Why Do The Poor Make Such Annoying Decisions?


“He never drinks water, you know, only beer, about a case a day. Imagine being so rich that you don’t have to drink water.” (Living Poor, Moritz Thomsen. Ecuadorian Alexandro’s observation about a Balsa Sawmill “gringo” owner who he said was a good man.)

My time is worth something, isn’t it? Stop wasting my life over fifteen cents will you. I have things of consequence to do, activities that might change the world. Or, maybe not. But I do need to get out to the villages “TODAY”, because I have a long hard days work ahead of me.

I place a premium on my time, when a poor person does not have that luxury. Our two worlds collided today.

I had to make a run to the villages to inspect fifteen drip irrigated gardens.

I also had to haul drip irrigation supplies for yet another village as well. This consisted of two barrels filled with fifteen buckets, over 2000 feet of drip irrigation line and various fittings. Only using motorcycles in our community development project has its challenges, especially on days like this.

I had to recruit a Malian friend to bring his motorcycle along with me, so that we could load down each bike for the fifty-eight kilometer journey into the bush.  I was paying my friend for gas, wear and tear on his moto, and something for his time.

After loading up, we pulled out of my court and crossed over to the gas station next door. I fueled up, and handed him what I promised him so that he could fuel up too. But rather than fuel up at this gas station beside my house like I did, since we were already here and stopped, he said he was going to wait until we got to the other side of town. “We are right here dude!” I said. “Fill up so we don’t have to stop again.” He said it was cheaper over there, that he will wait. He was obviously missing my point.

A liter of gas is about 750 cfa, ($1 = about 500cfa), but at this other gas station it is 50 CFA cheaper, and he was bound and determined to get every milliliter of fuel he could out of the money I gave him for gas (which was more than enough at any price). So we had to make a second stop for the sake of 10 cents a liter, and he only put in 1.5 liter.

You saved a freakin’ 15 cents dude… come on man, are you serious?

I was all suited up for the dusty bush (if you don’t cover up, your clothes fill with red dust and are ruined on long trips), plus had a big black helmet on my head, and I had to sit there waiting for him on the side of the road, in the broad sunlight, and it was already 33 degrees in the shade, at 9:15 am. I was sweating like a pig, and I was not in too good a mood.

It was all a bother and nuisance to me.

Then I realized, it’s the decision of a poor man. While I was huffing at him, he was probably huffing at me for not waiting to get my gas at the cheaper place, right on the way. He might have been a nuisance to me, but I was being thoughtless and careless with my money in his eyes.

Why do the poor make these annoying decisions? Well, probably because they have to, and I don’t, and I feel entitled as a result.
So who is at fault again?

“He never drinks water, you know, only beer, about a case a day. Imagine being so rich that you don’t have to drink water.”

He can buy his gas, any amount, at any price he wants, and doesn’t care. Imagine how rich he must be to live like that.

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