Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Not really a character sketch

But some helpful information for contemporary writers -- at least I think so. Poor people do not go to the doctor like people with health insurance do. That's it. I can explain more though.

We watched Supersize Me a few years ago -- or the TV series that came next, maybe? Anyway, the point of the show was to illustrate how difficult it is for people to live on minimum wage, so he's going to a new city with his girlfriend and they're going to get jobs that don't require college degrees or experience. It's supposed to last a month.

They can barely afford the cheapest apartment and he takes a landscaping job because it's what he can get starting immediately with no references or experience. I can't remember what she does, but the point I'm getting to is that about a week in he goes to the Emergency Room because his wrist hurts.

I was ready to turn off the show as inaccurate. He went to the emergency room because he knew he'd be out of that life in a month, because that's not how it happens with real poor people. People who would be paying that bill for the rest of their lives. For real poor people, this is the doctor test...

So, if you are writing a modern story where people are poor, remember that people can withstand a lot more pain than you might think. I grew up in a single parent household earning well under the poverty line, and the only time I can remember going to the doctor was when it was required by school.

This is probably on my mind because, if I hadn't had insurance, I would not have gone to the emergency room yesterday. Even with difficulty breathing and chest pain, and knowing how many women die of heart attacks. When people know they can't afford the doctor, they'll find a way to work through it. And no, Medicaid does not cover all poor people.

This isn't meant to be a political discussion, but a character discussion, so to continue on in that vein... I know I have something wrong, some medical problem. My stomach is seriously distended and painful to touch making it hard to breathe (we think), but I know that if I was still living the way my mother and sister do, barely making enough to afford a place to live, I would have to do the same thing they would be doing in this situation. Waiting and hoping it would go away.

So, just remember how hard people will fight to keep their money if they have very little of it.

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