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The Unemployment Chronicles, Vol. 1

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It’s 2011. Two men in their 40’s seek to re-enter the workforce after years as househusbands, only to discover a lifetime has passed since their last employment and the pursuit is more difficult than originally imagined. Each chained to a wealth of debt and armed with a surprisingly narrow skill set, the lack of spark in the economy further reduces their options while intensifying pressure at home.

It’s true, bills will not pay themselves.

These are increasingly dreary times for many, more and more each week. While not quite the image of Hooverville, families across America are fiscally tested and strained like never before. There’s a genuine fear in the uncertainty of how to provide in the event of a loss of income. These are only two stories, there are millions more …

CJ was let go today — no severance. I’ll be back in the trenches. Definitely will have no qualms now. Not sure if we can survive here long term.

A few days earlier …


Trying to find a job and you would not believe how unqualified I am for most anything.

Ten years off the market and everything’s changed. Haven’t updated my resume since February 1999. I feel like Morgan Freeman in Shawshank, finally out but no clue how to start over or what my options are. Looking for a letter from Andy, telling me he’s in Mexico and he’s hiring.

For some reason, they brought us the paper on Saturday. A lot smaller than I remember, I haven’t felt a newspaper in months. Flipped through it, went straight to the classifieds. For jobs, it’s not even a third of a page. A city this size, maybe 20 jobs listed and most are the scam types you avoid, “MAKE MONEY FROM HOME!” sort of thing. Absolutely ridiculous how little there is.

Spent a lot of time online. Jobs I assume I’m qualified for — trades I once used as my primary source of business income — lose me in the description. It’ll list the qualifications and experience requirements and I’m good for the first 10 or 12, then they add something like “must be proficient with CCL documentation processing and generating RRp7 reports.” Shit has changed.

I looked into some mindless but active warehouse stuff but I’m competing with high school graduates and GEDs. Teach me to drive a fork lift or use one of those pallet-lifter thingies and I’ll have it down in no time. Why risk the insurance and take the time to train when it’s a buyer’s market, loaded with people who’ve driven a forklift and processed a CCL? A lot of jobs I’m 80-85% qualified for, the cost of being out the game for so damn long.

Went to UPS and asked about packing jobs. The woman inhaled and said, “that is, if we were hiring.” The wide, bulging eyes told me I was about 100 weeks too late getting there. She seemed a bit surprised that someone might still be asking that. There was an ad for a truck loading gig at Coca-Cola and they pulled it after three hours because, it said, they already had 550 applicants. This was a part-time job.

Another ad said “get paid to write” and I laughed, as if that actually happens. Hilarious!

I can’t go back to waiting on tables. I don’t see that working well for anyone involved. Short-term, maybe. Not sure what else there is, just need some cash flow. I’m afraid to go to the mailbox, just more bills. I used to love getting the mail. But this is even if they’re hiring! Say it’s a good restaurant and they are hiring, it’s 2-3 weeks training before you see tips, which is a nice way of rationalizing never stepping foot inside the building to inquire.

So no move? Any update with CJ?

Women are the future. We only cook for them and upkeep their homes.

Yeah, crazy. I’m the ’50’s housewife that does all the maintenance, plus. CJ is still there. They offered her a manager position (she’s now a director) with a smaller salary. They need to create cap room to hire three new people for the job CJ was doing by herself. There’s no way, given the amount of work that she has done for them that they could let her go immediately. I also know you can never go backwards and still retain respect from your co-workers and advised her to ask for a lateral move at least, even if we had to take a hit money-wise. They said they couldn’t do it. What they were subtextually saying is: we can’t pay a director what we now want to pay you, therefore it’s manager or hit the road.

If I have to cash out all my stock and work at Walmart, I’ll do it. They are totally taking advantage of her. She told them she’d accept the severance (which was pathetic) and turned in her letter of resignation. She was relieved. They were shocked, absolutely dumbfounded.

This happened six weeks ago. She’s maintained her title, has less work with the new hires, and is still making what she was making before. She’s won the battle in an ongoing war. Could be done at any time, but I’m proud of her stance.

