I like many of those in mine and the following generational cohort live below the poverty line.
The purpose of this piece is not to explain why so many younger people and even those in their mid-thirties to their forties such as myself are prone to living in poverty.
Rather, it is simply some of my observations of choices such people make and items that they use.
That is why the title of this piece is “Space Heaters and Rice Cookers.”
I also wanted to title this “Space Heaters, Rice Cookers, and Broadcast Television”, but thought the original title was more catchy.
Many of these people live in trailers, some that are decades old and the central climate controls have long been shot. It could also be that they may live in site-built houses that are old enough to have been built before centralized climate controls.
Therefore, to have comfort in the winter time, many of these people resort to using space heaters, which can sometimes result in serious injury and/or loss of life if the end-user is not prudent. If they don’t have access to a space heater, they have also been known to lay a mattress on the kitchen floor and turn on the electric oven or stove.
In the Summer time, they cool their dwellings with cheap window air conditioners, and nowadays one does well if one of these cheap window units lasts for the season.
Sadly all of this runs up the electric bill!
There was a time when window air conditioners were made very well, in fact, my maternal grandmother, God rest her soul, had some window units that lasted at least thirty-five years!
The next item that I observe myself and many other impoverished younger adults using is a rice cooker. This could be for the following reasons: Rice is a staple around the world, though now increasingly here in The States, vitamin, mineral, and energy-dense food, it is quite affordable on almost any food budget, it keeps well in storage for an extended time and when paired with the right foods such as beans, it offers a complete protein, in addition to energy. Rice also makes more luxurious foods stretch further when they are served over it. I also many times heard teenage boys playing football and shouting at each other to stay on the opposing team member like “white on rice.” I think of many impoverished young men who were lifted out of poverty because of their athleticism, but the phrase “white on rice” rings low income with me for whatever reason. Rice cookers are quite efficient, especially when one either cannot afford a microwave or owns a low-wattage entry-level model of microwave. I didn’t realize that rice cookers were an appliance associated with poverty until I was watching an episode of Steve Wilkos and he mentioned it in an episode of his show I watched a few years ago.
Sadly space heaters and rice cookers operate by converting electricity into heat. And depending on the individual model’s wattage they can potentially run up an electric bill. However, they are needed by impoverished young adults for subsistence and comfort (sometimes life-saving warmth.)
And that brings up my next point:
Broadcast Television-I was probably one of the few teenagers who watched broadcast television, just for experimental purposes. My parents always had and still do have cable, but I wanted to experiment with what I could catch over an antenna. This was before the digital mandate and many times the picture was very snowy and the audio scratchy. I was amazed when pairing a digital television with a decent antenna how the picture was, dare I say even prettier than a picture carried on cable?! And many people around my age get it now. They may have wanted cable in their childhood and teens but realize that it has skyrocketed in price, yet plummeted in quality and this has been going on for some time now (since about 2010.) Because of technological improvements to broadcast television, there are more channels, with more diverse programming. One can even see shows that were originally for cable but now can be seen for free with digital television and a decent antenna. While I was married to my now ex-wife, I installed an antenna for my then-now ex-in-laws. Since their antenna was a really good model, I use to enjoy watching television at their residence. My ex-wife demanded that we subscribe to some form of cable, even though we couldn’t afford it and this was a major point of conflict in our former marriage. Cable is not even available where my current (and I pray, forever) wife resides, but even if it was we wouldn’t subscribe to it. I’m just glad there is a fairly decent antenna that comes with the place, that pulls in the channels fairly decently. I just wish the news available on broadcast television was either more moderate or better yet apolitical.
I was not poor as a child and adolescent.
I grew up in a lower-middle-class environment as a young child and it became upper-middle-class sometime between my tweens and teens.
However, I have been receiving a disability pension since age twenty (for various mental afflictions) and worked on and off in my late teens to mid-twenties.
At the age of twenty-four-going-twenty-five, I stopped working altogether.
I also injured my back at the age of twenty-seven, when I fell down some stairs while bringing up groceries.
So I am not working poor, but I have associated with many working poor adults to have been able to write this piece. It was either people whom I knew through the church, ex-in-laws, jobs that I worked in the past or just living in South Louisiana.
Many of us on disability pensions also are subject to similar conditions as the working poor though in some ways they have it better and in other ways, we have it better.
I also use a rice cooker and watch broadcast television on the regular, though I have been fortunate enough to not need a space heater as of yet.
People such as myself and other impoverished individuals and families are often sneered at by the middle class and some older generations. They don’t realize that the economy has changed and not for the better, mostly because they have been fortunate enough to be shielded from all these economic downturns and stagnant wages.
I could go on about this, but The Good Lord is telling me to cool it.
I probably should conclude the piece now, before I start getting more offensive than I need to be.
I need to get back to blogging on the regular, it’s just I need to find the time.