Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Nickel and Dimed

It is time for a book review! As I have said, I was able to read 3 whole books while on our little vacation. One was a book that was at the rental apartment on Harbour Island and I found it most fascinating. I remember the author, Barbara Ehrenrich, being on t.v. a few years ago discussing the book, Nickel and Dimed, and I wanted to read it then. Well, I saw the book in the large collection and decided this was the time. No trashy mindless romance novels for me on the beach!...I had real romance :)

So, Barbara essentially took on a challenge at the fault of her own suggestion and became part of the working poor in America. While Barbara in reality has a comfortable life, she attempted to understand how the working poor live and the challenges they face - she wanted to see just how hard it was for them to make it day by day.

Barbara had a couple of "conveniences" that she allowed herself that a true working poor, minimum-wage making person does not, primarly that she always had a car (rent-a-wrecks) and was not at the whim of public transportation. She moved a couple of times to different regions of the US to see how different minimum-wage living was in different areas.

She worked as a waitress, at one point at 2 restaurants at once - she discovered that life was hard, the people were generally good, and she ended up walking out and walking away after one fateful night. She had a good taste of how hard it can be to make it on minimum wage and what a difference there was between the "workers" and "management". It has been a long time since I worked such a job and it was a good reminder for me.

She then moved North (Maine I think) and worked at a housecleaning business, although she never names which one. Here she dispels some true myths about the "cleanliness" of such services as opposed to the "appearance of cleanliness" that is actually the goal of these businesses. Here she gives the reader a better understanding of truly how quick the turnaround is at these type of jobs and how truly difficult it would be to have children, get injured, or any other "inconvenience" while working a minimum wage job.

Finally, she moved to the Midwest and ended up working at Wal***Mart. Again, I marvel at how power hungry and divergent the workers and management seem to be at these types of employments. This time, housing was a serious problem for Barbara and she actually sounded like she stayed in a place that was unsafe. Imagine being in her shoes, having difficulty finding decent housing (even with the help of agencies that are supposed to help), with children to protect!

All in all, it was an eye-opening read. I am glad that I went to college and have a good job that I do enjoy. While in debt, I have the capacity to get myself out. Without this education, I would be working the minimum wage jobs and would NEVER have been able to afford an adoption, let alone 3. I have thought about that a lot since reading this book. Even with 2 people working minimum wage jobs, it does not end up being that much money coming in.

I recommend reading this book. There are a lot of people in the US living as she describes.

Thank you Barbara for taking this leap and truly investigating so you can share. My eyes will be much more open now to families, especially single parents who I know might be living this way.


1 comment:

D said...

I read this book a couple of years back. Thanks for the reminder.

I think we all need to know what it is like. Hopefully, to show our fellow man compassion and respect. Many, Many people live like this. To get a feel of just how many, one should recall that we have people like Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and Oprah, making millions of dollars a year and yet the average American income is $34k (or there abouts). Now look at the people around you and yourself - most of us are bringing in more than this. So just how many minimum wage workers does it take to get the annual here?