Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Depressing thoughts on a Tuesday

Warning: this post is not about food or exercise or anything weight loss related. And, no, unfortunately it's not a fun post about dying my hair green.

This post has to do with something that has been troubling me for a while. Usually, I can get home from work, have a glass of wine, hang out with the Nathan and the cats and forget about it for the evening. But not today.

I can't stop worrying about poverty. And I'm not talking about some far-off place. I'm talking about poverty that hits close to home, at least for me.

Perhaps it's because I'm in Syracuse, where everything is gray and bare and there's no lush vegetation to cover it up. So unlike Virginia where poverty (to some extent) is covered by blooming flowers and southern hospitality.

Today, Nathan and I smoked a cigarette with a woman who is in her mid-60s. She wakes up at 4:00 a.m. to work the early shift in the newspaper's collating room. She has worked with the company for five years, and from what I can see, is a hard worker. She is also a U.S. veteran and has served in the military for over six years. And yet, she barely makes over minimum wage. She is consistently passed over for promotions because of her age and sex. She doesn't even get full-time status, though she typically works just under 40 hours a week, so is not eligible for health insurance, paid time off, or any other benefits.

She sits on the bench with me and Nathan during our cigarette breaks and makes jokes. She bums us cigarettes when we run out. She offers Nathan career advice (since he works in the same department). She harbors no grudge that Nathan got promoted and was made full-time within a month of getting the job and she's been working there for five years. (It helps to be a healthy, young man).

What will happen if she gets sick? How will she ever retire? Will this woman walk to work in the dark and cold every day for the rest of her life?

Looking at this woman and the countless other people I work with who are in the same boat, I am terrified. There are no other jobs to apply to. As much as these people may resent their employers who squeeze them out of benefits, they need the meager wages they earn.

I can't help but think that this country is going straight to hell. The poor keep getting poorer, as salaries stay the same but all other expenses rise each year. The middle class is losing ground by the second.

And suddenly, I'm afraid that, despite having grown up middle class, I won't be able to raise my (future) children that way. It's a chilling thought.

1 comment:

  1. It's sad, I know. But at least she's getting by.

    And I don't mean this to be snarky, but the more immediate problem is the smoking. Expense aside, it's ruining health. That's something that can be fixed right away by quitting. Very Hard, I know.

    Sorry to be 'preaching' - couldn't help it when I read this post.