"Grippers" (how to get homeless without even trying # 10

Episode #10  Good News & Bad News (click on the “grippers” tab and scroll down for the previous 9 episodes)

Tracey Slider had always had an affinity for managing money. Consequently, she had been able to dispense the meager funds they had in such a way as to keep all their bills current except, of course, the credit card debt. That was a totally different issue and, being several months behind in payments,  collectors were virtually calling them every day leaving Tracey and Bob both at a point that when the phone rang they would get an instant flip-flop inside themselves. However, combined with unemployment kicking in during the third week of June, the Sliders were temporarily managing their lives okay.

At the end of June,  Chris Jackson, one of Bob’s former co-workers at Bildot, called Bob and asked him if he would be interested in doing a roofing job. Chris’s neighbor needed a roof replaced and offered the job to Chris who had experience doing roofing. Bob jumped at the chance and by the middle of July had pocketed $1200.00 in cash for his labor. Chris and Bob had done such a good job they were hired by  another  neighbor down the street to do his roof and Bob earned another $1400.00 by the middle of August. In addition, Greg Margolese had come up with some painting and repair jobs at several of his rental  homes and Bob did that work as a trade-off against September’s rent.

Early in September, Greg called Bob on a Sunday evening and asked him if he could do some dry-wall finishing for him on Monday morning. First thing Monday, Bob stopped at Home Depot and picked up a five gallon pail of joint compound. He headed over to the vacant house on Darby Rd., got out of his truck and lowered the tail gate.He removed the bunji cord that was holding the pail of  “mud” in place, reached across his chest with his right arm, grabbed the handle on the pail and pulled. The pail of “mud”, weighing 50 or 60 pounds, did not move, its bottom edge caught on a bolt in the truck bed. Bob thought he had been struck by lightning as pain shot across his lower back, shot down his legs and exploded in his brain. He could not move.

For a moment he stood there, totally stunned and motionless. He did not understand what had happened. He took some deep breaths and tried to stand up straight. The pain in his lower back and down his legs was excruciating. It took almost ten minutes to close the tail gate and then slowly, inch by inch, work his way down the side of the truck and into the cab to get himself seated. He literally had to lean against the truck seat and pull himself into the truck by holding onto the steering wheel. The pain was so intense he was sweating profusely and tears filled his eyes. As he sat and got himself positioned the pain subsided a bit. Bob knew he was in serious trouble.

The nano-second pull on the pail of joint compound and the subsequent back explosion resulted in the “domino principle” taking effect. The first thing was that when Tracey lost her job nine months earlier and Bob’s hours were cut they had dropped their health insurance putting an additional $372.00 per month in their pockets. They did not want to do this but they needed the money.  Secondly, to collect unemployment a person had to be “ready, willing and able” to work. In addition, it was required to document that you had applied for at least five different jobs per week. (The work Bob had been doing was “off the books” and the cash payments he received were “under the table”.) Finally, Tracey immediately took Bob to the emergency room. He signed papers attesting to the fact that he was responsible for payment. An MRI was done and it was discovered that Bob had two herniated discs in his lower back, L4 and L5 in the lumbar region. The hospital gave him pain medications and referred him to a local orthopedic doctor. When they called to make that appointment and told them that they had no insurance they were told that they would need $175.00 for the initial consultation. The hope that had been resurrected inside them quickly had become “hope deferred”.

Next time: Episode #11 “What about Jake”

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