Jars, not restrooms, because, hey, it’s capitalism and low wage workers aren’t really human anyway

In a more optimistic moment, I succumbed to sentiment—I’ve been doing a lot of that lately—and ordered graduation regalia meant to conform to that I wore to my Ph.D. graduation five years ago (figure 1).

Fig. 1. Photograph by author, March 26, 2021.

And today, since I am home anyway, anticipating side effects from the second shot of the Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19 that have yet to seriously materialize,[1] I put together the resulting assemblage and took a photograph (figure 1).

It does not, in all particulars, conform to my recollection. But first, I suspect the database the vendor I ordered this from might have more faithful information recorded than my dim recollection or, perhaps, to a Saybrook University standard more faithful to its history than what has transpired since its absorption into The Chicago School Educational Services; and second, I’m not sure how much it really matters.

If I ever find my way back into academia, there are ceremonial occasions where this regalia could be appropriate.


There is a new blog post entitled, “Medical apartheid and COVID-19 vaccinations.”

I did receive the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine today. My symptoms have, overall, been milder than with the first shot. But I’ve been a bit light-headed, headachy in a way that makes me glad I decided to stay home, with the sort of medicine that in Pennsylvania one needs a card for.

I previously said I’d worn the second mask my mother made for me to the first shot. This was incorrect; it was actually the first. So today, I pulled the second mask out of sequence to wear it for the second shot. (At the end of each day, I boil the mask I’ve worn that day, so there’s really no risk to doing this.)

It will be harder to tell which was the third mask when it comes time for a “booster” for variants that are further enabled by vaccine hesitancy and resistance.[2] From the third mask on, my mother went to a Scot/Irish plaid fabric which I find attractive, but where I can remember which of the first two (brown) masks is which, I’ve completely lost track of which plaid mask is which, except for the last, which is of a significantly different design. I’ve also had to set two masks aside, one because it tended to rest on the tip of my nose rather than covering the bridge as needed, and the other because it seemed just a tad too small. It’s entirely conceivable that one of the latter masks was the third.

The notifications I’m receiving from the Allegheny Health Department suggest to me that we’re having another surge of COVID-19 cases in the county. My vaccination will supposedly not be fully effective for two weeks,[3] that is, until April 9. (Yes, of course, I’ve marked the date.)

April Dembosky, “It’s not Tuskegee. Current medical racism fuels Black Americans’ vaccine hesitancy,” Los Angeles Times, March 25, 2021, https://www.latimes.com/science/story/2021-03-25/current-medical-racism-not-tuskegee-expls-vaccine-hesitancy-among-black-americans


Fig. 2. Amazon Logistics email, image via the Intercept,[4] March 25, 2021, fair use.

I keep TravelJohn products in my car because as an Uber/Lyft driver, it’s often hard to stop at a restroom. The downside is that I need to find a trash can about five minutes after use, when they are safe to dispose; these bags do not seal on top.

I’m sorry that Jeff Bezos, the Jean-Luc Picard-wannabe,[5] can’t imagine that he’s this inhumane.[6] But he is. And such inhumanity is pretty much standard operating procedure for low-wage work under capitalism now.[7]

Ken Klippenstein, “Documents Show Amazon Is Aware Drivers Pee in Bottles and Even Defecate En Route, Despite Company Denial,” Intercept, March 25, 2021, https://theintercept.com/2021/03/25/amazon-drivers-pee-bottles-union/

Matt Stieb, “Amazon Called Out for Denying Workers Go to Bathroom in Bottles,” New York, March 25, 2021, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2021/03/amazon-called-out-for-denying-that-workers-pee-in-bottles.html

