Saturday, April 01, 2006

What would you do for a free meal?

I just listened to an interview on NPR with Angela Nissel, a former writer and consulting producer for the TV show 'Scrubs'. She's coming out with a new memoir 'Mixed: My Life in Black and White' about her experiences growing up as a biracial person in America. Her first book 'The Broke Diaries', is apparently a funny cult classic (it helped her land her gig as a writer for Scrubs), and in it she talks about some of the things she did to get by during college. She had a scholarship that covered tuition but no money to pay for housing or fees or textbooks. Even with 2 jobs, she was still broke, with no money to spare. So, what's a resourceful student to do? Well, in her case, pretended to be a college professor so that publishing houses would send her free textbooks to review. Or answered personal ads from the local paper in the hopes that if she went out with the guys, they would buy her a free meal. And wrote an online diary about her experiences.

I thought the first half of the interview was interesting and entertaining. And it made me want to read her new memoir. But when she described some of the things that she did to survive during college, it left me with a funny feeling in the pit of my stomach. Like Angela, I had a scholarship in college that covered tuition. And like Angela, I worked part time (shelling, counting and sorting experimental corn for the Agronomy department). But unlike Angela, my parents paid for housing and related expenses.

Many pf bloggers have talked about simplicity and frugal living. But they've also talked about certain lines that they wouldn't cross, even if it meant saving a buck. Still, I've never been in a situation when I was flat out broke and simply trying to survive. I think a lot about the homeless folks that I run into on the street. And one of the charitable organizations that I support financially each year runs two homeless shelters in the city. Anyway, Angela's story just made me wonder. What would I be willing to do for a free meal, if I were in her situation?

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