Brother, can you spare an hour?

There’s been no amount of downtime to spare lately, so I wanted to do a quick word plop.

Everything has been in preparation for, in plan for, in thought of the big move. And it’s rapidly approaching. My husband and I have been pulling full time schedules, me with the lower end of that spectrum, him with 60+ hours a week. We’re working for scraps-fast food pun intended. And I wanna talk about the mindset behind that last sentence. I didn’t notice it so much my first job, or my anthropology job (which I miss so much) but somewhere along the way, my husband and I started measuring things in hours.

One cup of coffee, a scone and a breakfast sandwich: 1.3 hours
One 24 pack of Dr. Pepper: 1 hour
One textbook: 37.5 hours

Because ultimately, the question isn’t: “Can I afford this?”

It’s: “How many hours of my life is this going to cost me?”

And I think that it’s that rooted thought process that is dangerous. Because your worth suddenly becomes stuck in time (almost literally). It gets warped-money falling by the wayside, the only currency is time. And for a generation that is constantly plagued with accusations of entitlement, impatience and a lack of foresight, this process is, well, humbling.

I’ve worked in food for a little over 3 years, retail for another year plus and then I’ve had academic jobs for 4 years. I have worked the entire time I’ve been in college-a trend which will no doubt continue in law school. However, let me explain how this ideology relates to the bigger picture.

Suppose you have someone who didn’t go to college (and therefore has no college debt), working in a minimum wage job. They can’t afford much-full time on minimum wage will give you roughly $300 a week (before taxes) in Ohio, or $1200. If you live in Columbus (the capital), rent in a SAFE neighborhood is $700-$900. If you’re by yourself, that’s almost your entire paycheck. And that’s supposing 40 hours guaranteed a week (which is HIGHLY unlikely in fast food). Anyway, with your $300 that are left, you must pay utilities, insurance and buy gas. Suddenly, you’re down to your last $50 and you have to buy groceries for an entire month. Oops.

This isn’t a sob story about raising minimum wage (although that would be great), this is the reality of the situation. I have student loans-which I know I will need to pay back. But in exchange for making that crossroads deal, I am able to put a pause ( momentarily) in the question of how many hours I must sacrifice while I am attending classes. This is renewed each summer, when I look for work in the food/retail industry and it rattles me a little further each time. But let’s do a thought exercise.

For any given day, the following are probably true:

-I need to buy gas
-I have at least one apartment bill due
-I need to feed myself and my husband
-I have to put air in our car tires

So let’s pick a day at the middle of the month (because my bills hover around then or the beginning).

Gas: $20
Bill Due (Electric AND Insurance AND Phone): $100+$45+$90
Food: $20
Air for tires: $.50

Total for the day: $275.50

There are 24 hours in a day. Let’s suppose it’s a work day, suppose I have full time and get 8 hours of work that day. That’s $8.15*8=$65.20 for the day of work.

At minimum wage, it would take me 34 hours (not including taxes taken out) to pay for just 3 bills and the extra bits. So let’s look at it a little differently.

Gas: 2.5 hours (and my commute is just 10 minutes, plus I walk)
Bills: 12.3 hours + 5.5 hours + 11 hours
Food: 2.5 hours (it takes longer to afford food than it does to burn the calories off from eating it!)
Air: 4 minutes

I know this post has a lot of math- I get it. I took most of the pressure off you, but as always, feel free to check me.

All I’m saying is, for a generation of “entitled” people, we’ve never been so coerced into selling our souls just to stay alive.

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