Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America

by Barbara Ehrenreich

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In "Serving in Florida," who is Ehrenreich's intended audience?

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Ehrenreich's audience, the people she hopes will read the book, are individuals who have never been in the kind of position or situation she is living and describing. She is attempting to convey the emotions and frustrations felt by those living on minimum-wage income to those whose existence is built upon ignoring the minimum-wage workers whose labor makes their life much easier and more enjoyable.

She is one of the privileged and assumes that her readers will identify with her apprehension as she begins her experiment.

it's not easy to go from being a consumer, thoughtlessly throwing money around in exchange for groceries and movies and gas, to being a worker in the very same place.

She explains the challenges faced by those looking for such jobs, understanding that her audience has never had to deal with such complications.

hotel front-desk clerk...gets eliminated because it involves standing in one spot for eight hours a day. Waitressing is also something I'd like to avoid...Telemarketing...can be dismissed on grounds of personality...Three days go one from the approximately twenty places at which I've applied calls me for an interview...the want ads are not a reliable measure of the actual jobs available at any particular time.

Living arrangements and daily personal care are constant sources of expense, requiring funds that the working poor simply don't have, as Ehrenreich discovers.

There are no secret economies that nourish the poor: on the contrary, there are a host of special costs. If you can't put up the two months' rent you need to secure an apartment, you end up paying through the nose for a room by the week.

By the end of her time Serving in Florida, Ehrenreich feels a failure as a server and housekeeper, but has unbounded, newly developed and deeply felt sympathy for those not able to walk away from their situation as she could.

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