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Now how much would you pay?

Imagine, if you will, being offered a life-saving favor, then being told after the fact it was never a favor at all. Specifically, imagine at the verge of unexpected, Great Recession-related impending homelessness, being offered your own, private room in the house of a friendly couple as a free place to stay while looking for a job to get back on your feet. Imagine gratefully taking that offer, giving up any ideas or hopes about how you thought your life was going to go in the near future, putting almost all of your possessions in storage, and moving in.

After moving in, imagine spending your time applying for dozens of jobs a week, networking with everyone you know about employment opportunities, cutting your bills to the bone, and going on food stamps to make sure you’re not a financial burden on your hosts. Imagine, also, receiving few to no responses to–eventually–hundreds of submitted resumes.

But at least you have that free roof over your head offered by supportive friends.

Now imagine, after moving in, being told that every month or so you’d have to leave your remaining possessions behind and vacate for several days to a week at a time while house guests slept in your “own, private room.”

Imagine after moving in, experiencing an apartment filled with the stress of a couple’s very unhappy, extremely dysfunctional relationship.

Imagine being criticized on a daily basis because Jewel won’t hire an overqualified, downsized, midlife professional as a stock boy–because there are already too many of them working there. Imagine being threatened with being thrown out over Thanksgiving for the same reason.

Imagine one of your hosts incessantly criticizing his partner to you. Imagine one of your hosts incessantly criticizing you to his partner. Imagine one of your hosts incessantly hitting on you.

Imagine one of your hosts, in reference to his co-workers, vehemently applying the word, “nigger,” several times a day, as matter-of-factly as if he were saying the word, “lunch.”

Imagine keeping your mouth shut about all of it, finally finding a new job and a new apartment, saying “thank you,” and moving out. Imagine after moving out, deciding that it would probably be better not to remain in contact with your hosts, for the sake of grace and for your own sanity.

And then…imagine that for three months after you said “thank you” and moved on, your former hosts decided to regularly spam your email account, your blog comments, your Facebook account, and your boyfriend’s Facebook account, cursing at you, calling you names, and trying to publicly embarrass you for deciding that misery really doesn’t love company. And then telling you that the least you could do is offer to pay them back for their free place to stay and hospitality.

If, after all of that, you can actually see yourself making an offer, you’ve got quite an imagination.

Categories: Backstory

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Michael Thaddeus Doyle

I'm a NYC-native, Latino, Jew-by-choice, hardcore WDW fan in Chicago with an Irish last name. I believe in social justice, big cities, and public transit. I do nonprofit development. I've written this blog since 2005. Believe in the world you want to live in.

My Bio | My Conversion | My Family Reunion


7 replies

  1. Whoa! What a mess.
    When I was in Chicago, I moved to a room in Pilsen, where my room had no door, my roommate acquired a dog she didn’t take care of and a scary boyfriend the day after I moved in, and someone stole my iPod and cell phone! And I never got my deposit back (I lived there four days).

    But I wasn’t harassed. Mark as spam!

  2. Devyn, thank you for sharing, too. I am well. Now I’m in the “pay everyone back financially for the past two years” phase. With obvious exceptions.

    Sue, I’ll keep that in mind, as I’m still receiving email. 😉

  3. Wow Mike i wish you had given a hint i have people in Chicago that may have helped.
    As for the couple in question thank them profusely for their helping hand and remind them that it is Godly to help others for someday they may need help as well.
    Or just email me as i have people in Chicago (: they can give them a call on the harassment. lol
    Sue the Greek lol

  4. Thank you for telling the story… I had a similar experience back in 1989 when I moved in with a couple who offered me a place to stay while I got back on my feet. Little did I know I was walking into a firestorm each night. They fought constantly, and at times it got violent, even to the point of one of them coming after me. One of them constantly hit on me, and attempted to fondle me at any chance he could. The apartment was a disaster of a place with stuff everywhere. And then there was the stench….. A smell I could pick up almost from the parking lot. I can’t quite explain the smell…. but it was distinctive. They constantly reminded me that this was a huge favor and that I should be thankful (I was thankful, but not enough according to them).

    In the end, it was a place to stay for three months. I found a job (fast food) and found a new roommate (which was it’s own experience) and managed to pull it together.

    I often relied upon an old adage of “This too shall pass”

    Hope you are well Michael.

  5. So you know you’ve described part of my experience in Baltimore in the early 90’s AND me also being on the verge of homelessness myself last summer. It was only through the grace of God that I got a job last August and just in the nick of time. I wish you would have reached out and let me know—I have a second bedroom and would of loved the company. Note: I wouldn’t of hit on you.

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