  1. [1]Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Possible Side Effects After Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine,” March 16, 2021, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/expect/after.html
  2. [2]Melissa Healy, “California’s coronavirus strain looks increasingly dangerous: ‘The devil is already here,’” Los Angeles Times, February 23, 2021, https://www.latimes.com/science/story/2021-02-23/california-homegrown-coronavirus-strain-looks-increasingly-transmissible-and-dangerous; Christopher Rowland, Emily Rauhala, and Miriam Berger, “Drug companies defend vaccine monopolies in face of global outcry,” Washington Post, March 20, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2021/03/20/covid-vaccine-global-shortages/; Benjamin Wallace-Wells, “The Vaccine Resisters,” New Yorker, March 5, 2021, https://www.newyorker.com/news/annals-of-populism/the-vaccine-resisters
  3. [3]Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “When You’ve Been Fully Vaccinated,” March 23, 2021, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/fully-vaccinated.html
  4. [4]Ken Klippenstein, “Documents Show Amazon Is Aware Drivers Pee in Bottles and Even Defecate En Route, Despite Company Denial,” Intercept, March 25, 2021, https://theintercept.com/2021/03/25/amazon-drivers-pee-bottles-union/
  5. [5]Franklin Foer, “Jeff Bezos’s Master Plan,” Atlantic, November 2019, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/11/what-jeff-bezos-wants/598363/
  6. [6]Matt Stieb, “Amazon Called Out for Denying Workers Go to Bathroom in Bottles,” New York, March 25, 2021, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2021/03/amazon-called-out-for-denying-that-workers-pee-in-bottles.html
  7. [7]David Benfell, “Time for the gig economy to grow up,” Not Housebroken, August 30, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/08/30/time-for-the-gig-economy-to-grow-up/; David Benfell, “The expendable worker,” Not Housebroken, July 5, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/07/05/the-expendable-worker/; David Benfell, “A piper needs paying,” Not Housebroken, January 29, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/12/19/a-piper-needs-paying/; Johana Bhuiyan, “Amazon ends practice of dipping into drivers’ tips to meet their wage guarantees,” Los Angeles Times, August 22, 2019, https://www.latimes.com/business/technology/story/2019-08-22/amazon-flex-fares-tips; Jessa Crispin, “Amazon is a disaster for workers. Nomadland glosses over that,” Guardian, March 23, 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/mar/23/amazon-nomadland-film-jeff-bezos-disaster-workers; Daniel D’Addario, “Amazon is worse than Walmart,” Salon, July 30, 2013, https://www.salon.com/control/2013/07/30/how_amazon_is_worse_than_wal_mart/; Timothy Egan, “The Corporate Daddy,” New York Times, June 19, 2014, https://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/20/opinion/timothy-egan-walmart-starbucks-and-the-fight-against-inequality.html; Josh Eidelson, “Wal-Mart faces warehouse horror allegations and federal Labor Board complaint,” Salon, November 19, 2013, https://www.salon.com/test/2013/11/18/breaking_wal_mart_faces_warehouse_horror_allegations_and_federal_labor_board_complaint/; Josh Eidelson, “Tens of thousands protest, over 100 arrested in Black Friday challenge to Wal-Mart,” Salon, November 30, 2013, https://www.salon.com/test/2013/11/30/tens_of_thousands_protest_over_100_arrested_in_black_friday_challenge_to_wal_mart/; Josh Eidelson, “Finally paying for Wal-Mart’s sins: Wage theft settlement yields millions,” Salon, December 16, 2013, https://www.salon.com/test/2013/12/16/finally_paying_for_wal_marts_sins_wage_theft_settlement_yields_millions/; Josh Eidelson, “Freezing for Wal-Mart: Sub-zero warehouse temperatures spur Indiana work stoppage,” Salon, January 14, 2014, https://www.salon.com/test/2014/01/13/freezing_for_wal_mart_sub_zero_warehouse_temperatures_spur_indiana_work_stoppage/; Josh Eidelson, “Amazon Keeps Unions Out By Keeping Workers in Fear, Says Organizer,” Alternet, January 22, 2014, https://www.alternet.org/2014/01/amazon-keeps-unions-out-keeping-workers-fear-says-organizer/; Nichole Gracely, “‘Being homeless is better than working for Amazon,’” Guardian, November 28, 2014, https://www.theguardian.com/money/2014/nov/28/being-homeless-is-better-than-working-for-amazon; Steven Greenhouse, “The Changing Face of Temporary Employment,” New York Times, August 31, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/01/upshot/the-changing-face-of-temporary-employment.html; Erin Hatton, “The Rise of the Permanent Temp Economy,” New York Times, January 26, 2013, http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/26/the-rise-of-the-permanent-temp-economy/; Simon Head, “Worse than Wal-Mart: Amazon’s sick brutality and secret history of ruthlessly intimidating workers,” Salon, February 23, 2014, https://www.salon.com/control/2014/02/23/worse_than_wal_mart_amazons_sick_brutality_and_secret_history_of_ruthlessly_intimidating_workers/; Paul Jaskunas, “The Tyranny of the Forced Smile,” New