"Working at Walmart"
It's Saturday and the time has come to leave my free lodgings and neurotic
few hours before my hosts are scheduled to return, I
pack up and head down to Twin Lakes, where-no
that all the second-story rooms have been taken. The particular room I'd re-
quested, which looks out on a backyard instead of a parking lot, is now oc-
cupied by a woman with a child, the owner tells me, and he is good enough
to feel uncomfortable about asking them to move to a smaller one. So I de-
cide that this is my out and call another weekly rental place on my list, the
Clearview Inn (not its real name) which has two big advantages: it's about a
twenty-minute drive from my Wal-Mart as opposed to at least forty-five in the
case of Twin Lakes, and the weekly rate is
still scandalously high, higher in fact than my aftertax weekly pay will
amount to. But in our latest conversation Hildy has promised to rent me a
room with a kitchenette by the end of next week, and
am confident I can
get a weekend job at the supermarket I applied to, in bakery if I am lucky.
To say that some place is the worst motel in the country is, of course, to
set oneself up for considerable challenge.'
I have encountered plenty of
contenders in my own travels-the
one in Cleveland that. turned into a
brothel at night, the one in Butte where the window looked out into an-
other room. Still, the Clearview Inn leaves the competition in the dust. I
in cash (the extra $10 is for telephone service) under the glass
window that separates me from the young East Indian owner-East
seem to have a lock on the midwestern motel business-and
am taken by
his wife to a room memorable only for its overwhelming stench of mold. I
don't have enough Claritin-D for this situation, a point I have to make by
holding my nose, since her English does not extend to the concept of al-
lergy. Air freshener? she suggests when she catches my meaning. Incense?
There is a better room, her husband says when we return to the office,
here he fixes me with a narrow-eyed stare-I'd
better not "trash"
it. I attempt a reassuring chuckle, but the warning rankles me for days: have
I been fooling myself all these years, thinking I look like a mature and sober
person when in fact anyone can see I'm a vandal?
Room 133 contains a bed, a chair, a chest of drawers, and a TV fastened
to the wall. I plead for and get a lamp to supplement the single overhead
Anwi-a, pp. 150-169 by Barbara
Ehrenreich. Copyright 2001 by Barbara Ehrenreich. Reprinted by permission of Henry Holt