Friday, May 20, 2022

That's why it's called "my money"

There's a very poor man on the corner near my office. He loves cats. The care that he lavishes on these strays touches my heart. I know cats. I can tell they trust him, and that they eat and have fresh water, even when he doesn't. Last month he had a kitten one day but not the next. This made me sad. I didn't ask what happened but that would only make me sadder.

This week, as the bus approached my office building, I saw him again. From the window I could see that he had a cat carrier. I was so happy for him. Before I went into work, I stopped in the CVS store in the lobby and picked up a bag of cat food and then a tuna "lunch to go" pouch for him. Doing this brought me great pleasure. Until I brought it out to him.

He was lovely. Happy to see me and proud of the new kitten. He told me the kitten he had last month ran away when he was visiting his sister "out in the suburbs." I felt better about that. A kitten has better luck on her own with lawns and yards than on city streets. He found this kitten in the garage of his sister's neighbor. He laughed that cats just seem to find him. She seemed trusting and very comfortable in his arms. I was also happy to see her in harness.

When I handed him the cat food and the tuna pouch, I said, "Sorry her lunch bag is bigger than yours."

"Only in America," sniped The Streetwise vendor, also on the corner.  Streetwise is a weekly magazine that low-income or homeless Chicagoans can buy for 90¢/each and then sell for $2. In addition to the magazines, the vendors get training in how to land a job and manage their money. The magazine itself can be interesting, with success stories about former and part-time vendors who are now working as well as general interest about life in Chicago.

I would have purchased an issue from that vendor had he kept his mouth shut. But no, "Only in America." Meaning that there was something wrong with my decision to spend more on the kitten than the man.  

Selfishly I was angry because he rained on my parade. I enjoyed bringing the food to this man. I was happy to hear how he found this kitten and to see the pleasure her company brought him. Maybe you have to be able to love an animal to get this. But this cat helped solidify a very human bond between us, and the Streetwise vendor was judging it disapprovingly. That kinda spoiled the moment.

And then there's this: It's my money. I have been completely self-supporting since I was 19. I have been in advertising, an industry not without stress, for more than 40 years now. I earn my money. It's mine. If I want to go to the Chase ATM on the corner, withdraw a $20 and swallow the bill in front of the Streetwise vendor, I can.