I am reading this book given to me by a friend of mine, and it is bringing me back in so many ways. It is called Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America and it is about the working poor, those who work 40 hours a week to get by.
I lived in Stillwater, Oklahoma, and went to the University, and worked in a Japanese restaurant and was making my way through college. No, the restaurant I worked in was not a diner, nor a future job. It was a “college job”, the kind of scut work you brag to your friends about over cosmos at a party, to one-up them. The game is called “Shittiest College Job”. I rarely win (free miso soup, anyone?) because a sushi/hibachi joint is rarely a den of iniquity. I had bad days, sure, but I knew I could always walk off. There were moments of desperation, between my undergrad and my master’s where I was like, fuck, I will be here forever. But I wasn’t, and I am not, and I now have a shiny new house.
But that book brings me back. I have worked for “Joy”, “Stu” and the gang, but I never lived it. I did, in a sense, because those people were my companions when I was working at Wal-Mart, at Mexico Joe’s, etc., but always, I knew I had an out. I knew I could always walk. I needed the money, yes, but there was always the Mom to fall back on, should it get too bleak. I have walked a few jobs myself. Those jobs fall under the “Jobs I Walked Out On” game for parties.
But it was never the only thing I had to look forward to. The end of the line. I was getting a degree, I was going places, and these jobs were just holdovers, rent and food money, and times were hard, but I always thought it would be different in the future. It is now.
Maybe I needed to read this book because I needed a wakeup call.
May be next I’ll read this: Bait and Switch : The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream