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Maria FernandesELIZABETH, NJ – Police say 32-year-old Maria Fernandes died while napping in her car after being overcome by a mixture of carbon monoxide and fumes from an overturned gasoline container.

The 32-year-old worked four jobs, including shifts at two different Dunkin Donuts. While driving to these jobs, Fernandes would often pull her Kia Sportage off the road and take naps. She would also keep a container of gasoline in her car because she occasionally ran out of gas.

Last week Fernandes pulled into the parking lot of a convenience store to get some sleep after working an overnight shift. She left the car running and may have been unaware that the gas can in the car had turned over.

Eight hours later, police received a call about an unresponsive woman in a car. When emergency workers got inside the car, they immediately detected a strong chemical odor and determined Fernandes was dead. Since they didn’t know where the chemical smell was coming from or how deadly it was, they called in a Hazmat team.

Fernandes was removed once Hazmat members determined it was safe for others to enter the vehicle. An autopsy failed to determine a cause of death, so police are waiting on toxicology reports. They do not suspect foul play.

A co-worker at Dunkin’ Donuts said Fernandes would work three shifts every day and sometimes wouldn’t sleep for five days. She was also described as an avid Michael Jackson fan who had taken a rare day off to celebrate his birthday.

Joseph Seneca, Rutgers University professor of economics, said Fernandes is the face of the recession. Describing Fernandes as one of the 7.5 million people nationwide who are cobbling part time jobs together to make ends meet. However, one of Fernandes friends’ said she could speak four languages and chose not to get a better job because she didn’t want to work in an office.

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  • Well, this is rather tragic.

    And, while it’s possible that she chose this lifestyle over an office job, I find it more likely that it was just the excuse she gave her friends. “I meant to do this,” sort of thing.

    Either way, the working poor is a growing sector of our population. Life is getting more expensive to live (a festival in Seattle over Labor Day weekend weekend cost $15/day to attend when I was 16; $77.00/day this year), wages for unskilled individuals aren’t keeping up, and we’re not anywhere close to where we need to be with hard sciences in schools (both public and private). And most of us who are middle class continue to live our mundane lives blissfully unaware of the looming economic disaster.

    Today, it’s people dying ways like this. One day in the not-too-distant future, I fear it will be gas lines and wide-spread hunger.

  • alohafuckers

    That’s a damn shame. RIP, lady.

  • King A sshole

    I can understand not wanting to work in an office, it’s fucking boring in this place, and I’m the boss! Hell I’m taking real estate classes, just so I don’t kill my little secretary, (she thinks she can make a cup of coffee with the tablet I gave her… dumb blonde jokes are not accurate, she’s brunette).

  • indiequeen

    Not everyone can get an office job, especially here in Seattle where everyone has a degree. We have people with masters degrees working at Toys r Us. Office jobs are quite coveted.

  • We do indeed. Of course, part of this is people not getting the proper degree. We need to get our high school counselors out of this “any degree will do ya” belief system. That was applicable, oh, maybe 20 years ago. These days, increased college attendance means more competition, and more competition means that your degree should be targeted. Of my closest friends, the only degreed individual who doesn’t have a sweet gig has a Communications degree. Not that something can’t be done with that (it is from the UW), but it’s not as appealing to employers.

  • thebossessecretary

    Damn, it’s harsh to be killed while doing the very best that you can.

  • tkaz

    I was just thinking about this this morning. It used to be I could hop in my car with $20 & go on a two hour road trip to the mountains with enough money for gas & lunch. Now…we’re looking at over $100 with gas & food prices (plus family of 4). It’s harder for people to just “go” nowadays.
    More than once we’ve had to decide between something fun or something practical & guess what usually wins? 😛

  • tkaz

    School me on this, Athena. Are you saying if a kid wanted the run of the mill BA in Business Admin & minored in something like Art History, Interior Design or Textiles that they haven’t been specific enough?

  • Vesper Bond

    I was thinking the same thing, Athena. I don’t think she could find an office job if she tried. Perhaps that’s the excuse she gave because she was sick and tired of people asking why, if she was so damn smart, she had to work at those “menial” jobs. Hell, I know of many people who give the same excuses because of the same.

