At one point we realized that not everything we had written really served a purpose in our book, Spaz: The True Story of My Life With ADHD. It was hard to essentially throw these pieces out, but we do believe the story as it was published is the strongest and best version we could present. Below is a short story that we decided to leave out. We’d love to hear your thoughts…
At the Money’s Mercy
I had conned my way into college but I really had no way to pay for any of it and I had no where to live. I was denied financial aid, possibly due to the fact that it was the middle of the year, but I was given a loan. This student loan was for $2,500. Even in 1992, that amount was insufficient to live off especially since I had to use some of it to pay for tuition. I knew would need to get a job and find inexpensive housing. I set about my plan to find a place to live, then I figured I could find a job and figure out how to pay for everything.
I began making trips to school and searching bulletin boards, the school newspaper, and any word of mouth leads I could get. Eventually I was lead to a group of five guys who happened to be looking for one more roommate mid-year. They lived in half of a large house that was rented out by a family, who came to be known as the slum lords of the area. The owner wasn’t really a bad guy but he wasn’t really a good guy either. When I didn’t have anything to show for myself, I was able to show him my application for financial aid to convince him that I would be receiving aid and would therefore be able to pay. What I did not tell him was that my application had been denied.
I found a job washing dishes and felt like I had won the lottery. I would be able to pay rent (barely) off my earnings and use the student loan money for tuition, books, and food. But within a month, I was let go because the restaurant owner could no longer pay me. I was now unable to pay rent. At first, I managed to tell our landlord that my financial aid check was late, hadn’t arrived yet, would be there soon, etc. But soon I was unable to continue this charade. He began looking for me and I began dodging him but it was only a matter of time before he told me that I would need to pay or get out.
This situation was troubling for me on many levels. You see, I wanted to pay my rent. I was there of my own accord, of my own doing, and I had every intention of making myself into the golden college boy that I thought I had to be to feel good about myself. It pained me that I could not pay him and the thought of not paying my tuition instead was simply not an option. I had to stay at the school that I worked so hard to get into. I actually wanted to be a student for the first time in my life and no one was going to take that away from me. I would be a “good” kid even if it meant bending the law a little.
Around this time, one of my roommates mentioned that he had a relative that was a housing inspector and wouldn’t it be funny if he came and saw all the things wrong with our over-crowded apartment. The six of us were quick to get this inspector in and put him to work. What he found exceeded our imaginations.
He discovered asbestos in the basement. This, along with a hefty list of violations, was my golden ticket of my first semester of college. When the wealthy slum lord of the town took me to court for a mere $1,000 of unpaid rent, I handed the judge the list of complaints and the evidence of a carcinogen in the basement, and my case was thrown out. The judge told the landlord that he was unable to throw me out of the apartment while there were these violations at work in the home. And so, I stayed. I stayed for that first semester and that was it. When I returned to school the second semester, I opted to live on campus in student housing.
The thing is, I was not trying to be unlawful or get out of paying what I owed. In fact, the need to compensate for my time there was so strong that, two years later, I paid that landlord back in full exactly what I owed him for those first few months. I paid and I took away a big lesson from the experience as a whole.
It is easy to underestimate the good in someone else, but it is hard to accept the good in yourself.