college, I’d be at Target (feeling fancy).
Interesting concept! My neighbor growing up collected bottles from all of the frats and sororites at the University of Florida and used his money to visit family across the country every summer. To this day, my parents give him their cans!
Ha! Lucky man, he’s having some of the legwork done for him (that’s the way to do it). That’s pretty amazing that he was able to use it for vacation.
My favorite part about being broke was eating on the couch ALL THE TIME. I couldn’t afford a table and chairs, so there was no need to pretend at being civilized.
I actually built my first table from scrap wood I’d found on the side of the road. It was awful, but I was so proud of that thing. I even painted it an awful shade of blue (from the oops paint section) in order to try and make it look nicer. It didn’t. My couch wasn’t comfortable enough to eat on, the springs would poke me in my butt and back. When I could finally afford a decent couch it was a grand day. It’s too bad Craigslist wasn’t really a thing when we were college age.
Seriously. We had to garage sale the old fashioned way!