NO, Maine TV Station, 84-Year-Old Motel Housekeeper Is NOT 'Heartwarming,' STOP THAT
Somebody at "NBC News Center Maine" (WCSH) seems to think it's kind of adorable that America's social safety net is so full of holes that 84-year-old Jackie Hart has to work as a motel housekeeper to survive. Or as the story's headline chirps, "84-year-old Mainer takes on new role as a motel housekeeper with feisty spirit." A tweet previewing the story, from reporter Chloe Teboe, racked up an impressive ratio on the Twitter machine yesterday as people chimed in to ask, "What the hell is wrong with you, TV person?"
We all need a pick-me-up story these days, so this morning, I'm introducing you to born-and-raised Mainer Jackie Ha… https://t.co/3MiB59vcnx— Chloe Teboe (@Chloe Teboe) 1595496708.0
No! Old people having to do manual labor to survive is not in any sense a "pick-me-up story," unless perhaps someone's going to come into the kitchen and scrape me off the floor where I have been drinking all day.
The only hint we get that maybe Ms. Hart didn't seek a job cleaning up other people's messes in motels as a hobby is a happy line about how Hart "was working as a Walmart greeter before retirement but then found her social security check just wasn't cutting it." So she picked up the phone and got a job changing strangers' cum-stained sheets, hooray!
Why wasn't that check cutting it? What are Hart's circumstances? Where does she live? Is she getting enough to eat? Anything else about the challenges of trying to pay the rent during the coronavirus crisis? Heck no! The lede literally devotes twice as much space to what a pretty location the motel is in:
In Southwest Harbor, late Tuesday morning sunlight sparkles on the water, bathing the Harbor View Motel and Cottages in a humid warmth. It's quiet on the campus, a few visitors piling into their cars for the day's excursion, or enjoying a book on their weathered decks.
We learn that Hart is a hard worker and that everyone she works with is impressed by her energy and her can-do attitude:
"I do what they want done and do it how they want it done and do what I'm told," Hart emphasized matter-of-factly. Even as the newest employee at the motel, she fits right in. Most of the other staff members have been working there for about 20 years. With the stunning views and kind management and regular visitors, it's easy to understand why one might stay — and that loyalty doesn't go unnoticed.
Why, she even appreciates the great kindness of the manager, Sedge Saunders:
"He's very good to let me work the way I work at my age," Hart smiled. He doesn't push me — he helps me."
Heck, some days he doesn't even whip her! Did it occur to anyone involved in the making of this paean to endless drudgery to ask Hart what she thinks about having to work at her age, or even what her life is like outside the job? If they did, there's no hint of it in either the written or the video story.
Studs Terkel's Working this is not. Everything is fine! Work until you drop!
And just think, folks, now that Mitt Romney's horrifying "TRUST Act" has been included in the Republicans' incomplete proposal for coronavirus relief, even more seniors may get the opportunity to take on new roles as laborers, if they manage to find work. The proposal would "save" the programs by setting up a committee — a bipartisan one! — that would have the power to write legislation that, as Romney's office puts it, "restores solvency and otherwise improves" both programs. No, that doesn't mean by raising taxes on billionaires. Worse, the panel's legislative proposals would be fast-tracked for passage, to limit the chances of stopping 'em.
Fuck anyone who thinks we should all work until we drop dead. And fuck Mitt Romney while we're at it. And if Wonkette has any nice angry socialist Mainers in their 70s or 80s reading this, could you please go pay Ms. Hart a visit and radicalize her? She doesn't have to be used like this, goddamn it.
Come the revolution, "feel-good" stories that normalize exploitation will be the first trope up against the wall.
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