Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Girl Who Refused to Cash the Winning Lottery Ticket

A nice couple, both successful professionals, lost two children tragically, within a year of each other. One son died in a commercial airplane crash.  Almost a year to the day later, a daughter became ill while an exchange student in South America.  She developed an infection her mother said would have been cured easily in the States. But the poor hospital in the poor country didn't have the medicine.  And so, despite the doctors' best efforts, she died.

A few years later, the parents decided to go back to South America and make a donation to the hospital that tried so valiantly to save their daughter's life.  Though it wasn't part of their original plan, while there they thought about adopting an orphan from that country.  For, as the wife said, "The house was empty." 

As things turned out, there were four siblings in need of a family.  And so the wife traded her days at the office for days at the supermarket, pushing, pulling, and keeping count of her new brood.

Time went by, and the kids were growing up as nicely as the older children had.  Well, almost.

The oldest adopted daughter decided to leave home shortly after high school.  By that time the parents had invested some money for each of the four, so the girl had a nest egg to supplement her fast-food job.  She took an apartment, and soon after, a boyfriend.

My office at that time was directly across from the police station, where court was held every week, and a lot of my applicant pre-screening was done from my office window.  And sure enough, shortly after being on her own, I looked out my window, and there she was.  Although I couldn't hear her, I could see by her body language she was becoming what we called back then a "Ricki Lake Girl"... all head bobbing, finger pointing, teeth sucking attitude.

I sort of kept up with her, seeing her at one dead-end job after another, hanging around town in bad company, going nowhere fast.  One day her mother called me.  Apparently out of funds, the daughter now needed a place with rental assistance.  Would I rent her one of our subsidized apartments?  With nothing concrete to deny her, I did, but with misgivings.   

Bad news travels fast, especially in a small town.  Our other tenants soon told me her apartment was becoming a hangout for druggies.  We did an inspection.  It was filthy, nothing like the way she was raised.  Since she had to report any income changes, we also knew that she kept losing job after job.  Soon she wasn't paying even the nominal rent she owed.  We began eviction proceedings.

By the day she was due to be out, the whole building was in an uproar.  Traffic at all hours, random bell-ringing to get in the building, the usual drug behavior.  The constant traffic, and the prostitution which provided the drug money, was causing all our other tenants to lose sleep.  She herself was in jail.  I went to the apartment to see if her things were out, and discovered a crackhead girlfriend there.  The "friend" tried to tell us she was visiting, but it's hard to be convincing when you're wearing dirty Victoria’s Secret at 3 in the afternoon.  I called the police, and they escorted her out. On her way out, she loudly proclaimed ownership of the TV. Since my soon-to-be-ex tenant was otherwise occupied and not there to object, the police shrugged their shoulders.  I sure didn’t care.  It was just one less thing for us to eventually throw out.  The “friend” lugged this huge TV, and never missed a beat.  She immediately set up housekeeping a few doors down in another crack house, and a few minutes after her "move" was on the cordless phone on the front porch, like it all never happened. I changed the locks.

A long time afterwards, I spoke with the girl’s father.  He said that no matter how they tried, she was just headstrong and kept going in the wrong direction.  He commented that she was like a person who was holding a winning lottery ticket, but refused to cash it in.   

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