Sunday, January 31, 2016

Nickle and Dimed: The Invisible Effects of Poverty

Being a member of the lower class of society has many visible effects, such as a lower income, poorer housing and food quality, and even poorer health. However, when Barbara Ehrenriech takes a number of minimal wage jobs across the nation, she experiences many invisible effects from poverty as well.

Ehrenriech comes to realize that one unforeseen effect of poverty, especially when working with a maid service, is not being seen. After working with a maid company for a little while, she finds that what she really wants to be is, "...above all, noticeable" (99). I think in our society we tend to pass lower income workers by with out noticing them. Imagine you have just arrived late at night at your hotel, and you are waiting for the elevator to arrive when a maid scurries by. Would you stop and say hello, or even make eye contact? Or would you just stare off into space and continue to wait for your elevator? I believe most Americans would choose the later option.  Being unseen is undoubtedly a problem most low income workers have to deal with, and one that we as upper class Americans don't notice, even when we are the ones ignoring them.

Another hidden and negative effect Ehrenriech experiences is revealed by during her long long shifts at Wal-Mart. She has an argument with a short co-worker. Later that night, as she watches the shorter worker climb a ladder, Ehrenriech  feels: "A surge of evil mirth...hoping to see her go splat" (168). This mirth, at the prospect of another person's misfortune is obviously a bitter, and even cruel response. However, Ehrenriech is not as mean as her thought suggests. She believes when you work at a job considered demeaning by society, it makes you bitter. There are a wide variety of demeaning and subservient jobs lower income people are forced to fill. The mental toll this can have on a worker is impossible to see physically, and most likely stored away inside for only the worker to brood over. That is a hidden burden none of us would want to carry.  

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