Ehrenreich, during her ‘investigation’, held onto her car and her ATM cards, to be used in emergencies, and when the going got tough she promptly moved away from that job. However, her experiment succeeded to get an idea of the American low wage work force and find out the daily hardships and the various bureaucratic pitfalls that affect the lives of these poor people. Barbara Ehrenreich in her book also gives these working people a human face, which touches the heart of almost all readers.
As one reads the book the question that comes uppermost in one’s mind is that, is it really possible to survive by earning something as low as 6-7$ per hour? In reality, as Ehrenreich starts her “low-wage life” (Ehrenreich, 39), she finds that there are many Americans who do such work every day. Besides getting low wages, as Ehrenreich notes, these people must make various cuts to be able to make the multiple payments, necessary to get by. These include food, rent, children, health insurance, and automobile insurance, amongst various other payments that must be paid from the low salary, which these people receive. As Ehrenreich tries to make these payments from her low wages, she falls short each time, even as she keeps on changing her job and location. She befriends many of her co-workers and learns how they manage to survive through all such hardships. While working as a waitress, she learns of a woman who sleeps in her car, as she cannot afford to hire a house with her meager earnings. Here again Ehrenreich talks of another waitress Lucy, who has an ailing leg and needs treatment. However, she cannot get the medical aid she needs, as she does not have any health insurance owing to her poor salary. While working in ‘Merry Maids’ as a house help Ehrenreich comments “although no one, apparently, is sleeping out of their car, there are signs…of real difficulty…” (Ehrenreich, 79). Here she meets