My neighbor gets up at 2 a.m. and is at work by 3:30 a.m.
Six days a week.
She works hard for the money*
She works at a grocery store. She has two dogs and I have two dogs.
Our dogs like each other and we talk about going to the dog beach
together, but who can plan that? We’re lucky to run into each other in our own neighborhood.
“Hey, how are you?” “Tired. You know.”
So hard for the money
I do know. I teach six classes at two universities. My wife works freelance for an overseas company
in artificial Intelligence designing for humans to be obsolescent.
In the meantime, she has no time to sleep.
My neighborhood is all plumbing trucks, gardening trucks and vehicles that go to work.
People leave in the morning to make the world turn. And they come home late at night.
So hard for it honey.
We are Denny’s late night after midnight. Our server seems exhausted by the register as I pay. I ask him when he gets off, he says six a.m. I sympathize hoping he can get some sleep. He says he’ll sleep from eight to one when he goes to his second job. He’s been doing that for two years. He wants sleep, he says. He’s says he’s saving up to own his own business and work only one job.
My neighbors come home wearing service uniforms. The Vietnamese family around the corner. Their son comes home late at night from the restaurant with leftovers. The black family around the corner, where the dad works as an electrician. The Mexican family next door where the dad is a gardener.
I’m proud to also be a worker. We work. We do whatever we do. Turning on the lights, freeing the water, raking the gardens, serving the food, teaching the kids, doing the books… working.
Making the world turn.
But you never see her cry.
And we get sick. And people die. And mortgages fail.
And people who make the world go around deserve better than they got.
So, you better treat her right.
I think a lot about the 1% getting most of everything.
Some people seem to have everything.
And I think about the 99%, like us– me and my neighbors–
and most of America, not getting most of everything.
I want the 99% behind the wheel.
I want us behind the wheel turning and turning and turning.
But we aren’t driving that car. But we should be. We made the car. We designed the car.
We painted the car and we powered the car. We do all the work, but we don’t get to drive that car.
I think about next year. One year from now—2020. I want us. The workers. The worker bees.
The busy workers who do all the work. I want us driving that car. I want us in the driver’s seat.
I want us seen.
She works hard for the money
She works hard for not much money
I want my neighbor to work five days, and not six.
–Marie Cartier, November 2019
From the series, In These United States
*With thanks to Donna Summer and Michael OMartian for lyrics to She Works Hard for the Money