Without A Net: Rusty’s Story

Dec 11, 2012

Rusty at work.
Credit WUOT Knoxville

Most days, Rusty rides a bus to work at a Walgreens in Knoxville. The bus drops her off an hour and a half before her shift, and picks her up more than an hour after she clocks out.

Rusty, who would prefer her last name not be used because of the sensitivity of her financial situation, is part of a large segment of the Tennessee population for whom security is an unaffordable luxury.

Despite working at Walgreens for 16 years, Rusty has trouble making ends meet. She earns $11/hr and pays and pays $500 a month towards the mortgage on her house, “Needless to says, there’s not a lot left for incidentals.”

Whether it’s for incidentals or staples, Rusty does almost all her shopping at the store where she works, “Since I really can’t get to Food City or any of the other places that I would like to go for grocery shopping, I shop at Walgreens.”

When she is shopping in her store, Rusty tries not to buy items that cost more than one dollar. “The dog’s food costs more than mine,” Rusty laughed, “but other than my job, my dog is the only real connection that I have had.”

Rusty lives alone and because of that, she enjoys her interactions with customers.

“I always tell ‘em, ‘Thank you!’” Rusty said, “Work is everything, probably because it is therapy.”

She has no savings or plans for retirement, “I didn’t think I’d ever get to be 70. I really didn’t think I would live that long.”