Nickel & Dimed

I still haven't made it to see the Kitchen Dog Theater's production of "Nickel and Dimed" down at the MAC, but I will. Barbara Ehrenreich's 2001 book by that title about going undercover working minimum wage jobs was fascinating. It reminded me of Stud Terkel's powerful book, Working, that I studied in college.

I read Working for a course called "The Work Project" in University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Centennial College, a living/learning community. Centennial College was pretty out there on the educational innovation edge in 1975. Our seminars were self-motivated, and also self-evaluated. The question on the evaluation form that stands out in my memory was:

How likely are you to continue being interested in and reading about the subject of this project? 1 2 3 4 5

It's been over thirty years, but I'm still interested in work as a concept. That doesn't mean I leap out of bed when the alarm clock rings. What makes work meaningful? What gives it dignity? What about being called to a "vocation"? How should a society value, treat, and pay workers in every type of employment? What happens when being employed is not enough to provide for basic needs? What if I have to live in a box down by the creek and eat cat food?

My walking buddy scopes out hypothetical sites for her future corrugated carton abode during our thigh-busting power walks. A corrugated carton in a ravine is not the same as a gated condo community with creek views. I worry about people trying to cross the ravine to work for the ultra-privileged sprinkler-system/SUV set in Texas and in Congress.

Meaningful work, affordable housing, living and learning... My oldest son is finishing his masters degree and job-hunting in the field of living/learning residence hall communities. He may have the key to affordable housing. His potential job includes a furnished suite, meals, full benefits, and a zero mile commute. I hope he finds it meaninful!

Harding, G., (Ed.). (1974). The centennial experience-Faculty perspectives of a cluster college. University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

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