It all began with television. 30 minute human logic problems: a minor quotidian crisis, rising action and climax. Teaching conflict resolution, but also teaching gender roles and class struggles and ways of thinking about onesself. Television was the greatest self-fulfilling prophecy.

Television taught us to search for plot, and ignore all else. For this reason we fictionalize our own lives. We trim edges, we delete pauses, we polish. No one wants to hear about the hour you spent pouring Cosmos into some skank at the bar, we want the ten to fifteen of her, gasping, face smooshed up against your rear passenger window, and we want it in Cinemascope. We want the truth put into a neat sequence. Listen to someone who doesn’t do this; it is excruciating.

Reality must also mean something and be moving towards something. No one cares about grocery shopping or blowing your nose because those activities are essentially the same for everyone. {Aside: For me, having sex after the advent and major explosion of pornography is annoying. I’m sure that before there was a lot less posturing and fake moaning. If someone's mouth comes in contact with my penis and I’m not sounding off like a cat being boiled alive, the mouth assumes I’m not enjoying myself. News Flash: It feels good, but it would be better if you would stop asking dumb questions and start humming. Loudly.}

In your 20’s, you realize that existence is mostly episodic, with subtle trends in one direction or another. The idea of a bildungsroman is laughable, because by the time you start off on your grand adventure, your learning curve has scoliosis.

At 24, I am qualified to speak on very few subjects, one being Psychology, which is the subject that I have devoted the most study to. The other stems from my employment at a smattering of low-rent, low-wage shit jobs to pay for school or other necessities. I know about poor people. It has recently occurred to me that this knowledge is useless on its face; I once considered myself an anthropologist, seeking new facets of a group of people that I didn’t understand. Slowly, I have become one of them.

As such, my anecdotal data is of no use. So, I lay it out before you here.

Pearls Before Swine: Some Notes on Minimum Wage Workers

Poor people are boring. If there is not a strong conversation going, they can stare off into the distance for far too long, and only grunt as you leave to go back inside. You can end any conversation with them with a simple generality, the most effective being about how the big are always picking on the weak1, that the best thing to do is accept your lot in life and keep working, or about how it all seems to come out in the end. This may or may not invoke mention of Jesus.

There are several types of poor people conversation, with many sub types. The first is personal, and is either about a disappointing ex-, brother, or child that did not take the story tellers advice to straighten up their lives, and is usually accompanied by waving the index finger around and tapping a table. The punchline of this story is more often than not jail. There is also the mooch story, about a family member/friend that will not pull their own weight, or a story about surgery. The surgery story is actually a long drawn-out process, the first station being a brief description of the afflicted individual’s medical history, usually involving an uppity nurse and a brave face put on before surgery, despite fear. If the surgery goes well, then the process must be poorly explained, using specious medical jargon and embellishments that enliven the story.

The surgery story is similar to the lawsuit story, and follows the poor person’s organizing principle if you let them, they will rob you blind. The lawsuit story will be an opportunity to tell lurid details of their personal life, no doubt.

If a poor person lends you money, they will sometimes bring up your possible financial woes as an excuse to mention the money they lent.

Every man who makes less than 20,000 knows exactly what is wrong with your car. They smoke all of the time and shrug off the notion that it is unhealthy. The have ungrateful children who are suing one company or another. They think pride is an excuse for physical violence. They get into pissing contests easily.

Their heads are like grease traps filled with every backwards notion that has ever floated into their ears; systematic epistemology is lost on them. Their arguments are patchwork affairs; filled with straw men and slippery slope logic. They pride themselves on being both blunt and tactful. They rage against things and can call evil by its name.

They are perpetually broke but never broken, guardians of their own strange legacy and the loyalty of their blood. They are not too cynical to care about justice.

These notes are, of course, my own experience with lower to middle class workers in the southern part of the United States. Your experience may vary.

1. The government on citizens, lawyers on plain folk, bad men on good women.