Family story: Cash cars

Years ago my friend had a cash car.
He rolled it over outside of town.
And left it upside down along the highway.
Then got another one next day.

The cash car company picked up the mess.
Crashes and repairs are part of the deal.

The cash car business is sorta like payday loans.
Your job is your ride, and the payment is due each week.
Simple rule: Don't make the payment, can't keep the car.
If you make all the payments, you pay many times the car's value.

They stopped giving my friend cash cars.
After a second crash.
When he rammed another car downtown.
Incapacitating both occupants.
Claiming they were gang members and he had to get them first.
Then escaped on foot.
Leaving the mess in the middle of the street and telling the police his car was stolen.
Despite eyewitness accounts.

His public service was frequently proclaimed.
During bail hearings at the courthouse.

Since then he has straighten out.
Or concealed his dealings better.

In any case he taught me about cash cars.

My brother also had a cash car.
Not for reasons of disorderly conduct.
My brother was an extremely peaceful fellow.
Conflicted by good cheer and frustration.

As he got older, it was harder to find work.
The economy didn't need a fifty year old guy.
He fell into cash car debt.
Some weeks he had enough to make the payment.
Some weeks he didn't.
When he didn't have money for a car, he couldn't get to work.
So he had no paycheck for another cash car.
No problem, the cash car company raised the rate.

The cycle of success and despair was a hardship.
Especially in a sprawling city like Chicago.
So my brother packed his stuff into a cash car and drove back to Bloomington.
Parked the car along the street.
Then mailed the keys back to the cash car company.

My father was outraged that my brother would give away an 'asset.'
Coming from a different era, he didn't know about cash cars.
My father thought it could be sold for profit.
He was all over my brother about selling the car instead of giving it back.
Except cash cars are a liability not an asset.
You are enslaved to debt until you are rich.

By that time my father was 75.
Very healthy, lucid.
Full-ride pension and unaware of today's economy.
And honoring family tradition, he kept fighting with me and my brother about reselling the cash car.

I spent a week on the phone. He didn't get it.
And finally I told him that's it.
The car's going back. It's the ethical way of handling the job. Period.

My father called six months later.
He checked local resources and his friends.
Confidant they would have better judgment than anybody in his family.
And said he understood cash cars .... maybe.

The last 15 years of my brother's life in Bloomington were his happiest.
Living in a tiny house with newspaper over the windows.
Better than freezing in Chicago in the barely-heated, condemned Arlington Heights drug house where he sometimes paid rent.
He died Nov 2015 of a blood disorder.
I miss him.

My father? Now that he's 90.
His worries have subsided and he has become nice.
Unaware the economy will cheer his last retirement check while hoping to put all of us into cash cars.

And on the sunny side, we'll all get to roll one over and leave it on the side of the road.

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