Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Unemployment Diary: The Unemployed Just Need to Get a Job and Stop Being So Lazy

Crude drawing by Lisa Golden

Greetings from the Pit of Despair!  The gameshow where we put the long-term unemployed through the paces of looking for work.  Winners will be rewarded with a job.  Some lucky winners will even receive full-time permanent work!  And one lucky winner will receive the grand prize - full-time permanent work with benefits!

(The crowd goes wild.)

This week's contestants will be vying against an average of four people for each job opening.  Remember - those are just averages. For each opening, we'll have at least four contestants competing for the grand prize.

So let's get started, shall we?

Meet Contestant Number 1.  This rugged fellow in his flannel shirt, trucker's hat and worn blue jeans has worked construction for fifteen years.  He still has his steel-toed boots and equipment so he's ready to go.  He just needs a job.  He's going to have to compete with forty other people for one job today.  And to make it even more interesting, he's going up against a lot of guys who are willing to work for employers who are seeking ways around labor laws, if you know what I mean (nudge, nudge, wink, wink).  Oh, those rascally employers know how to get things done.  Keep those employee rolls under fifty and those pesky labor regulations disappear like shit through a goose!

Here's Contestant Number 2!  Don't let that gray hair fool you.  She's still young at 45!  She comes with twenty years of administrative experience and her last job had some kind of Vice President title.  Since there's nothing open in her obscure field, she's going to run the gauntlet of online applications that require her to put in her salary information.  But here's the tricky part - she's going to be applying for jobs offering one quarter of her old salary.  So will she lie about her salary or will she lie on the affidavit that states she's answered all the questions truthfully?

Contestant Number 3 has B.A. in computer science that he's still paying for.  He's going to be filling out the USAjobs application for a federal job, but his only previous experience is having worked at the local Chilis as a busboy and then a server.  He's going to have to do some serious wordsmithing, isn't he?

And finally, we have Contest Number 4.  This lovely young woman has a two year old and a husband serving in Iraq.  Look at her, she's already stumped by the online application for the retail store. Hoo boy, that 114 question psychological test can be a bear!  And no, this isn't like Who Wants to Be A Millionaire.  You can't call your lifeline or get the audience's opinion.

Every contestant is on their own.  

As some of you might have guessed from my previous posting, I've kind of reached the end of my optimism.  When I'm not applying for jobs or writing, I'm scanning the horizon for tall buildings.  And hoping that something good - I really have to qualify that these days - will happen for us.  Something good would be nice, we've had enough of the other kind of stuff.

Meanwhile, applying for jobs and that has turned into a great source of, um, humor? despair? Aren't they just two sides of the same coin anyway?

So far this week, I've been told by the Department of Labor that since I don't have three months of custodial experience on my resume, they cannot refer me to an employer to be a janitor.  "But have you seen my house?  It's spotless," I sigh at the drab DoL email.

The email doesn't care.  Nor does the person I call in an effort to appeal their decision.  "The employer's minimum requirements are set in stone," she says.

"I understand that, but the people on TV who've bothered to stop talking about Bristol Palin on Dancing with the Stars or those TSA pat downs to discuss the plight of the unemployed, they say that all we need to do is to just get out there and get a job," I whined.

"I'm sorry, Mrs. Golden.  We can't refer people without the minimum requirements.  Those are the rules." She's giving me the firm voice.  I get it. I used to have to enforce rules, too.

"But I can clean.  I've been cleaning since I was a kid and my mother would have the Home Ec Club ladies at the house and we had to scrub the baseboards in case any of them decided to do the white glove test at the point where the wall met the floor."

"We've already referred a number of people with qualifying experience for that position and there's only one opening."  She wanted to get off the call.

I didn't want to harass her anymore. She was just doing her job.  "Okay."

When I get bored of driving my Cadillac from the spa, to the hair weave place or the Korean place where I get my weekly mani-pedis, I sit down with my $8 latte and apply for jobs with the federal government, a large coffee company, a large telecommunications company, a greeting card company, three retailers, an auto parts chain, a homeless shelter, a community college, a dentist's office and a museum.  Although there are no job openings in my field here in Georgia, I did apply for a great job in Chicago.  Fingers crossed.  But it's a long shot.  They were very specific about there being no relocation expenses.  I was undeterred and wrote in my cover letter that I would pay my own moving expenses, if hired.  I'm sure they'll be impressed by my pluck and can do attitude.

Oh for the days when I would send out my resume and get a call within 24 hours.  I didn't know how good I had it.

But all I have is time, right? So QYB, Lisa.  Turns out if you're not already a federal employee with a level, it can take half a day to complete the USA jobs application as you write and rewrite your experience along with dates, project names and outcomes to support your assertion that you're qualified to be an administrative assistant in some agency.  And good luck to you if want to be any level higher and don't possess a Masters degree.  I've asked the Department of Labor if they offer any specific help in navigating the federal system, but to date, I've been met with blank stares.

