This place matters

This place matters

Thursday, October 18, 2012

As if being poor wasn't bad enough

According to a study conducted by The Salvation Army earlier this year, 27% of Americans think that the poor are lazy. 
From this, I can only conclude that 27% of Americans are so busy counting their money that they don't have time to think.
I mean, have they never looked inside the kitchen at McDonald's? Passed a moment to think about the home health aide who wipes their ailing mothers' bottoms? Tried to imagine just what a hotel cleaning lady does all day?
I have a good job. I work hard at my job, and I worked hard to get it. But I got my first job before high school, worked as many of three jobs to help put myself through college, and spent quite a few years after college cursing my choice of major. Over all that time, I had a rich sampling of the sort of jobs those lazy poor people work. Sort of like that lady who wrote Nickeled and Dimed, only not on purpose.
I've never been to hell, but I have a hard time imagining it is hotter, or smells worse than a fast food kitchen. When I was an assistant manager at a local chain of burger places, I saw people literally beg for overtime. I literally begged for overtime. Because the managers who make up the schedules are sadists, or possibly pissed off because they're managers at fast food places,  people were regularly scheduled to work until 2 and then come back in at 9. Think hard work and bootstrap-pulling pays off? My place didn't hire from within. They thought you wouldn't manage your employees well if you used to not be their boss or some bull. That's not uncommon in food service. Food service workers are nameless, faceless, and disposable. It doesn't matter if your milkshakes make the angels sing - you put cheese on the wrong side of the bun when your boss is having a bad day, you're over. 
No seriously, I had a general manager berate me for five minutes over my cheese placement skills, then for another 15 minutes for apparently not being appropriately humbled by her cheese-related tough love. Do you know what makes your employees respect you? Not being reduced to tears over cheese in the middle of the kitchen during lunch rush. 
That wasn't unusual. It was Tuesday. That's reality for people in fast food. And they beg for extra shifts. They go home, they scrub off the grease, they try to spend a minute with their kids, and then they go to their second job and pray the car doesn't break down, or your kid's asthma doesn't wind them up in the emergency room again before payday (kids in poverty are three times more likely to die from asthma attacks and many times more likely to be hospitalized for them).
Direct care workers spend their days cleaning up every manner of bodily fluid. Some get kicked, bit, hit, spit on, and threatened on a daily basis. I loved working with kids with disabilities, but I still have scars from scratches and bites. At the facility where I worked, you could get "mandatoried." That meant if a third shifter called off, your boss could tell you that you must work a second shift or you're fired. Mind you, if you fall asleep during your enforced third shift, you're written up, possibly fired.
When I worked at the adult group home, someone threatened to murder, rape, or beat me up at least three times a week. I ended up in the ER twice - once from getting beaten up and once after a client's suicide attempt resulted in my getting blood in an open cut on my arm. 
That's reality for people in direct care. And they beg for extra shifts. They leave work and hope nobody decides to follow through on a threat to slit their throat (and to be fair, they rarely do). They go home and they do their best to stop seeing the bloody sheets every time they close their eyes. No seriously. Any time I think my job is hard, I remember the day that I foiled a suicide attempt, got bled on, went to the ER, went back to work, spent hours cleaning up the blood, and got told off by my boss for getting bled on. I was apparently not supposed to attempt first aid in the case of bloody suicide attempt. Silly me.
And there are people who spend their whole goddamn lives working like this. I've seen grandmothers work 18 hour shifts just to pay the bills. I've seen people pass out from heat or exhaustion. You think the poor are lazy? Switch jobs with them for a day and find out just how lazy they are.

And why don't they just pull themselves up by their bootstraps and get out of the ghetto? More on that tomorrow.

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