I seriously don’t know what the hell to do. She could get a job in SoCal, but we’d be living “down” for a while, and God knows that state is about to fall off into the Pacific. I just drink to quell the mid-life crisis that I’m having. Maybe I should stop drinking, seeing as I only have 2 kidneys and may need to sell one.

Fuck.

We’re too old for this shit. I made six grand teaching that acting class in May and I’m down to my last $1500 — and my debt is out of control. I have a life insurance policy I’m going to cash out. After that, I really have no idea. I’m beyond stressed at this point. To make matters worse, I had a root canal last week. Damn crown cost me $600 and that was with insurance. Teeth are still necessary, right?

I withdrew $100 today and can’t remember the last time I saw a bill larger than a $20, seems like a dream. Earlier this year, I’m wrestling with a credit card bill for days and finally have to ask Jules for help. Tell her I need $170 and we both roll our eyes at how small the number was. It’s pathetic. Everything’s dried up.

Self-employed means not qualifying for unemployment. My last $10,000 of business inventory, I made $100. What’s the point in risking that type of money again? I’m lucky to get out on the plus. I wouldn’t expect to, if I did it again. I considered different angles and there just aren’t a lot of products you can sell anymore without a shitload of pain or nonsense somewhere on the back-end. Money needs to come from somewhere and it’s not like they’re delivering it to my door.

Then there’s the ongoing situation with the cats (long story).

So I made a list of restaurants and, yeah, we are too old for this. I had to create a separate resume, I’d never used one. Putting together references, I realize I’ve known one of them for 23 years. My experience is most likely older than most of the people I’d be working with. I’ll be older than my managers. I’ll be “that guy” — I never wanted to be “that guy” — the flunkey outcast in his 40’s doing the job of a 20 year old.

It made sense back then. Money was good; flexible schedule; met some great people, always did. Fell back into it in my 30’s, not much of a choice: California; could rely on the money; met more great people, all you guys.

To say I lost my mojo for it is to undersell the process of mojo loss. This will end badly. This will end Bret Favre badly — crazy mistakes that cost the team a playoff spot and always one text message away from doing something really stupid. I wouldn’t want to be sitting in my section. I have no idea what might happen.

It’s like we’re living in parallel universes. Qualifications elude me. I’m in a similar boat with an even more “illusory” skill set. I drop the kids off tomorrow at 8 am and for the first time in 7 1/2 years I’ll have more than a three-hour stretch. Stage two of parenting begins.

You’d think I’d be thrilled, excited, relieved even, but between the two of us, I’m a little freaked out. I’ve always strung things together over the years — bartending, coaching, directing, teaching the college course — but my first priority was keeping the buggers in line and on point, and not paying someone else to raise them. But now, the birds have taken their first flight and both are way ahead and well adjusted (yeah, I’m sure all parents think that). Anyway, now I’ve got to get a job (a career is long gone). Any job — and in this economy, that is proving difficult — otherwise, I’ll have way too much time to think.

At least you accomplished the journey of getting them to school. That’s a big deal.

I’ve been doing webcam shows on Skype — male or female, I don’t judge. They want to see it, so I show it to them. Now I just need to figure out how to get them to pay me. Ba-dum-chhh.

Seriously, if I was a woman, I’d be on my back for cash in a heartbeat. Then again, I’d be one seriously ugly dame and may find the money’s better unloading trucks. At least I could ride the casting couch with someone in human resources to get me through the door and possibly into some better shifts.

You still could, if it gets to that. Let me know if it works.

To be continued (link below)

  • In September 2011, there were 14 million unemployed in the U.S. and the unemployment rate was 9.1 percent. If part-time workers who could not find full-time jobs, and workers who did not actively look for work due to discouragement or other reasons, were factored in, then the unemployment rate would have been 16.5 percent — U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

ARCHIVES: Follow The Unemployment Chronicles.

Next chapter: Vol. 2 — Humbling makes time for tequila

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© 2011 – 2012, Soapy Johnson. All rights reserved.

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