Monday, May 02, 2011

The Pregnant And Legal Ramifications of Eating Textbooks

by James Jarvis
from Trail of An Urban Nomad

    The Returning Students Department of El Camino College has been bugging me by phone about the books they loaned me last year. I told the secretary who has been calling me that I sold the books to eat last semester, but that I have the money now to repay them. The secretary says that I can't just walk in and pay them . . . I have to speak to the head of the department first about 'legal ramifications'.

    "Okay," I said, "I work from 11 until 3 or 4 in the afternoon. Sometimes until 6."

    "When would you like to make an appointment, Mr. Jarvis? This afternoon, maybe?"

    "I can walk in with the cash at 3:30 this afternoon," I said.

    "Ms. Brody won't be available then."

    "How about 3 tomorrow?"

    "She has other appointments. Would you like to schedule another day?"

    "How about 3 on Thursday, then?"

    "She is unavailable on Thursdays."



    "I'll call you back when I can figure out how not to have to take off from work to do this," I said.

    "Okay, Mr. Jarvis. Just remember that there may be legal repercussions here."

    So here is the statemment I decided to include with my $200 cash for some ratty old textbooks they loaned me:


    Last semester when you loaned/bought me the school textbooks I needed to attend classes at El Camino College from your pregnant welfare mothers MediCal fund, I was at a point of dire straights . . . or rather I was on the upswing from 5 years of dire straights, the last two of which I spent mostly homeless and living under the Manhattan Beach Boulevard/ 405 overpass.

    I was not receiving ANY assistance from the state of California during my homelessness. No General Relief. No MediCal. No EDD unemployment. Nothing. I DO get a disability check from the Department of Defense of $300 every month and a Veteran’s Administration veterans' disability check of $98, but that’s it. That’s what I was living on.

    My plan to pull myself up by my own bootstraps was to get a part time job and go to school at El Camino College to upgrade my computer graphics skills with an eye towards returning to that field. With a little financial aid, a part time job, and my disability checks, I should have been able to stabilize my life and improve my future employment prospects.

    First, I would take some basic refresher courses since I haven’t been in school for fifteen years, then I would go on to the specific technical courses I need to improve my employment prospects.

    Trouble was, the El Camino College Financial Aid Department wasn’t interested in any part of my plan. Wasn’t hearing it. Didn’t care. Beyond that, representatives went out of their way to discourage me from attending school at El Camino College.

    “You’re too old to be going to college,” one supervisor told me after I had been denied financial aid because of my previous college credits, “We have limited resources and we must concentrate of those students who really need financial aid. You can’t go to school all your life, you know. That’s irresponsible. You have to work sometime.”

    I have supported myself with employment from 1972 until 1995. I owned businesses and rental properties in Texas. I supported a wife, two children and my mother for many, many years. My life DID fall apart when my wife died, but up until that point, I wager that I have showed more consecutive years of financial responsibility than that El Camino College Financial Aid supervisor ever did. What that snotty bitch doesn’t know about me could fill a book.

    So I capitulated. I gave up. I dropped out of school and I am embarrassed that I let a prejudiced, know-nothing financial aid supervisor run me off. Then, in desperation, I sold the books you loaned me for 10 cents on the dollar to feed myself. I’m sorry. I felt bad about betraying your trust, and vowed to save up enough money to repay you for the books I ‘ate’.

    I HAVE gotten that part time job and I HAVE saved up enough money to repay you. Just give me the total and I will pay in cash.

    By the way, Sharon has gently mentioned ‘legal repercussions’ during our phone conversations as a way of getting me to hurry up and come in to discuss this problem (which is no longer a problem since I now have the means of restitution).

    Legal repercussions? I have been homeless the last two years. I have been beaten, mugged, shot at, searched and harassed by a dozen cops while living on the streets. I have faced more physical horrors living on the streets of L.A. than I ever saw in my military overseas service during war time.

    Legal repercussions? I’m not afraid of any legal repercussions! I’m not repaying my debt to you because of any legal repercussions. I’m repaying it because in my morality system, it is the right thing to do. I’m just sorry I was unable to do it any earlier.
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