Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Triad of American Living, Part I

Several years ago, while I was still a student, I went with Anne to join her father and his friends on a hunting trip just north of L'Anse, Michigan, not far from the Sturgeon River Gorge. We weren't married yet, and admittedly, I was reticent about spending any amount of time with my future father-in-law and his male buddies where generous supplies of alcohol and ammunition were involved. But of course, I went, figuring it would be a good experience.

We took my old car. At the time, I drove a 1989 Ford Tempo. It was a beater, but it had survived a considerable amount of abuse, and it was what I had. We had a good time up north, but of course, a young couple needs its alone time, and after a day or two, my then-fiancee and I decided to take the car out one evening for a drive through the areas' curving and remote dirt roads. The entirety of Upper Michigan is well-forested, and with ample cover and miles of road we figured we'd have no trouble finding a quiet spot to park and "take in the view" so to speak.

Not two miles out from camp, we were run off the road by a speeding Dodge Intrepid. It was getting dark out, and I swerved to avoid the oncoming vehicle. In doing so, I drove the car off the shoulder, and down a ten-foot embankment. The brush was dense, and the angle of the embankment steep. We were stuck. I cursed loudly for several minutes, and after arguing with Anne briefly I stomped back off toward the camp to get help.

Fortune seemed to smile--as Fate would have had it, my father-in-law's buddy A.C. was coming up on our position with his truck. After stopping to talk with A.C. for a few, he agreed to come to our car and help tow it back onto the road. We affixed a length of nylon rope to the truck's towbar, and attached the other end to my car's rear axle.

This proved to be a spectacularly bad idea. My car was over twenty years old, and much of the chassis proved to be little more than ferrous-oxide molecules holding hands. The rope snapped my rear axle, mangling the tie-rods in the process, and while we were successful in getting the car back to camp, we did so cruising in at a wobbly and nerve-wracking five miles per hour.

I ended up hitching a ride back home with my brother-in-law the next day. My fiancee went back to school in Escanaba, and I returned to my home on the old Sawyer Air Force base near Marquette. Money was tight in those days, and without a car, I would have trouble getting to my job as a prep cook in a local kitchen. Of course, my weekly hours of late had dropped to nearly zero, so in hindsight it didn't much matter.

Just how MUCH it didn't matter, however, only became apparent to me several days later. My job let me go due to overhiring, and though they offered me a job part-time running deliveries, without an insured vehicle I couldn't have accepted if I had wanted to. On top of this, my roommates--old friends from grade school--informed me that they were moving out, on account of not being able to afford rent. I shared a house with three people, and between the four of us, rent for each was only about $120/month, so you can imagine how broke we truly were as college students. Not an hour after this, I contacted my university's billing office in order to clear up a snag with my financial-aid paperwork. I was informed that, because the University had never sent me a copy of my Income Verification Request, the University had never been able to approve my aid-package. This paperwork, I should note, is supposedly sent to students' families at random, but in reality is targeted exclusively at students from low-income backgrounds. So I suddenly owed the school $2200 for off-campus semester tuition. I had no choice--I had to disenroll, before the fees piled up. In a final twist of irony, I had my wallet stolen, leaving me with no bank cards or identification of any kind, without which I could not access the remaining funds I had stored up in my checking account-- a little more than $200.

All of these events occurred in a little less than 48 hours. In less than three days, I went from a functioning, employed, upwardly-mobile young member of society to carless, jobless, homeless, and unable to finish my Bachelor's degree. On a mild day in late September 2003, I officially ceased to exist within the system. Milo Freeman still existed; he had bank records and outstanding debts, but I no longer had any way to prove I was him.

I vanished from society's radar.


Blogger cinnabari said...

Good green christ.

The ol' universe, she lay the smack on you.

10:23 PM  
Blogger anno said...

Wow. Just that, wow. You really got clobbered.

If this were fiction, the rest of the story would be a journey to a new self. You would meet teachers and those who would attempt to lead you astray. So what happened next? How did you make it back to your fiancee?

Also, is it better to exist outside the system in Marquette, MI, or well-entrenched inside it somewhere on a base in Germany?

Thanks for posting this.

2:57 PM  
Blogger cameo said...

you are an aries boy aren't you! or is that fiction too? what an unfortunate series of events.

4:07 AM  
Blogger Spc. Freeman said...

Nope. I am indeed an Aries, and not one bit of what I'm telling you here is fiction. This series of events is as true as it gets.

12:44 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

I like what you have to say Milo and look forward to reading the next instalment - you appear to have turned your life around and would be interested to know more about how you did it and the lessons your learned from your experience.

1:48 PM  
Blogger cameo said...

i am discovering you to be somewhat like my husband everytime i read your posts. he is a very thoughtful, strong, introverted, quiet, laid-back, rational, level-headed, common-sense kind of a guy. (can you tell i'm stupid in love with him?) and he, too, lived through events like this, and handled them in much the same way as you. i, on the other hand, being the type A scorpio chick i am, would have freaked and tried to "fix" everything. he's an aries. my guess is you are docile until you need to be aggressive. but when you turn that side of your self on is few and far between.

3:17 PM  
Anonymous S. R. said...

Scary stuff. Reminds me of Tony Soprano as Finnerty.

7:18 PM  

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