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Tales of the American Working Class

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Another taker who should just buck up and embrace the creative economy:

So my daughter gets WIC. We get food stamps. The car’s paid for, and so is the house. If the house wasn’t paid for I don’t know where we would be. On the days both T.J. and Devon work, we put 150 miles on the car. Devon’s job is only 19 miles roundtrip, so when it’s just her working, it’s not so bad. But gasoline runs about $100 to 150 a week. Utilities are around $300 a month in the summer, lower in winter, about $250. The county office is supposed to help with utility bills but they make it impossible. You have to go to the office and sign up. You can’t do it by phone or the Internet. They call you to go in, and you have to take a class on energy efficiency, and take all your bills and proof of no income. We had help twice about two years ago. We got some help through a church once; they’ll help with a bill if you’re working.

We still have Internet through the cable company and cable with it. The rest of the money goes for everything that is not food, diapers, toothpaste — those luxuries. And we have two loans to pay off, besides the school loans — $175 a month and $140 a month. Devon and I both took out loans when we were working and making good money. It seemed O.K. at the time.

Money is just a real strain on everything. T.J. feels as if he is the only one bringing home money. I don’t bring in anything, so I don’t have much say. I can suggest things now and then but it’s not my money. I’ve got no cash, nothing at all. I did get a $5 pair of Walmart sweatpants a few months ago, and I still have work clothes, but I don’t buy anything. I’ve sold almost every piece of my mother’s jewelry, including my grandparents’ wedding rings and things my dad gave her, to pay for bills over the last few years, especially when my daughter and I weren’t working.

At night, we don’t do much. I made a big pot of chili the other day so I didn’t have to cook last night. We reheated that. I had washed the air-conditioning registers and vents. T.J. took them down, and I washed them in baking soda and vinegar and bleach. So we put those back up, watched some TV and took care of the baby. We don’t really go to many places. I like to read but I’ve read everything I have now, and there is not a lot of time.

I do still fill out job applications. I would love to get back to work. I never thought I would go this long without working, without making any money. But bad luck (and some bad decisions that were not necessarily known to be bad at the time) can happen to anyone, and when it just keeps coming, it’s hard to get out from under things.

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