walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

"Exit Ramp", David P. Spears II

Non-fiction, so I will spare you my usual warning about SPOILERS! If you think non-fiction can be spoiler-ed, well, run and hide.

"Exit Ramp" would be a novella, only it's non-fiction; I don't know what to call a hundred page at most piece of non-fiction. And you can get it as a paperback, as well as a kindle e-book. This kickstarter project involved a senior in college econ student panhandling at an exit ramp to see how much money he could make. He did it for about 12 days and yes, spoiler, he averaged more than minimum wage. Duh. That is not the interesting part, but if you are silly enough to think there's nothing else here to learn, I have no idea why you would read my blog anyway.

The author had previously served in the military, and that service was referenced on his sign. Thus, he had a bunch of vet-specific interactions, which made for a great sub-theme (particularly his commentary on the Ranger who wanted to make sure he wasn't just faking the service). Obvs, most people just ignored him, and he did a nice job of exploring how boring his days were, and how weird the whole thing was and so forth. Bonus: he was forthright about explaining his data collection and where it didn't accomplish his goals -- altho big negative points for his assumption that he could just look at people and assign them to a race and that was somehow "objective" in a way that guessing their age was not. Really? Really? Honestly, the only worse bit in the book was the assumption that gender was binary. *sigh*

And this is a relatively enlightened econ guy in Oregon. I guess that tells us a lot about econ guys.

In any event, his description of the hygiene packets (and efforts to price their contents) was nifty, and his tales of food donation were about what you would expect (the woman who bought him a club sandwich and brought it over with her kids was particularly nice, and I liked the way he described his interpretation of what she was doing). His conclusions are relentlessly middle class, which is unfortunate, because he had an opportunity to explore the spiritual aspects of his experience that, as near as I can tell, completely eluded him, while totally blowing my mind. I had somehow forgotten _why_ it was that certain religious orders insisted on a vow of poverty _and begging_, and this book reminded me in detail. But that wasn't the author's take at all. And that's a sign of a really good book, when there is a coherent theme, story or moral, but there's enough within the book that alternative themes, narratives and morals can be equally or more compelling to the reader, regardless of whether they were apparent to the author.

Highly recommend; hope he writes more. I'm sure the relentlessly middle class perspective will eventually grind me down (and I say this as a fan of that set of mores and ideals), but anyone who implements a project like this one (while meeting a certain minimum level of sensitivity) seems worth paying attention to. (He donated the money.)
Tags: book review, economics
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