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You’ve the right to remain silent

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Previously ………

The starting point: The Unemployment Chronicles, Vol. 1

—  Vol. 3  —

Two days later …


Got all dolled up. Went to the interview. Nicole, a 20-something entered the 5′ x 5′ room. No pictures, tan walls — an interrogation room you’d see on a cop show. Claustrophobic.

She started with the customary: Can we do a background check? Have you read the job description? Why did you apply? etc., then said, “this supervisor position pays $12 an hour. Are you okay with that?” … (pause) … In my mind I’m thinking, okay, do I just say “no” and walk out or do I hear her out? Had I known it was $12 an hour, I would have never applied. Did I miss this? That’s not even $500 a week, barely $24,000 a year. After taxes, it’s $20,000 or less than $400 a week. This is a 5-star hotel. Am I out of my mind to think the position would probably pay $600-$700 a week or approximately $35,000 a year? Apparently, I’m delusional.

Anyway, she says, “I’d like you to meet the manager tomorrow.” Again, my inner monologue is, “what the hell is a supervisor then? If I knew there was a manager, I wouldn’t have even applied.” I agreed, knowing full well I’ll call tomorrow morning and cancel. Bottom line is, from what I deduce rereading the job description, the supervisor is a swinging assistant manager. A hell of a lot of work for little money. If you’re a 22-year old kid working your way up in the hotel business, this is perfect. If you’re a 41-year old man, it’s insanity or purely desperate. I’m not quite THAT desperate.

I was making $6 an hour in 1986 as an ice cream maker. I was 16. Twenty-five years later, a $6 raise. Nice. At 25, I was making $50 an hour training. Bartending was at least $25-50 an hour, sometimes more. I’m not saying I’m too good to make $12 … oh, wait a minute. Damn right I am. I walked out of there like a zombie. Holy fuck, that was depressing. I’m going backwards.

CJ would be making more than me collecting unemployment — and she deserves it, she’s worked her ass off — but wow.

Not sure what they’re thinking, for their sake, especially when you consider that minimum wage is $7.36. You can walk in with a head injury and man the dishwasher, or face responsibility and scrutiny for $4.64 more. You could drive a sandwich truck and make $12 an hour not even staying on your route.

That’s tough to jump on. Tell them to make it $16 an hour with a drug test or $12 without. Come in for the 2nd interview reeking of pot.

We’re all going backwards. I went to a restaurant today, sort of a test but a place I’d take the gig if available. One of the best in the area, turns out they’re hiring. On the application they want to know your education down to grammar school.

I skipped it.

I’m forty-fucking-six, barely remember my way home and having trouble reading the application because I didn’t bring my glasses so, no, I’m not delving that deep into it. I graduated college, let’s assume I got past 4th grade.

Waited for a manager while watching everyone who works there stroll by and nobody’s over 25. The entire experience wiped me out. I drove to the second place I had my eye on and just sat in the car while it idled. Couldn’t get out. Kept telling myself I was already here, I got this far and am looking at the damn place but all I wanted to do was get home. Next few days I plan to get more ambitious. Had hoped to just grin and bear it and plow through but all it did was make me want to come home and work on the website.

I’m going to use that as a monologue. Don’t worry, I have nothing to audition for except “life” and apparently mine’s only worth $12 an hour, $9.50 after taxes.

Did I mention the girl who interviewed me — and I do mean, girl — couldn’t have been over 22? In restaurant years, I’m 82.

“In a land where EBT cards dispel the notion of food lines and soup kitchens … an actor seeks employment to support his family but finds the reality of a changed market to be daunting; a penniless writer and his website, both hoping to be read, falling smack dab into the certainty of a dreaded restaurant job.”

[cue theme from “The Odd Couple”] “Can two unemployed men find an occupation without driving each other crazy?”

We are most definitely too old for this. That’s what I saw today and so did you.

The following day …

I called the hotel to cancel my second interview. I told like it is, thanked her for her time. The reality of the situation, it just doesn’t fit with the needs of our spreadsheet.

I figured I’d apply at a restaurant nearby, nice place. They wouldn’t let me talk to anybody. They had me sit at a computer and take a series of tests, I swear it was like the SATs all over again. It took 35 minutes, I’m not kidding.

“Read the numbers and decide what the next number should be,” type of thing. I’m looking to bartend or wait tables, not train for Interpol. They’re probably running tissue samples of my DNA, as I type this.

CJ and I went to Costco and bought all bulk stuff like we were in college again. Bought more tequila. It wasn’t on the list, but fuck it. She didn’t argue.

Holy crap! I took the same test last night, also a restaurant. Made my head hurt.

“Erika worked 14 hours last week and 20 hours this week. If she earns $9 per hour, how much did she earn during these two weeks?”

“There is nothing wrong with challenging supervisors about workplace policies. Strongly agree, agree, neither agree or disagree, disagree or strongly disagree?”– A few pages later, the same question with a slightly different wording. I could feel them working inside my brain and I didn’t appreciate it.

I had a second interview today, that’s a good sign. He called and asked if I could come in to talk in more detail. I agreed but immediately my mind starts concocting ways to screw up the interview, like shaving a Hitler mustache out of what’s left of my weekend beard. If there’s a drug test, I’ll tell him I’m currently wasted, I was cooking heroin in the parking lot. Or I give a great interview but when I get up to leave, he notices a pool of urine on the chair.

All in all, it went well so I took the momentum to The Palm and asked if they were hiring. Apparently my caricature is drawn next to the host stand with specific instructions forbidding me from stepping closer than 50 yards from customers. Just my being there triggered some kind of hospitality industry AMBER Alert and the entire place went dark, only emergency lighting. I heard helicopters up above and decided to leave as the SWAT team began setting up across the street.

I have no idea how the interview went from the manager’s perspective. I’m sensing he could smell the burnout. I’ve got my best face on but when you tell the story of what leads you back to a restaurant, it’s hard not to come off on a downbeat. I’m not nearly as aggressive as I’m going to need to be about this. I’ve got to create a better story … I spent over 20 years repairing the Zamboni so that the kids at Make-A-Wish hockey camp would have fresh ice. Or maybe I was a fireman.

To be continued (link below)

  • The number of college-educated men unemployed for at least a year is five times higher today than after the dotcom bubble. In New York City, men age 35 to 54 have lost jobs faster than any other group, including teenage girls — Fiscal Policy Institute.

ARCHIVES: Follow The Unemployment Chronicles.

Next chapter: Vol. 4 — Back on the Chain Gang

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

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