When I was in graduate school at Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi, I was living on a tight budget. I worked as a graduate assistant while studying, but guess what? We were paid once a month! No, I kid you not. Once a month in the 20th Century.
A close friend from the area had a standing joke as he tried to lighten the pain of it all. He said the Southern man hiring would ask the new employee, “Do you want to be paid $40 a month or $10 a week?” The humor laid in the fact that the amounts were the same, both mounting to a small hill of beans.
So, in 1977, the pay was minimal, and I had to learn how to try to stretch it from month to month. That was the law of the land at the University. After my disbelief turned into belief, I did my best but, sometimes I simply was not able to make those ends meet each other.
One day, my car was on E, meaning, Empty. Nada. No gas! I knew that I could not call in because my strict boss was not hearing it and I was not about to ask him. What was I to do? As Plato said, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” I thought. I didn’t live that far from campus, so I decided to ride my bike to work. I had a yellow bicycle that my father had assembled for me some years earlier.
It was a push, but I rose early and propelled my way to the campus. After arriving, I took the bike up the elevator to the 9th floor of the Administration Building and parked it somewhere close to my workstation. Nobody said anything and I certainly did not say that I was out of gas.
I do not remember any verbal protests, but obviously my trek had not gone unnoticed. I guess they thought that the Chicago girl was just exercising her freedom. And the next day, several of the women rode their bikes to work! I laughed to myself and thought, “If they only knew the real reason behind my brave trek.” Thus, I became an unintentional trendsetter!
April 2, 2022