The Common Good
September-October 2001

My Work

by Ann Floreen Niedringhaus | September-October 2001

I keep track of the comings and goings of people.

I keep track of the comings and goings of people.
My work is really very simple. I write down and retain
the information that others give me.

When I started here they came in every day
with two lists of names I needed to alphabetize.
First I added the names of those who had just come.
Then I crossed out the names of those who had left.

Now the task is easier, but not as challenging.
We have instituted a number system. Numbers
are faster to find and take less space in the books.

I didn't agree with the change to numbers because
I thought they would be easy to transpose. But now
I realize that the volume of people coming and going
makes this change to numbers essential.

I tell myself, "I go home every night to my family.
My job isn't my whole life. If accuracy
doesn't matter to them, why should it to me?"

I'm proud I don't bring my work home with me.
The only time I think about work there is when
I see and smell the smoke coming from
the tall smokestacks on the other side of town.

-Poland, 1944

Ann Floreen Niedringhaus works with teen mothers in the Duluth, Minnesota public school district.

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