They Work Hard for Their Money


So the blog’s been neglected, as if you’ve been pining way for witicisms from Jean, right?  It’s because I’ve been a workin’ fool lately. Good thing, as the wolves, in the form of not only one, but two goons with missing teeth have, of late, been knocking at my door. I won’t go into detail, but I ain’t lying.

While I continue to do book talks (shout out to Kenn Ann Smith and Victoria Babu for hosting this month!) and I’ve been seen out on street corners selling books out of the back of my car, I’ve also been doing a LOT of freelance video work.  Praise the Lord!

Last night though, I was semi-trapped in the lovely office building which is my temporary home. I was screening scads of video. It was late. Everybody had bugged out except the cleaning lady and one lowly freelancer — me. My temporary magnetic card wouldn’t allow me up to the parking deck. Wouldn’t open the metal gate at the street level if I rode it down, either. I could see my car on the 3rd floor of the parking deck, I just couldn’t get to it.

The nice lady with the keys and rickets, as in, her legs are bowed, came to my rescue. We’d been chatting while I was scrounging around for leftovers in the employee fridge. No luck. But I had an orange with me. She was chatty while I was peeling it into the garbage disposal. Told me about her Superbowl party plans for Sunday.

“Tuna salad, wings, ribs….but I told everybody else to bring alcohol,” she said, her hair pulled back into a pony tail, dyed an interesting shade of cranberry, “because I can’t afford that.” Said she was rooting for San Francisco. I smiled, didn’t launch into any kind of book promo opportunity, just smiled, told her “go Niners” ate my orange, finished up, grabbed my backpack and got stuck in the lobby, where I ran into my buddy again. Good fortune smiles on me. She used her extra-special-back-elevator-magnetic-card to help me get out. “I’d get out of here too if my supervisor would show up. They shorted me on my check! They got me at $7.50 an hour,” she told me as we headed up to the parking deck. “I don’t work for no $7.50 an hour, I’m up to $9.50 now and I need that money for my Super Bowl party!”

Amen, sister. Bless her heart, $9.50 an hour. I was thinking about that driving home, then walked in to find Seannie’s work shoes laying in the living room floor. Normally, I’d trip over them and it would piss me off. But last night, it brought a tear — of joy!

Even though they're white, he's a member of the Blackshoes.

Even though they’re white, he’s a member of the Blackshoes.






Across the room in my mother’s rocking chair was an empty Sketcher’s shoebox. The ol’ boy had bought himself some new work shoes! It reminded me of something I wrote about in Off the Leash, inspired by the legions of wonderful, decent working class folks I encountered in motels, restaurants,  toll booths and truck stops from Brooklyn to the Bay. Over the course of eight weeks and nearly nine-thousand miles, it was often just me and them, just like last night, me and her.  She sprung me from the joint, the folks on the road took me back, reminding me of my heritage — the working class, the Blackshoes, a tribe of which I am a part.  I hope for the rest of my life, I’ll be blessed with the humility to remember. Here’s a clip from a reading I did recently, a tribute to the working class. 

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About Jean Ellen Whatley

Writer. Dreamer. Sometimes schemer. Journalist/memoirist/observer and sometimes constructive irritant. Prisoner of demon muses. Mother to four humans and two dogs. In my spare time, I delete phone numbers of former boyfriends.

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