Dr. Mona Battles Urban Poverty
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Dr. Mona Battles Urban Poverty

 Elias Andreopoulos
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 Elias Andreopoulos
Dr. Mona Battles Urban Poverty
by Elias Andreopoulos  FollowFollow
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Elias Andreopoulos loves the cold. It comes from his Canadian blood.
Dr. Mona Battles Urban Poverty
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It had been three months since Dr. Mona received her PhD in psychology from one of the finest online universities, and one week since she was terminated from her bank teller position at the deplorable Matlock Savings Bank.  Her career was at a crossroads.  How she utilized her time would define her life’s path.  She wasn’t devastated for being unjustly fired because she saw no future for herself in banking.  It wasn’t like in her grandfather’s day when a retail banking position held prestige.  Banking now attracted workers desperate to slave for $11 an hour as the bank accumulated billions.  A total farce.  

        Dr. Mona was a person of the people, someone who transcended her family’s wealth.  Her psychology background gave her the power to make a lasting impact on the poor, who didn’t know what they wanted from life, so she had to tell them what they wanted.  She decided to be a community organizer like President Obama.  Her intelligence would transform urban America into a paradise.  

        She searched the internet for community organizer positions and was unimpressed with the PhD insulting $40k salaries.  But she had to start at the bottom to reach the top.  She took solace that she was an educated millennial, while her hipster slob brethren ate kale and ceaselessly binged on Netflix.  Feeling inspired, she drove into the urban wasteland called the Bronx to get experiences to reference during her interviews.     

        She was not accustomed to the hectic New York City driving.  She learned in her defensive driving class that rushing is meaningless, with red lights and traffic patterns equalizing the commuter pace, and she drove slowly to illustrate that point.  The other drivers honked the hell out of her, especially the delivery trucks.  They were jealous that she was changing the world, while they delivered cucumbers.  

     Anywhere in the uniformly putrid Bronx sufficed for her fieldwork, where the buildings were dilapidated, the apartments like tenements. Trash littered the filthy ground and the inhabitants wandered hopelessly.  Parking was difficult to locate with rows of cars lining the streets, some illegally blocking fire hydrants and driveways without the slightest regard for their fellow man.  Forty-five minutes later she parked.  The air was thick and smelled putrid, as if she needed a reminder that she wasn’t in Long Island anymore.  She grabbed her iPad so she could log her fieldwork progress.

        A girl of about sixteen pushed a baby carriage over the bumps of the uneven sidewalk where weeds sprouted through the numerous cracks.  The girl would struggle to lose the pregnancy weight, judging by the size of her bulging belly, but upon second glance, Dr. Mona realized the girl was pregnant again.  She had her whole life ahead of her and needed help.  Getting continually knocked up would destroy her future, among other things. 

        “Shouldn’t you be in school?” Dr. Mona asked and blocked her path.

        The girl attempted to maneuver the stroller away, but Dr. Mona stayed in front.  “Out of my way!”

        Dr. Mona would rehabilitate her into a successful woman, as she had transcended her own early mistakes, with a helping hand from a community organizer.  “How old are you?”

        “Twenty, what’s it to you?”

        “And I’m Hillary Clinton!  You’re not twenty!”

        “Move!”

        “Only when you enter the closest high school to get yourself an education!  It’s the Bronx, they must have a daycare.  I bet you feel terrible about shacking up with random men now!”  She was being didactic, but it was the correct approach.  Millennials need tough love to inspire their lazy butts.

        “You’re right!”  The girl gave a smile, one that showed she understood what Dr. Mona was preaching.  

        “I’m glad you see the wisdom of my ways.”  A victory already.  The community organizer job was easier than anticipated, though not all conversions were going to be so painless.   

        The girl pulled a pistol from her pocketbook.  “And I’m going to give you some advice.”  She cocked the pistol without flinching.  “Mind your business.  I don’t want a fancy woman telling me what’s wrong with my life!”

        Dr. Mona’s heart skipped and a little bit of urine trickled down her leg.  

     “I want to help you, but I’m letting you make your own mistakes.”  Dr. Mona walked backwards with her hands out as the girl returned the pistol to her purse.  

     She'd continue to be ignorant, pregnant and poor, and Dr. Mona couldn’t do anything about it.

