I’ve not been in SL lately. The atomic world has been taking its toll. Which is not to say I’m not keeping a half-an-eye watch on SL – I do. Like Santa, I can see if y’all are playing nicely or not. I’ve also kept watch on my other reader feeds and plurks and tweets and IMs. A friend sent the following link: Spent , run by the Urban Ministries of Durham. This is a “game” that simulates trying to live for a month once you have no job, no income and very little good fortune. I don’t usually play games. This one intrigued me, and didn’t seem all that “game-ish”.

This is not a game. This is a slap-in-the-face reality check. This is a hard kick to someplace that hurts. The premise is that you are a single parent, unemployed, homeless, with no savings, down to your last $1000. The challenge: make it through a month. Your first choice is to find a job or exit the “game”. It gets a LOT harder after that. I had to choose between earning money or seeing my child in a school play. I regret to say that I chose earning money, because there was still more than half the month left and I was running out of money. I skipped health insurance. I compromised over and over. The first time I played I failed the typing test (don’t ask) and so could only take a job as waitstaff. That did not pay enough and the hours conflicted with using the library internet and the bus was late and I was docked my pay. You can see how it goes.

My son played. Over and over and over. He made it to the last day once. But he had to kill his pet which was sick and crying because he didn’t have money to pay the vet. He had to make some other cruel choices. He had no health insurance. If he contested his unjust speeding ticket he would have to lose a day of work and be docked. He was stunned, absolutely flabbergasted to learn the if you do not maintain a minimum balance in your checking account, the bank TAKES MORE MONEY from you monthly, because you are poor. I think he must have spluttered that 3 times minimum: you mean, because I don’t have enough money, they’re going to take MORE money from me???? We live in a state where you are required by law to insure your car. I forget what he had to give up in order to insure the car. Something else desirable. He never did manage to buy health insurance. One round found him with an ailment in his jaw, but he had to live with the pain because he could not afford any medical care. You are given the choice between being a “hit-and-run-driver” or running out of money in the middle of the month.

Each time you make a choice, you are provided with facts or statistics. For example, once you have gotten a job and know your salary, you are offered the choice to buy health insurance. Trust me – you can’t afford it. Even though you can’t afford to be without it. The message ends with: Let’s hope you don’t get sick. When you have to decide where to rent, trading distance and cost, you learn that “for every dollar a working family saves on housing, they spend an ADDITONAL 77 cents on transportation”. In other words – the difference is 23 cents. Twenty three cents. And on and on. Yes, you CAN make it through the month. But you may not have enough for when the rent comes due for the NEXT month. And you might not like yourself very much for the choices you made to survive.

Take the Challenge. It’s very educational. And I’m thinking about it A LOT when I want to moan about the atomic world taking its toll.