I hadn’t seen this driver for quite a while. I remembered that his wife is disabled, and he had told me about a few of his own ailments. He had also had the same nightmare landlord as me, but a different property. So we did some updating. It turns out that the landlord put everyone on month-to-month leases so that he could raise the rent as much as possible, no limits. Right now their rent is $1,500 for a one bedroom. This is the same landlord that decided that my property was going to be converted to profit (it was low income tax credit housing), and when they served me notice, they backdated it, which was hella illegal – and when I called them on it, they told me that no one else complained. They were counting on our ignorance. So this landlord is doing no leases on this driver’s property to skirt a law for the city of Mesa. He told me that he wanted to stay put and it was too hard on them to move, so they would keep paying. But three-quarters of their income now goes to rent.

There was another rider, and she was at least retirement age. I asked her if she was feeling pressure with rent. It turns out her one bedroom is $1,300 right now. She said her son handles her financials and would help her with her apartment move, but she wanted to get out of there and had been telling him that. I provided her with a bunch of info and my card. I’m set up with alerts right now, but it’s dismal in Phoenix. I have seen very few one bedroom apartments for less than $1,000, and that’s with shared laundry facilities. I did tell her that she may have more options just because she was over the age of 55, although wait lists are overloaded right now too. [Side note: If you are not at all familiar with Social Security Income, aka SSI, or Social Security Disability Income, aka SSDI, just understand that neither support rent of $1,500 or $1,300. The full amount a single person who still has their sight is a whopping $791 a month for SSI. SSDI is different because work credits are calculated, but it’s still a fraction of earnings, never a full amount. Some people are even given both depending on whether they worked for a few years and were disabled for a few years. It’s complicated. The bottom line is that there are no “welfare queens” in disability.]

After the other rider was dropped, the driver and I did some more chatting. He told me that he had a pacemaker placed and he was talking to the doctor during the procedure. The twilight sedative wasn’t enough to keep him down. So he was asking the doctor about certain parts and their function, and the doc was apparently impressed with how much the driver understood about the pacemaker. The driver was an engineer in his previous work life and was even certified to work in a nuclear plant, although couldn’t actually make that happen because he was too tall for nuclear subs, where most of that type of work was located when he was certified for it.

My driver said that he gets into Ham radios as a hobby, and pointed to the handheld radio in his bag. I hadn’t noticed it before because it really just looked like a walkie talkie, and the drivers in general have electronics they have to carry. But we talked about how there were certain radios and radio frequencies that penetrated the Earth’s atmosphere and allowed NASA’s ground control to talk to the astronauts. I had to ask him about what happened earlier this year when a friend visited from out of state and we were on the top of South Mountain, nearly on top of some very powerful radio towers, and we couldn’t get a cell signal. It would have been so much fun if we could have jumped on a video call and connected with a third friend that we worked with a couple of decades ago and had a mini reunion on top of this beautiful mountain, but no! No signal. My driver said that our phones were probably too overwhelmed, there was too much going on at the towers so everything was just canceled out. It was so disappointing. But now the mystery is solved. No impromptu videos chats at the top of South Mountain. My rheumatologist is a big nerd and also gets into the Ham radio world. It wouldn’t surprise me if these two guys have chatted with each other. My driver said that the great thing about this community is that there was never a dummy in the bunch.



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