25 August 2009

Reading Between the Lines

I have always been an advocate for reading.

Ever since my childhood, I have found such a sense of escape, fulfillment, relationship, and challenge from books. I often ask myself the question: If I were not here right now, if I did not have this or that obligation, what books would I read?

Because of this, I have been suprised at how often I observe people staring at the wall in our dining room (or staring at the statue in Veteran's park, or staring at the steps of the library) rather than reading a book. Of course, this has a lot to do with mental and emotional fatigue, illiteracy, personality types that are quite unlike my own, but I realized something today when I heard this comment (while filling out an application for disability):

"Mr. Vroon, what kind of things do you like to read?"

"What do I like to read? Oh man. The newspaper. Classical novels. Heck, I like to read street signs."

"Okay, the next question asks how often you spend time reading every day."



"Girl, now if I had the GLASSES, man, that would go up 100%. But I don't. So, never."

Reading glasses. A man who loves to read never does it, because he doesn't have reading glasses. At first glance, this looks like laziness, like a lack of motivation or drive or energy. But after taking a closer look:

OBTAINING READING GLASSES (without transportation or income):

1. There is one store within walking distance of downtown that sells affordable reading glasses: Family Dollar
2. To get to Family Dollar, you have to walk 1/2 mile (about 10 minutes on average); difficult for you if you do not have adequate walking shoes, or you are not in very good physical health.
3. The reading glasses cost $6.00.
4. To get $6.00, you can...

a. Collect 600 bottles and cans.
b. Spend about 30 minutes asking people you know for money (resulting in possible altercations and strains on these relationships, especially when reading glasses are considered a luxury).
c. Spend about 1 hour asking people you don't know for money (risking insult, arrest, and enduring the a real and constant confrontation with the fact that you are poor).

But wait! There's another way! The Dollar Tree has reading glasses for $1.00!

1. To get $1.00, you can spend your afternoon collecting 10 bottles and cans, and then find a place where you can return them that doesn't give you store credit, but actual cash (I have not researched this piece yet).
2. The two nearest Dollar Trees are:

a. 1220 28th St, 4.1 miles away, approximately an hour and a half walk each way. Or
b. 1621 Leonard, 3.7 miles away, approximately an hour and 15 minutes walk each way.

3. If you cannot walk there and back (due to health, lack of footwear, or lack of sunlight in a day), you could take the bus. Bus tickets cost $1.50 each way. There are no places in the city that will give free bus tickets to run errands or go shopping. Which means...
4. You will have to get $3.00 more, making your reading glasses a $4.00 affiar. This will lengthen the time spend looking for cans, or panhandling (again, putting yourself at risk for arrest).

In summary, if you want the necessary tools to read, you are looking at extensive walking, weeks of can collecting, and the risk of arrest.

This is why Mr. Vroon doesn't read the newspaper.

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