Happy Labor Day

Granddaughter asked, "What is irony?"

This is irony:

In the laundry room, waiting for the load of clothes to finish swirling, I flip through the magazines. One bold cover blurb catches my eye: "Lose 10 pounds in 30 days." Recently, I've done that, but don't think it took 30 days. More like two weeks. My secret is simple--Gatorade 'n' water. No money = no food.

The machine stops spinning, and I crouch in front of it, scooping clothes into the basket.

I stand. The basket of wet clothes is heavy, and I'm lightheaded.

Here's another irony. A tweet, by a homeless New Yorker calling him (her?)self  I.M.Kafka, reminding Mayor Bloomberg about HOMELESS PEOPLE WHO WORK.

I.M.Kafka is not alone. He is legion. We should never forget and never forgive that people work and yet can't afford a place to live. Expect us.

Poverty is not idle.

This labor day is laundry day. I have $1. Enough to wash most of the dirty clothes, etc-- not enough to dry them.

I like clotheslines, but I rent an apartment and I have no clothesline in the back yard. I have a place to live, and know how fortunate I am.

I stand on a chair and screw a metal hook into the wall of my apartment, adjacent to the window. Around this hook I loop one end of a piece of clothesline rope, and tie a knot.

Pulling the rope across the room, I wrap the other end around a hook in the opposite wall, and knot it. This wall is hollow and can't support the weight of the wet clothes, so the hook slides out of the wall and the laundry tumbles to the floor. I take the clothes off the line and  return them to the basket. Now I stand on a table to wrap the end of the rope around the vertical blind bracket over the window, tie a knot and it's up again.

I re-hang the wet clothes, open the blinds all the way to let the sun shine in. Sunlight is a disinfectant, which is why more of it should illuminate government and industry.

Jeans I hang on a plastic chair in front of the window. For what doesn't fit on the clothesline, I have a folding clothes drying rack.

Now there is $1 left. That will wash the clothes next week. The week after  that, the dirty laundry will pile up. Small things get washed in the sink.

Then the monthly check--the one I WORKED for-- will come, and sheets and towels and jeans will get washed again. Sometimes a month is five weeks.

You have to be very organized and creative to live as a poor person, and even more so to live as a homeless one.

I'm used to this. When I worked, I sold my Cd's to buy gas to get to work. I pawned my rings to buy gas so I could get to work. F**K You, Oil Companies.

I borrowed money to buy food, when I worked. I worked all night, and slept all day to recover from the job. Like all things unsustainable, eventually it all came crashing down.

Today-- Labor Day, a woman called NPR's Talk of the Nation to tell America about her job cleaning motel rooms for $3.25 a room. She has three degrees, used to teach art. Teaching art is not highly valued in today's America. Neither is making useful things that people need. Or writing stories.

Before journalism school, I cleaned motel rooms. I know that the fastest workers can clean (thoroughly) three rooms an hour, and that is what was expected of us in those days, for minimum wage. Twenty minutes to vacuum, dust, wipe up spills, change linens, scrub toilets, tubs , sinks, walls, empty garbage cans, make up beds...But not everyone is a fast worker, and if you are paid $3.25 per room and can only manage two rooms per hour, then that is less than the federal minimum wage. Is this legal?

The national minimum wage should've been $15 an hour by now, anyway.

Happy Labor Day to all who have jobs and all who are looking...wherever you live. You are not alone.

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