Even more time consuming and mind-numbing are the online applications for large retailers, telecom companies, coffee pushers, and grocery stores.  They require you to complete psychological questionnaires containing 114 or so questions all to determine if you're a thief or a liar or some kind of hard-driving, tattle-tale, manager-bashing nuisance.

I've reached the point where I can't tell just exactly which psychological disorders they're trying to weed out.  At one point, I tried to just put the link to this blog into a field.  "Just read my blog and you'll see the color of my character," I typed into the field.

Rejected.  Such a common theme.

Yesterday as I pushed the grocery cart dejectedly through the Ingles (another place that hasn't called me for an interview), I ran into an acquaintance of mine.  Her husband has been out of work for a while now, too. We discussed how they're managing.  He's looking, too, but he's in road construction and even with some of the stimulus money that has flowed to Georgia, he's been unable to find anything.  They're managing on his unemployment which runs out the second week of January and the money she makes substitute teaching.  While she and her husband go without health insurance, at least their boys have Medicaid.  Good thing - their son has food allergies and severe asthma.

So perspective, Lisa.  There's always someone worse off than you.  I suggested she look into the food stamp program.  MathMan makes too much, I've already checked.  But I doubt they do.  And they certainly won't after her husband's unemployment insurance runs out.  After working and paying taxes all these decades, they should use the services available.

"Don't go hungry, okay?"  I said to her, glancing into her cart which didn't hold much.  There was no turkey, just some staples.

"We won't," she sighed, her eyes traveling to my cart.  I had the buy one get one free bacon, a loaf of bread and a bag of potatoes.

"Remember when we used to go out for margaritas and chips?" she asked suddenly.

I laughed.  "Yeah.  Our high-flying days.  Come over and see me, okay?  I'll read you outtakes from my stories and you can mock me.  Instead of restaurant chips and margaritas, we'll have cheap beer and pork rinds."

It was her turn to laugh.  "I will."

But I know she won't.  She's tired and depressed and her kind of misery doesn't really want company.

I know because I'd rather not see people either.  I'm closing off.  I deactivated my Facebook account.  And I'm not opening Tweetdeck.  I can't take all the holiday and shopping talk.  And I can't stomach the political bullshit either.  I'm a little astounded at the whining by people who have the luxury of flying.  Here's an idea - you stay here and enjoy our Kraft Dinner for the holidays and we'll take your plane tickets and go see family.  I won't even bitch about annoying security measure.  Hell, I'll fly naked and solve that particular problem.  Just to get away would be nice.

I'm typically not such a delicate creature, but right now, I'm walking the razor's edge.  The less noise I allow into the brainpan, the better.

Just get out there and get a job, you lazy ass.

So now I've taken to looking at which states have the lowest unemployment rates and trying to picture us living in North Dakota.....

So how about you keep me off the rooftops.  Make me laugh. Please. 

Hello, you're not making me laugh so I'm shutting off comments.


  1. I applied for a janitor job once and on the form it asked why I thought I could do the job, I answered, "I spent almost 4 years in the military. I know how to run a buffer." Never heard back from them, I wonder why??

  2. If all the unemployed in the Nation stood by the side of the road with crudely worded cardboard signs asking for work ... would anyone notice?

    Probably not. Most limos have darkened windows and I'm not certain Republicans can read.

  3. A fellow blogger responded to a post of mine last week by telling me the Republicans who control the Texas Legislature are going to eliminate Medicaid in the state and she is concerned about what she will do. I mentioned this to my friend Reggie and he said that this is a scare tactic. After all the drama of the announcement, they will continue Medicaid but will quietly eliminate 10% of the funding and we will be so happy they didn't eliminate it entirely that we will not protest the cut.

    The only suggestion I have for your particular situation is work out a trade situation for keeping your kids; maybe the friend from the grocery keeps your kids for a small fee. Or her husband does. You start a business cleaning houses for people. This is the kind of job that the rich need and you can do an excellent job and charge them an amazing amount of money. You make your schedule. Charge by the job not the hour and be good at it. Be dependable and don't stand down when they are playing their head games. Before you know it you will be too busy to take on more. It's not what you wanted when you started out and it's not what you want now, but it is a solution. The rich will always be with us so let's let them spend their filthy money.

  4. Not much more than . . .

    We love you and are pulling for you.

  5. it does suck to be unemployed. i hope that things turn around for you all soon. prayers and hugs~

  6. "O beautiful for spacious skies,
    For amber waves of grain,
    For purple mountain majesties
    Above the fruited plain!
    America! America!
    God shed his grace on thee
    And crown thy good with brotherhood
    From sea to shining sea! [...]"

    I read these lyrics (and the rest) and feel only bitter irony.