York Times, February 14, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/15/jobs/the-tyranny-of-the-forced-smile.html; Allison Kilkenny, “Ohio Walmart Holds Food Drive For Its Own Employees,” Nation, November 18, 2013, https://www.thenation.com/article/ohio-walmart-holds-food-drive-its-own-employees/; Ken Klippenstein, “Documents Show Amazon Is Aware Drivers Pee in Bottles and Even Defecate En Route, Despite Company Denial,” Intercept, March 25, 2021, https://theintercept.com/2021/03/25/amazon-drivers-pee-bottles-union/; Paul Krugman, “The Plight of the Employed,” New York Times, December 24, 2013, http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/12/24/the-plight-of-the-employed/; Paul Krugman, “The Fear Economy,” New York Times, December 26, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/27/opinion/krugman-the-fear-economy.html; Danielle Kurtzleben, “Read McDonald’s workers’ shocking harassment and discrimination complaints — and why they’re so important,” Vox, January 22, 2015, https://www.vox.com/2015/1/22/7873661/mcdonalds-lawsuit-harassment-discrimination; Colin Lecher, “How Amazon automatically tracks and fires warehouse workers for ‘productivity,’” Verge, April 25, 2019, https://www.theverge.com/2019/4/25/18516004/amazon-warehouse-fulfillment-centers-productivity-firing-terminations; Edward McClelland, “You call this a middle class? “I’m trying not to lose my house,’” Salon, March 1, 2014, https://www.salon.com/test/2014/03/01/you_call_this_a_middle_class_i%E2%80%99m_trying_not_to_lose_my_house/; Mac McClelland, “I Was a Warehouse Wage Slave,” Mother Jones, March/April 2012, https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/02/mac-mcclelland-free-online-shipping-warehouses-labor/; Patrick McGreevy and Suhauna Hussain, “California demands that Amazon comply with COVID-19 investigation,” Los Angeles Times, December 14, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-12-14/california-lawsuit-amazon-workplace-conditions-covid-19; Nathaniel Mott, “From Amazon warehouse workers to Google bus drivers, it’s tough working a non-tech job at a tech company,” Pando, October 9, 2014, https://pando.com/2014/10/09/from-amazon-warehouse-workers-to-google-bus-drivers-its-tough-working-a-non-tech-job-at-a-tech-company/; Ari Rabin-Havt, “Wal-Mart flunks its fact-check: The truth behind its sarcastic response to the Times,” Salon, June 25, 2014, https://www.salon.com/control/2014/06/25/walmart_flunks_its_fact_check_the_truth_behind_its_sarcastic_response_to_the_times/; José Rodríguez, Jr., “The Aftermath Of Prop 22 Is Not As Happy As Big Tech Promised,” Jalopnik, February 18, 2021, https://jalopnik.com/the-aftermath-of-prop-22-is-not-as-happy-as-big-tech-pr-1846299686; Lia Russell, “The Silicon Valley Economy Is Here. And It’s a Nightmare,” New Republic, January 16, 2020, https://newrepublic.com/article/156202/silicon-valley-economy-here-its-nightmare; Michael Sainato, “‘I’m not a robot’: Amazon workers condemn unsafe, grueling conditions at warehouse,” Guardian, February 5, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/feb/05/amazon-workers-protest-unsafe-grueling-conditions-warehouse; Alexander Sammon, “Prop 22 Is Here, and It’s Already Worse Than Expected,” American Prospect, January 15, 2021, https://prospect.org/labor/prop-22-is-here-already-worse-than-expected-california-gig-workers/; Alex Seitz-Wald, “Amazon is everything wrong with our new economy,” Salon, July 30, 2013, https://www.salon.com/test/2013/07/30/amazon_is_everything_wrong_with_our_new_economy/; Alana Semuels, “As employers push efficiency, the daily grind wears down workers,” Los Angeles Times, April 7, 2013, https://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-harsh-work-20130407-story.html; Alana Semuels, “How the relationship between employers and workers changed,” Los Angeles Times, April 7, 2013, https://www.latimes.com/business/la-xpm-2013-apr-07-la-fi-mo-harsh-work-history-20130405-story.html; Alana Semuels, “Tougher workplace makes home life worse too,” Los Angeles Times, April 7, 2013, https://www.latimes.com/business/la-xpm-2013-apr-07-la-fi-mo-harsh-work-history-20130405-story.html; Faiz Siddiqui and Andrew Van Dam, “As Uber avoided paying into unemployment, the federal government helped thousands of its drivers weather the pandemic,” Washington Post, March 16, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/03/16/uber-lyft-unemployment-benefits/; Spencer Soper, “Inside Amazon’s Warehouse,” Lehigh Valley Morning Call, September 18, 2011, https://www.mcall.com/business/mc-xpm-2011-09-18-mc-allentown-amazon-complaints-20110917-story.html; Matt Stieb, “Amazon Called Out for Denying Workers Go to Bathroom in Bottles,” New York, March 25, 2021, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2021/03/amazon-called-out-for-denying-that-workers-pee-in-bottles.html; Lindsay Wise, “Report: Temp jobs at all-time high in U.S.,” McClatchy, September 2, 2014, https://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/economy/article24772543.html

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