“These laws weren’t written for guys like you”, said the gentleman on the phone with knowledge of why my bank account had been frozen.
The “laws” to which he referred were those etched into Pennsylvania’s books regarding child support. The gentleman explained that if a dad in Pennsylvania is in arrears, the feds tip off the state to any of his recorded assets, e.g. bank accounts, property, you name it. You think the modern mob is infested with rats? Trust: They got nothin’ on the feds. Once the state learns of assets, it follows up like a couple of steroid freaks in warm up suits employed by a bookie. A man can’t even have a reserve fund for emergencies…unless he keeps it under his mattress.
The “guys like you” the gentleman spoke of are those who are in no way dodging their responsibilities, but are trying to figure out their next moves while single-handedly addressing a heap of financial obligations once handled by two in addition to support. Guys like me need to double their income to live half as well as we did when married. Now, I’ve never been afraid of hard work or long hours, but for crying out loud, give a brother a chance to breathe before pulling a government-sanctioned Ocean’s Eleven on his Plan B!
The gentleman went on to say that if I could produce the outstanding amount within 35 days of the freeze, Pennsylvania would unfreeze the account. “Hmm”, I thought, “that’s a curious position. If I could do that, the state wouldn’t have had to straight jack my dough in the first place!” I didn’t express my frustration to the gentleman; he all but expressed it for me! Our chat was so amiable, I wanted to invite the guy over for a cookout. I really must get used to the notion of the sympathetic state employee.
The surprisingly pleasant dialogue with a government enforcer aside, what I found most striking about learning that I would never see the frozen money again is my reaction to the news: I barely shrugged my shoulders. I’ve gotten to a point where, when it comes to the aftermath of divorce, I already expect the worst. At this realization, the titular tune came to mind. I’ve had it so much worse.
I remember well those days in the Bronx when I got by on a single meal of 4 greasy, over-cooked fried wings with a side of under-cooked french fries bathed in ketchup from my favorite dingy “Chinese restaurant”. These places were and remain ubiquitous in low-income neighborhoods throughout the five boroughs. They are characterized by nearly identical menu offerings, drop ceiling light panels that often double as mausoleums for cockroaches, floors left filthy from constant foot traffic and “dining areas” furnished with cast-off tables and chairs. They all have imaginative names like “A1 Chinese Restaurant” and are staffed by Asians who may or may not be Chinese that work feverishly in strictly functional, poorly ventilated kitchens behind plexiglass partitions that could stop anti-aircraft missiles.
Today, I eat in Chinese restaurants where not only can I actually touch staff members, though I dare not, but the menus feature healthy eating options. I ain’t giving that up no matter how much money the government takes from me. Yes, it’s all right now.