Saturday, April 08, 2006

A gloomy post

I'm tucked away in my upstairs study, spending the morning reading and listening to the rain/sleet outside. It should be cozy, but I'm not feeling particularly content. I keep hoping the weather will clear up so we can take our dog out on a good walk, of at least an hour or two.

I am reading Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed again, and her chapter on working at a Wal-Mart in Minneapolis is absorbing. I've read her book before, and I've read a lot of articles about Wal-Mart, but her description of working there is still horrifying. What is most hard to take is her struggle to find affordable housing, which simply isn't available giving a housing crunch and her $7 an hour wage. And also her description of the false perkiness that's expected of her at Wal-Mart, coupled with the invasive management culture, the expensive and pointless drug testing, the threats about unionizing, the insulting warnings against "time-theft" and getting blamed for things you didn't do, the non-paid overtime. She says you have to pay $1 for the privilege of wearing jeans on Fridays.

And here is what she says about our world of "big-box" stores:

I get a chill when I'm watching TV in the break room one afternoon and see ... a commercial for Wal-Mart. When a Wal-Mart shows up within a television within a Wal-Mart, you have to question the existence of an outer world. Sure, you can drive for five minutes and get somewhere else -- to Kmart, that is, or Home Depot, or Target, or Burger King, or Wendy's, or KFC. Wherever you look, there is no alternative to the megascale corporate order, from which every form of local creativity and initiative has been abolished by distant home offices. Even the woods and the meadows have been stripped of disorderly life forms and forced into a uniform made of concrete. What you see -- highways, parking lots, stores -- is all there is, or all that's left to us here in the reign of globalized, totalized, paved-over, corporatized everything.

But I don't mean to infect you all with my gloomy mood. On a lighter note, I got a new book yesterday: Alberto Manguel's A History of Reading. I've read good things about this book on other blogs, and it looks interesting, and I always like reading books about reading and books.