At a Wal-Mart advertising a job fair, a woman shows up after a ten-minute wait, flustered since, as she explains, she just works there and she’s never interviewed anyone before. Barbara fills out a four-page “opinion survey” with, apparently, no right or wrong answers. The form has questions about forgiving or denouncing a coworker caught stealing, and if management is to blame if things go wrong, with answers ranging from “totally agree” to “totally disagree.” Barbara finds it hard to believe that employers can learn anything from these tests, since most people can see through to the “right” answers—knowing to say she works well with others, but would denounce them for any infraction, for instance.
The “survey” bears much resemblance to the test Barbara had to fill out at the supermarket in Key West. Questions about ratting out fellow employees appear to be a common trait to these tests. Barbara can easily see what they’re meant to do—weed out potential employees who would cause any strain on management or be anything other than dutiful, obedient, and loyal only to their managers.
However, in Key West, Barbara earned $1,039 in one month and spent $517 on food, gas, toiletries, laundry, phone, and utilities. She could have been able to pay the rent if she had stayed in her $500 efficiency with $22 left over (though sooner or later, she would have had to spend something on medical and dental care). But by moving to the trailer park in order to take a second job, she had to pay $625. She could have bought a used bike instead of using the car, but she still would have needed two jobs—and she learned she could not sustain two physically demanding jobs.
Here Barbara delves into line-by-line calculations of the economic realities of her experiment. At the start she’d noted that she could simply add up income and expenses from a desk, but now the reader can recall specific moments and choices that led to Barbara’s struggles to pay the bills. In Key West, there was no ideal situation: even having a bike wouldn’t have solved her financial troubles.