Can I get you your check?

When reading Nickeld and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich I gained more from the account when I read it as a middle class woman entering into a wage grade job and less than desirable living conditions. When the book is read from this perspective I believe it raises its value, especially in light of the current economy. The current economic situation has forced many Americans who had previously been living on a single or possibly dual person income to find part time jobs to supplement their earnings. There is also a wave of people who have simply been laid off and are thus must take wage grade jobs to survive. Many college students are also entering into this poor job market and are taking jobs they would have been qualified for without a Bachelors Degree, wondering what the last four years had been for? The mentality of these people having to enter into a job they FEEL over qualified for and unchallenged by is reflective of Ehrenreich’s work.

The interactions between Ehrenreich and her co-workers I believe shows more about the working class than her own experiences. Her responses are born from an entitled white upbringing. Savage Inequalities by Jonathan Kozol explores this sense of entitlement. One enters into a job and has a different mentality toward a job depending on their upbringing and experiences. For example I entered into the “real world” in 2008 and got an internship in a Museum in North Carolina that provided housing as long as I paid for all the other expenses. I jumped at the opportunity to move half to a completely new area of the country and with literally $600 in my bank account moved. First off, I had a safety net in my parents; I was not going to starve. However I was also a new graduate and as such pride would make that a last resort. I was able to get a job at a local country club as a server for nights and weekends. My schedule became working at the museum for roughly 30-35 hours a week and I told the club I would work roughly 20 hours a week. I arrived to my internship October 2nd and by the second week in December I was working 30 hours a week at the museum and 30 to 35 hours at the club just to get by and I still had to ask my parents for help with the plane ticket home for Christmas.

My attitude was horrible, not to the customers but much like Ehrenreich, I would find myself only getting through a shift by saying over and over “this is not permanent”. How very middle class of me. I feel like this is the middle class, graduate experience now and in that light I think Ehrenreich’s work would have been a solace to me during my own experience.

One thought on “Can I get you your check?

  1. Kate, clearly I had a similar experience to you! While reading Nickel and Dimed, I was also aggravated with the obvious differences between the brevity of Ehrenreich’s supposed social experiment and the permanence of actually living that way – and I had the same knowledge you did that grad school was coming and everything would be okay. I feel like Ehrenreich offered a different perspective of our own experiences but without enough analysis of why they made her feel the way she did.

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