       

     Dr. Mona’s eyes scanned for more people to inspire.  An old Civic screeched to a stop.  The momentum carried it into the Lexus in front of it.  The Civic driver exited, a rotund teen girl with frazzled hair, iPhone clutched in her hand from texting and driving.  Dr. Mona didn’t understand why people drove so poorly, especially when the chance of mortality skyrockets.  But she had to put aside her prejudices.  As a community organizer she had to inform, not judge.  Maybe the girl didn’t realize the dangers.  Not everyone possessed her intelligence.  

        The driver of the Lexus was a middle aged woman, also heavy set.  That got Dr. Mona to thinking about creating a nutritional program to illustrate the benefits of healthy eating.  All she saw were interchanging McDonalds, Burger Kings, and KFCs.  It would be wondrous if the government demolished those fattening establishments and constructed a Whole Foods.  

        “Watch where the hell you’re going!”

        “Get over it!  It was an accident!”

        “Hard when you’re driving a piece of crap and I’m driving a Lexus you fat whale!”

        “Like you should talk, heffer!”

        The jawing continued.  A considerable crowd paused to witness the face off.   The Lexus driver slapped the Civic driver, who punched the Lexus driver in the face, dropping her to the ground.  Cheers exploded from the crowd.

        The Lexus driver remained on the ground as the Civic driver repeatedly kicked her head.  Nobody intervened.  Dr. Mona’s mind thought logically in the pandemonium.  The crowd was against the Lexus driver, and if Dr. Mona defended her, her credibility would be destroyed.  Nothing she did would mean anything if she was exposed as a defender of the wealthy.  The woman drove a Lexus anyway, so she could afford medical treatment.  Dr. Mona imagined the children she would save, to give her the fortitude to walk away, vowing be righteous in a land forgotten by God, despite the numerous storefront churches.

       

        Going to the Bronx without a plan was foolish.  While getting her PhD she prided herself in obtaining the best research.  In the real world she failed herself.  She frustratedly walked past people who had no clue how badly she wanted to help them.   

     “Got a dollar?” asked a toothless man sitting against an abandoned building, whose grotesque stench covered a ten yard radius.   

        A teachable moment for Dr. Mona.  “Have you ever heard of the Chinese saying, Give a man a fish and feed him for a day, teach a man how to fish and feed him for a lifetime?”

        “My grandmama used to tell me that!”

        “I’m not going to give you money, because that’s feeding you for a day.”  Dr. Mona pulled out her iPad enthusiastically.  “But I’m going to teach you how to use this iPad!”

        His eyes opened wide in anticipation.  “I always wanted to learn technology, I never had a chance growing up!”  It was heartwarming to witness his interest.  

     She imagined his childhood, and ascertained he had a meager chance for a successful adulthood.  It was society’s fault for abandoning him.  This was the essence of being a community organizer, the reason she was going to wake up every morning.  

        “With computer skills and a shower, you can work for Geico.  They’re hiring!”

        “Me work for Geico?”   He appeared shocked somebody believed in him.

        “Why not?  With your attitude, you’ll be a tremendous asset to that gecko!”

        The homeless man stood up and jumped happily.  “Nobody has ever believed in me!”

        “Well you’re worth it kind sir!”

        Dr. Mona handed him the iPad.  Before she could commence instruction, he was running down the street with it.  Dr. Mona gave chase, but couldn’t catch him.  

     “You could have stopped him!  You should be ashamed of yourselves!” she yelled at the disinterested bystanders.

     Dr. Mona wasn’t one to sulk, yet it was difficult not to.  A gun had been pulled on her, she didn’t break up a fight and her iPad was stolen.  But the day wasn’t a failure, it was a learning experience.   Thomas Edison didn’t invent the lightbulb on his first attempt.  It took hard work, dedication, sweat, failure and sacrifice.  The miserable day would be a distant memory when she was collecting the Nobel Peace Prize for ending urban poverty.  

    She decided to purchase a Diet Coke at a bodega to moisten her dry throat.  The rusted over door was jammed closed.  The place had to be open in the middle of the day.  Maybe the heat warped the door to the wood and the owner was wondering why nobody was patronizing his business.  She would do him a favor by opening the door, because that was the kind of person she was.  She plowed into the door like a fullback, pushing away the chairs keeping it closed.  