    This story broke my heart because I can easily see myself in this woman’s shoes. And it’s a damn scary thought.

  • Perhaps they would have been if they lived in a region with a large textile industry. Business Admin is a solid foundation, but you have to make sure you tailor it to the need in your region. An education targeted to an industry your region is not known for is ultimately as useful as a general degree… just something that proves that you were proficient enough to get an education (which doesn’t necessarily mean much anymore). Employers are looking for more than that, now.

    Kids (I was no exception) have a hard time choosing between what they want to do and what will make them money. For the vast majority, the days of following that thing you wanted to do as a little kid is a fool’s errand, unless you wanted to be a doctor or an engineer or something in a perpetually in-need field. Not even law is a guaranteed field anymore. Some regions are churning out far more law grads than the local market has room for. In a perfect world, we’d all do what we love for a living. But in this world, we have to do what allows us to survive. A lucky few get both. The rest of us must compromise, and we’re only beginning to send that message home in schools.

  • tkaz

    I had my daughter in mind. I hope by watching me struggle she’s learned the need to be regional specific… I was a stay at home mom for so long that now running a business in a saturated market certainly makes it harder to earn the pay I’d like to make.
    I’d just like her to have that “perfect world” if she could by making the right choices when she’s off to college.

  • link07

    In southern California either. My wife and i both have undergraduate degrees, and we barely make 50k. In some parts of the country thats great, but here its a check or 2 away from poverty.

  • Hear, hear. I am a lucky high school grad making just over $50K (engineering or law, engineering or law, engineering or law; engineering is the safe bet, but law is the passionate one, and I need to hop on it, turning 32 in a few days), and it ain’t shit in Seattle.

  • Stormclouds

    D= Poor woman. She tried as hard as she could, and still died young.

  • tkaz

    Arizona is a bit better in that respect (CA taxes, wowzers!) but my sister moved to Ohio & she’s rolling in dough the cost of living is so low….but 45% of the city is on welfare. She has a degree yet works in collections.

  • sweekymom

    Shit like this is why we desperately need a livable wage for everyone who holds down a job. Very sad. Rest in peace, dear, rest.

  • Jessie

    OMG we are right behind them here in DC. I’m considering moving to the biotech savvy North Carolina very soon actually….

  • Buffettgirl

    This is so sad… in my early 20’s I worked four jobs too and occasionally slept in my car too, whoddathunk I could have died doing it?

  • tkaz

    Yeah, I’d move to Cali in a heartbeat if I could justify the cost of living…for now, I”ll just be thankful it’s a 6 hour drive to the beach.

  • Twisted1

    My best friend has a degree in interior design. She said she might as well use it as a coaster for all the good it does her. Lol

  • Twisted1

    Lol, my daughter and I had this argument. Here in Wa. The min wage is 10/hr. She was ranting and raving about the min. increase because she thinks that minimum wage jobs should just be for teens. In a perfect world that would be the case I told her. Not everyone has the opportunities in life she has. I argued with her that any job should pay enough to support a family. To me the problem lies in people raising their prices when the minimum wage increases so does the rent in towns and food you buy. A perfect example. In a military town we got pay increases, a few months later the cost of renting in that town went up. Eating the additional monies we got paid. It blows my mind that companies are making record profits while their employees and customers suffer. 40 years ago a company would cut their own fat before they laid off people or reduced hours. Now they lay people off so the can continue to get million dollar bonuses. It’s sickening that we have gotten to a point where more people care about the life and rights of animals then they do about their fellow man.

  • Sejanus

    What a beautiful woman…she could have made safer money stripping or being a sex worker than risking life in a KIA….hmmm I guess it lived up to its name….she was killed in action.

  • Der Mac

    There is such a thing as too many lawyers?

  • Ninja0980

    Personally, I think at some point it reach a boiling point.
    IMO, it’s only a matter of time before one of these CEO’s is going to get killed by a worker he/she laid off due to claims of having to save money while they go off in their newest yacht.

  • Jennifer Brockington

    i agree