Nickel and Dimed Quotes by Barbara Ehrenreich
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Nickel and Dimed opens with Barbara Ehrenreich , a writer and journalist from Key West, Florida, at a lunch with her editor discussing pitches and article ideas. She speculates what it would be like to actually try to live on the minimum wage, and says that some enterprising journalist should try to do it—not thinking that the editor will say it should be her.
Nickel and Dimed: On Not Getting By In America
Ehrenreich begins her book by discussing her preparations for her endeavor. The idea is to enter the low-wage workforce for a period of time as a way of investigating poverty in the age of welfare reform. Though she tries to steer clear of waitressing, that is exactly where she winds up—serving tables at a restaurant called Hearthside, attached to a big discount chain hotel. After only a few days on the job, major problems arise. First, management is oppressive. The latter problem is a deal-breaker: Ehrenreich must find a second job to supplement her income. Before long she is struggling to stay awake and mobile.
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Barbara begins her project near her real home, in Key West, Florida. Key West for the poor is a place where even trailer parks are too extravagant for minimum-wage work. So she makes a choice many low-wage workers must make between affordability and convenience, and chooses a $
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Ehrenreich cannot imagine how these people survive on these low wages and sets out to see first-hand how they get by. She has three rules and parameters for her experiment. First, in her search for jobs, she cannot fall back on any skills derived from her education or usual work. Second, she had to take the highest-paying job that was offered to her and do her best to keep it. Third, she had to take the cheapest accommodations she could find, with an acceptable level of safety and privacy. When presenting herself to others, Ehrenreich was a divorced homemaker reentering the workforce after many years. She told others that she had three years of college at her real-life alma mater.
As Ehrenreich applies for numerous jobs, she learns about the low-wage-job application process. These applications involve many multiple-choice questions and a urine test. When she does not hear back from any of the jobs after three days, she begrudgingly applies for a waitressing position. Gail trains Ehrenreich on the ins and outs of waitressing; Ehrenreich feels supremely incapable and incompetent. Ehrenreich gets to know some of the regular customers and feels compelled to do the best job possible. Ehrenreich bonds with her coworkers and comes to like many of them. During her time in the restaurant business, Ehrenreich comes to despise management.