Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Life's Little Injustices (Take VIII): I Work Two Jobs (But Have No Money)

<That familiar sinking feeling...?>
<Picture: http://advice.careerbuilder.com/posts/8-tips-for-juggling-parttime-jobs>

Like many of life's rough snapshots, this one starts off simply enough. There's a gas station on the corner that I patronize semi-regularly for my pop, whenever I'm traipsing back from my latest assignment. It's also a good opportunity to check whatever stories might have run already.

Eventually, on Sunday and Monday nights, I notice a different type of cashier working there: a burly, graying gent with black horn-rimmed glasses...I'll call him Rick, whose presence here is something of a surprise. Here, you're most likely to see teen and twentysomething women -- minority, more than often not -- manning the register. By contrast, I've only seen three guys treading these particular boards. Including Rick.

Bit by bit, I get into little sidebar conversations with Rick, who doesn't seem to mind. (Anything to move the minute hand, right? Been there, done that.) More often than not, our talks focus on the election. We bond over something simple: Rick hates Clinton and Trump, and isn't voting for either of them. As I've explained here, neither do I.

Tonight, though, the talk shifts elsewhere. I pick up a paper, crack a joke about "Breaking Bad," and get ready to pay for my latest pop. "Not too sure about that one -- I watched it a few times, didn't do much for me," Rick volunteers. "I like 'Bones,' though. 'Body Of Proof,' stuff like that. That's really good."

I reach for three singles. "Well, maybe you check out 'Better Call Saul,'" I suggest. "I've been watching it three years now, and it seems well on its way to surpassing 'Breaking Bad,' since we're seeing most of those characters before the drug world overtook them."

"Yeah, now that you mention it..." Rick's fingers dance over the cash register, like they've done a million times before, always one step away from a permanent flirtation with carpal tunnel syndrome.  "I did see the first episode of that, on demand. Seemed pretty good."

"Caught any since? I know it's on Monday night, and that's when you're here, so I could see where that's a problem."

"Well, actually..." Rick curls his lower lip into a sheepish smile. "It's because I can't always keep the TV on."

I don't know how to respond, at first. Then it dawns on me: oh, shit, he means the cable TV, not the regular TV. 
Rick finishes ringing me up, and pushes my two two-liters over to me. "I work two jobs, but have no money," he shrugs.

I fumble for something incisive to say, but can't muster more than, "I'm sorry to hear it. Hope your situation gets better."

But that's not likely to happen in the short run, for Rick and too many millions of others like him. His fiftysomething face is one that I increasingly see at jobs like these, at church food pantries and community dinners, free dental clinics and sliding scale health care programs, the face of resignation that signals -- when you stand by them in line -- life wasn't supposed to end like this. 

As for me, I'm paddling as best as I can. What infuriates me, though, is seeing more and more graying faces lining up with me, for food, medical care and all those other necessities you can't exactly think of going without. They didn't ask to roll these crap-laden dice that have condemned them to running harder and harder in place, yet falling further and further behind.

They didn't want to play the heavily-stacked hand that sent them tumbling down the rabbit holes of disappearing jobs, steep cuts in social benefits, or the smoldering wreckage of a pension plan gone haywire. They knew what ruin lay around the corner when some higher authority punched a calculator of his own -- remember, it's usually a "he' that makes such decisions -- and punched them a ticket to permanent employment oblivion.

No, the Ricks of the world didn't expect -- nor ask for -- any of these things. But for the next four years, no matter who wins, that's exactly what they'll be expected to do. And that's what aggravates me the most. --The Reckoner

Links To Go: Click Now (Before You Need A Fifth Job):
CNN Money: I Work Four Jobs And I'm Still Struggling:

CNN Money: Sick Days: A Luxury
Many Hourly Workers Don't Have:


  1. Thank you for your articles. The media likes to make everything seem wonderful with a great economy and lots of available jobs. I feel like I am the only one jobless and not making ends meet, ever. I am 50. Is this it? A 40 hour a week job seems like it is now just a dream, a wish, not reality.

  2. Hi, there, Kathy,

    Glad to see you back here again. As you know, my touch is a mixture of "just the facts, ma'am," plus a good dash of literary technique, and some hard shore leather reporting when the occasion requires it.

    As far as the media goes, I couldn't agree more. Much of the current economic reporting falls along the lines of, "Well, now that 2008's firmly in the rearview mirror, and now, we need not worry."

    Every day, I see a different reality. Every day, I meet people who are hurting, for all kinds of reasons, through no fault of their own. What makes that hurt feel even worse, of course, is that many of them still believe in the ideals of our democracy, ideals that have been corrupted and perverted, if not sold to the highest bidder -- stuff that would have the Guys In Stockings And Wigs, whose name is so carelessly invoked, in a mood to kick ass and take names, if they were to come charging out of their tombs.

    Obviously, the first step toward changing some of these ills is to ACKNOWLEDGE them for what they are. Only then can we work on fixing them. Many of the pronouncements of our so-called leaders remind me of the hardcore alcoholic who wants to keep drinking, and keep running the brewery, consequences be damned. We all know how that movie ends.

    Counter-information is the first step toward comprehensive social change -- and that's where I come in, I think. Thanks again for writing, let me know if you need anything else. --The Reckoner