Rich, poor, survivor


When the poor walk long distances, it’s because of necessity. They cannot afford to buy a reliable car, especially if they rely only on their minimum wage of $6.05 an hour for food, housing, clothing, and utilities.

When the rich take long walks after parking their SUVs along the Beach Road pathway or walk in place at their favored gym, it’s to de-stress or exercise. And then post their workout selfie on Facebook. But for short trips to a store or a restaurant, they use their car.

But there are also those who survive hitching a ride from home to work. Or they ride an unlicensed but reliable and affordable “taxicab” for $3, $4 or $5, depending on the distance and time of day. Those rides are often new Toyota, with cool features, nice sound system and strong air-conditioner compared to sometimes rickety legal taxis that charge you more than what you can earn in several hours.

Or they drive their car that’s likely at least seven, 10 years, or much older than their children.

The ones with money change their cars as often as the CNMI holds midterm or gubernatorial elections. Or add more to their garage collection to mark their birthday or after getting a hefty executive bonus. Then some of them sell their old rides to those who cannot afford to buy new ones.

When the rich ones’ cars break down, they go to authorized auto dealers for repair. The poor try to fix their own bicycles, if they have one.

The others with almost Marpi landfill-bound cars check with their auto mechanic friends first to see if they can get their ride fixed for free or for a very minimal service fee, or in exchange for a pack of cigarettes or a six-pack beer. Or they visit a nondescript Chinese or Filipino auto shop that does not cost an arm and a leg for even the most complicated services.

When the poor eat little, it’s because they cannot afford a big meal.

When the rich eat little, it’s because they’re on a special diet to maintain or reduce their waistline. They also willingly pay more for so little amount of supposed to be healthy food.

The others happen to know who’s throwing a birthday party, a beach party, a village fiesta, or where the daily prayer is for someone who had just passed on, for a free meal.

When the rich goes thirsty late at night when stores are not supposed to sell alcoholic drinks anymore, they go to their wine cellar or their own mini-bar at home. The poor can barely buy bottled water.

The survivors know where to buy beers and spirits well beyond 10pm. Others go to bars that do not close until 2am. They also know which bars can sell you alcoholic drinks until you can no longer walk.

Or, they join the neighborhood drinking session, even without contributing any drinks or chasers.

Or they buy cheaply from those illegally re-selling beers from the Army and Air Force Exchange Service or troop store in Puerto Rico.

When the poor ones are tapped to help their fellows, they do so mostly with little fanfare. The others donate their time and effort for worthy causes, when they cannot donate money.

The really poor ones beg, but the rich ones raise funds usually for others, or at least that’s what they want us to believe.

And when the rich raise funds for a cause—helping life-saving programs or protecting the environment, to name a few—they buy the tickets in advance, giving them reason to wear silly costumes or ridiculous outfits depending on the party theme or don their most precious jewelry, suits or gowns, and then make sure the community knows about it through the press and social media.

When the poor and powerless are caught with a different version of truth, they are accused of lying and could go to jail for it.

But if they are rich and famous, they claim being misquoted even if the interview was recorded.

When the poor are caught stealing, they go to jail.

When the rich and powerful are caught red-handed in flagrant violation of the law, they work up a credible defense and people who have good or bad things to say about them are interviewed by the press. They run for office and get elected again and again by CNMI voters.

HAIDEE V. EUGENIO, Special to the Saipan Tribune Dayao
This post is published under the Contributing Author. He/she does not normally work for Saipan Tribune but contributes for a specific topic or series.

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