     The shopkeeper, a man of Pakistani descent, rose from behind the register.  “Put the chairs back!  What are you doing woman?” he yelled.

        Dr. Mona was confused by his animosity, and was not going to take it.  “I don’t know how you talk to women in the old country, but this is America!”

        “Chairs block the doorway lady!”

        “Lady?  Like I said, this isn’t the old country,” Dr. Mona started.

        Before she could finish speaking, the door opened with great force.  Roaring exited the vocal chords of a heavily bearded man of 6' 9" and 400 pounds, an extra 50 pounds of gold chains hanging around his neck.  Drool dripped down his mouth, his eyes bloodshot.  Dr. Mona had broken the barrier keeping him out, hence the shopkeeper’s rudeness.  But how was she supposed to know?  Maybe if he spoke to her like a human being instead of acting like a chauvinistic prick they wouldn’t be in this predicament.

          The giant grabbed a fistful of KitKats and began eating them, plastic wrapper and all.  He went to the refrigerator and punched through the glass, lacerating his hand.  He took a can of Dr. Pepper, and attempted to open it, but his thick bloody shaking fingers couldn’t lift the tab.  Having lost patience, he bit through the aluminum and drank through the holes his teeth punctured, bloodying his mouth.  He was so high that he felt no pain.

        “More spice!  Spice now!” the giant pleaded, like a hungry child begging for food.

        The shopkeeper threw a silver package at him; once legal in New York, synthetic marijuana, a.k.a. spice.  

“Don’t smoke it in here!" the Pakistani shopkeeper yelled.

        Dr. Mona would try to level with the giant, because the shopkeeper lacked people skills.  “Excuse me sir!  Smoking in a place of business in New York City is illegal, as per former mayor Michael Bloomberg!”  The giant heated the glass pipe with a lighter, paying her no attention.

        The door busted open with the zombie apocalypse.  Five people with their arms in front of them moved forward like they were pulled by an invisible strong.  The shopkeeper threw silver packages at them to keep them away.  They bit through the wrappers and ingested the spice through their mouths.  One woman pulled down her pants and stuffed the spice where the sun don't shine.  

     “It’s faster!” she screamed.

        Her method of consumption inspired the others.  Six butts got synthetic marijuana stuffed inside of them.  One man farted, exploding the spice out like confetti at a tickertape parade.  Dr. Mona wondered if any of what she witnessed was legal.  The government needed to do a better job regulating psychotropic items.  

        “How dare you?” Dr. Mona screamed at the shopkeeper, angered he purposely oppressed his customers.  

        The shopkeeper threw a package at her.  The idiot was batting one thousand, causing a mass overdose and treating a brilliant doctor like a dope fiend.  

        “You people should stop doing this!” Dr. Mona exclaimed.

        The woman who pioneered the anal shoving angrily yelled, “You people?  What do you mean you people?”  She approached with venom in her eyes.  This got the attention of everyone.

        “You people is a rallying term!  All I want to do is help you!” she replied, trying to redeem herself for her safety.  It wasn’t working.  They were turning on her, and the situation could transpire horribly if Dr. Mona didn’t save herself.  She pictured the head of the Lexus driver getting stomped on.  That could be her fate.  

     “It was him!” Dr. Mona screamed and pointed at the shopkeeper.  “He said you all were savages!  That’s why I’m here in the first place!  To protest!  Loot his store!  Steal from the bastard, his lottery tickets especially!”  

     Dr. Mona knew it was unethical to label him a racist and incite a mob to destroy his livelihood, however she had to save her own butt.  The mob listened to her rally cry and caused absolute destruction.

        “You ruined my business bitch!” the shopkeeper screamed, practically in tears.    

        Police officers in riot gear stormed the store and broke apart the addicts, who acted belligerently and resisted arrest.  Dr. Mona chanted like she was programmed to, “Hands up!  Don’t shoot!” and snuck out in the commotion without the police pursuing her.  

     Her experience as a community organizer was over.  It was not meant for her, yet.  It wasn’t a knock on her intellect, the people weren’t ready to be changed.  When it was time, she would return.  Anything was possible with her brilliance.

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