Upon receiving my pink slip, the first emotion that washes over me is - surprisingly - euphoria. I can sleep late, make dentist appointments at all hours of the day, shop when there is no one else around and curl up on my couch in my jammies on a Tuesday afternoon while living on the dole. Nirvana for my frayed nerves.
After several weeks of perusing the want ads, job sites and newspapers, networking and engaging in all matter of outward communication involved in seeking employment, I am met with the realization that we are in an economic meltdown of enormous proportions, and I scour the junk drawer to find the calculator so I can determine how many unemployment checks I am away from eating cat food.
On about my 22nd interview, I find my standards being lowered and things springing from my lips such as, "Why of course I make coffee!" "Oh, personal errands are no problem, in fact I think pit bulls are misunderstood, and yes, I can walk them on my breaks and possibly wash your car ... oh, hand wash?" I walked out of that interview to come home to a "thanks but no thanks" e-mail. Apparently, they had found a candidate with an MBA that also knew how to darn socks while taking dictation. I knew I should have paid attention in home economics class.
When the last government check arrived, I wept openly, and my cats hid under the bed. I switched from humane, sustainably raised, grass-fed beef to Costco burgers. Bulk chicken soon followed in my shopping cart until eventually my conscience was completely eradicated and all hope for animal welfare across this great nation was lost.
Now I was free to lunch with stay-at-home friends but felt guilty about spending $20 for a sandwich out, and most of my friends worked in an office anyhow. Plus, people seem uncomfortable hanging with unemployed people. I think they see themselves in an unwanted situation, and they just avoid it.
Why Me? What kind of bad decisions have I made to put me in this predicament, and how the heck do I get out alive, still married, with a modicum of savings left? Why do people not have basic business manners and respond to resumes and inquiries? Do they not know that I am awaiting a phone call back on the status of their job that I have had three freaking interviews for already, have taken a written test and a computer test and have been subjected to a group panel interview? Arghhhhh!
Week after week passes until I am counting months. The gap on my resume grows larger, and I start getting less response to my queries, if that is possible. Employers insist on sharing with me the number of applicants they receive for each opening, and I feign astonishment. "Oh, 450 resumes, did you say? That is unbelievable! Thanks for sharing." I am polite, reverent, professional, smiling and focused on a job interview. I feel about 2 feet tall when I check in once a week with my mother who put me through college, who suggests that I might take the year I graduated off my resume because maybe I am too old.
My only solace is Charlie Gibson. He tells me every night on the news that everyone else is in the same boat. Job loss is at a record high, 5,000 more people have been laid off somewhere far away. I can't find a parking space at Peet's coffee at 1 p.m. because no one works anymore.
I keep track of all of the interviews I have had as suggested by my mother for possible tax purposes and mileage tracking. There have been three telephone interviews and 30 face-to-face. One turned out to be a false start; they were hiring for a secretary, and when I worked there for two weeks I was the maintenance person, asked to fix fuses and Wi-Fi cables. I will go on interview No. 31 tomorrow. It is a second interview for a job I am overqualified for, for half the salary from my previous position and three-quarters of the hours. I will pray that there is not just one more slightly qualified candidate for this job and that when people ask me what I do, I can actually answer without stuttering.
If you can't laugh at all of this then you are probably crying. The capitalist machine that catapulted this great nation to the top has a broken spring, though, and we find ourselves perched precariously on the heap. Do I want riches and fame? Not necessarily. All I require is a little security, to know that I will not be living in a mobile home on a slab of concrete in the desert in my golden years because the system failed me. I want to contribute, to live my life and do an honest day's work. How many more interviews can I handle in the future? As many as I must before I convince my husband to chuck it all and use our life savings to buy an RV and ride off into the sunset, away from the rat race toward a life of simplicity and dignity.
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