Here, with no apologies to Mr Scalzi, is my version.
Being Really Poor
Being poor is not knowing how much everything costs. You can't afford it anyway.
Being poor is your kids watching TV maybe once a year, when the local political party or something like that hires one so they can watch movies during Ganesh Chaturthi .
Being poor is thinking that a car is an unattainable luxury. Unless it's an abandoned junkheap you can sleep in.
Being poor is hoping the tooth falls out.
Being poor is your kid goes to play on the street. When s/he's not working, that is.
Being poor is not understanding the concepts "restroom," "school," and "lunch."
Being poor is living next to - or over - a gutter. And getting evicted from there.
Being poor is hoping someone throws an empty box of something away so you can use it to plug the hole in the thatched roof.
Being poor is not having any well-off siblings. Or aunts. Or uncles. Or any relatives at all. Well maybe the local dada or pusher.
Being poor is no toys.
Being poor is where a one room house is what you aspire to. Never mind the heater. It's hot enough already.
Being poor is not knowing anyone who has the equivalent of $5 to leave around.
Being poor is hoping your kids get to grow up to be adults.
What's underwear? What's Goodwill?
Oh there's plenty of room on the streets.
Being poor is wishing you had a playground to run around in. And never having known shoes.
Being poor is no school.
Being poor is thinking $8 an hour must be what the local ganglord earns.
Being poor is not having anyone to rely on.
Being poor is wishing you could find work. And if it's in a place that has fluorescent lights, you'll wonder where they're stealing the electricity from.
Being poor is where any letter you find is a scrap of paper with squiggles on it that you can add to the raddi sack you're carryying on your back, and hoping that the scrap dealer doesn't cheat you.
Being poor is a bath in water from other people's toilets.
Being poor is taking everything from the trash heap.
Being poor is fighting the cockroaches for food.
Being poor is nt knowing what the fuck a "GED" is.
Being poor is people angry at you for looking so poor. Anywhere. And if you tried to get in a mall, you'll get beaten up by security.
Being poor is taking any job. And your kids take any job too.
Being poor is the police treating you like shit all the time.
Being poor is not grokking romance. Sex, maybe.
Being poor is hoping you can find dinner in a rubbish heap.
Being poor is a sidewalk full of excrement.
Being poor is people not wanting to know anything about you.
Being poor is needing 35-cents. Please.
Being poor is your kid's teacher (if there's a school, if your kid has enough time off from work to go to it) doesn't have any books.
Being poor wondering what a "utility" is.
Being poor is being happy when someone drops a mac and cheese on the floor. Dinner!
Being poor is wishing you could get a job. Wishing you had the strength to work hard.
Being poor is people surprised to discover you're human.
Being poor is not being surprised people are suprised to discover you're human.
Being poor is a sick child asleep on your lap. And hoping she'll live.
Being poor is never buying anything.
Being poor is thinking ramen is what rich people eat.
Being poor is having to live with choices you didn't make. And there being a pretty good chance you will never be 14 years old.
Being poor is wishing there was someone you could be grateful to.
Being poor is knowing you're being condemned.
Box of crayons. Hm. Can be sold. Colouring book. Hm. Add to raddi sack.
Being poor is counting your income in coins.
Being poor is fighting for shelter.
Being poor is knowing you can't afford the local equivalent of a Lotto ticket.
Being poor is never having seen a cash register.
Being poor is feeling helpless when your child hasn't a hope in hell. And you can't do fuck about it.
Being poor is a cough that doesn't go away. [Hey, he got that one right!]
Being poor is being elated at finding a discarded couch that's only damaged, and marginally filthy. Furniture!
Being poor is never having seen a paycheque.
Being poor is not having a night class anywhere. Except, perhaps, if the pusher is teaching you how to sell cut drugs.
Being poor is sleeping on the road.
Being poor is knowing where the shelter is. And you're too tired to walk there.
Being poor is envying people who have never been really poor but think they are.
Being poor is knowing you can't stop being poor.
Being poor is seeing no options.
Being poor is staggering around, left behind.
Being poor is where the only way you leave is when you die.
Update - 5th September, 18.48
John Scalzi dropped by to leave a clarifying comment. We believe in equal air time, so here it is, reproduced from the comments section.
John Scalzi said...Point taken, Mr Scalzi. Thank you fortaking the trouble to explain. And yes, I'm with you on the need to get the message across to the people who wondered why New Orleans's poorer residents didn't leave. Your post didn't offer that context, and it was my first visit to your blog, so I'm sorry that I didn't get that.
I see this list as complementary to, and not in opposition to, my original list, and it highlights the difference between relative poverty (which is the situation in the US), and absolute poverty (which is the situation in much of the rest of the world). Writer Nick Mamatas has also written a similar list (in this typically pungent style), which you can find here:
I wrote the list originally as something of a response to all the people who I saw having difficulty understanding why some of the poor prople in New Orleans stayed behind for the hurricane and its aftermath. It was designed to help them empathize with people who are in a similar economic situation with those people. It is by no means an exhaustive list for what it's like to be poor worldwide, just poor where I (and much of the blogosphere) live.
Must still say, however, that I stand by everything else I said.
Oh yes, here's Nick Mamatas's post, which Mr Scalzi kindly pointed to. And Least Loved Bedtime Stories v. 2.0 has another version of the list up too.