Report from the Unemployed: It Sucks Out Here!
I keep thinking I’ve hit my nadir and things have got to start improving any day. My friends say “God has a plan” and “Everything happens for a reason” and “God wouldn’t send you something you couldn’t handle” and etc. So, like, the horrible divorce and criminal ex-husband were God’s way of leading me here, where I don’t have a job or a car or any self-esteem (I’m thinking of trailers I’ve seen for a new Ben Affleck movie called “The Company Men” in which he plays a guy who loses his job and suffers an agony of existential neurosis despite his apparently supportive family. I would like to see Affleck play a guy whose wife treats him like he’s a doormat, then leaves him bankrupt and jobless and with a bunch of legal bills and two kids to raise by himself.)
It’s such a maelstrom of conflicting concerns that I’m going to try to make it easier for you by providing bullets:
- The ratio of applicants to jobs seems to be about a billion to one. My search for work is in high gear, and is highly depressing. I’ve met with agencies in my new community and went to job counseling. Do I have mad skills? Yes. Is my resume good? Yes. Can I type? Yes – 97 wpm. And yet the temp agency I signed up with hasn’t found any work for me. I interviewed to be an adjunct professor at a community college – I am one of many applicants for a position that doesn’t pay enough to live on. I had a first-round phone interview with a consultant charged with finding a writer for a nonprofit – the consultant interviewed me using a very awkward speakerphone thing because her cell phone was out of juice. This certainly didn’t improve my chances but I know why I failed the first round: there were probably about 999,999,999 better, more qualified, younger, less encumbered applicants right there in New York City who wouldn’t have to relocate for the job and who weren’t whining about their financial woes on the internet. I’ve widened my net: I’ve applied to a variety of things from retail stores to car dealerships to grocery stores.
- I’ve applied for so many jobs now I’m in a state of suspense, waiting for someone, anyone to call me back. It seems somehow disingenuous to keep applying for jobs when I’ve already applied or am waiting for an interview for so many other jobs. And, while I know it’s important to be persistent, I think it’s also important to know when to back off and just wait. That’s my life right now: an agony of waiting.
- This all is in addition to awaiting my regular rejection notices for my writings.
- I went, per the job counselor, to the Connecticut Department of Labor and it turns out I am eligible for unemployment benefits! At least I think I am. After some grueling long phone calls (waiting on hold for over thirty minutes twice and dealing with a klugey automated system, probably resulting in a cell phone bill larger than the benefits to which I am entitled) I signed up. But my prestigious publishing employer reported my income in New York because they’re in New York whereas I was working on the internet in my house in Connecticut. So I am waiting for the CT Department of Labor, in its vast efficiency, to unscramble this. Until then, no cash despite my having reported for the last three weeks. (it appears that if your most recent job were freelance or part-time, you are only entitled to unemployment benefits representing a portion of your previously measly income even if you worked more in the past or were a mom whose husband was supposedly working on your behalf. Yet, I am not complaining — I was surprised that my most recent part-time work qualified me for unemployment benefits at all. Here’s an extra laugh for you: I drove all the way to the Dept of Labor office in Hartford, and all they did there was give me a phone number so I could go home and sit on hold for hours.
- I may also be eligible for food stamps, but haven’t yet figured out this bureaucracy. It’s next on my list because every time I go to the grocery store I feel like I’ve pierced an artery and am hemorrhaging money.
- Meanwhile, my landlady did indeed sell the one-bedroom apartment we’re staying in. This is bad, since she was very cool and did not require a security deposit and allowed us to rent month-to-month and she left furniture (including widescreen TV!) here for us to use. So it’s dreadful that the apartment is sold, but, astonishingly, the new landlord turns out to also be very cool and is not requiring a security deposit and is allowing us to stay month-to-month. I am not used to these kinds of benevolent people. I am thinking it has something to do with the Hartford, Connecticut area and my hypothesis that the farther you get from New York City the more pleasant people are.
- Despite the cool new landlord, we are troubled because the former landlady needed to take her furniture: couch, bed, stools, etc. (TV!) out of here. She kindly gave me until the end of the month. I have a whole houseful of furniture stored with a mover somewhere in Fairfield County (Stamford?), that I cannot access. Even if I could access it, would I want to pay to have a couch and a bed and a table and chairs driven by burly men for an hour and a half and delivered here to this random-and-temporary-wayside-stop? Doubtful. (It turns out that the kindly landlady, who you are probably picturing as a Mrs. Doubtfire-type person but who is in reality a beautiful young yoga teacher with two very small children, left us most of the dishes and is even giving us more silverware. An angel?)
- The new landlord did very kindly bring us a futon, but that’s not enough for me and my two kids (daughter, 13 and son, 11, when he’s home from choir school) to sleep/sit on. And no widescreen TV!
- The new landlord suggested freecycle.org to find free furniture. It’s a good idea and I’ve twiddled with it online (it’s time-consuming) and yet I can’t imagine how I will lug furniture of any substance, such as the needed couch or bed, up to this apartment. Again there’s the issue of whether it’s worth it to spend what’s left of my kids’ meager college funds, which may be critically necessary very soon for things like food and rent, to hire burly moving men. And there’s also the whole bedbug concern with used stuff.
- My car lease is up so I have been looking for a car. Turns out it is cheaper to lease a new car than to buy a used car or even my own old leased car. My head is going to explode from the irony. My daughter says “If we show up with a new car everyone will think we’re lying!”
- Although my credit is pretty good when you lease a car you have to list an Employer. I don’t have an employer.
- I was at one of these car dealerships, and the saleslady (who I liked) told me I needed a job to get a car, so I asked her if they were hiring. Turns out they were! So I talked to the manager and then sent him my resume and then met with him again and then emailed him and then waited several days because I didn’t want to be annoying and then left a voicemail message and then waited again because I didn’t want to seem desperate and then finally I went back over there on a Saturday (strategically bringing my daughter, as I will explain below) and he told me I was still in the running but that they were interviewing lots of other people. So the noble profession of car salesman may turn out to also be out of reach for me.
- Besides needing the car sales job for money really badly I also needed a car. And while I’ve been waiting to hear about this job my formerly trusty Toyota died – its battery expired right after the lease agreement ended (the lease agreement which was in the ex-husband’s name). I had AAA jump it three times (just the fact that I am an AAA member I think is an ironic comment on how a cautious and responsible person ends up in my situation) and then I finally turned it in. The Toyota people have said I could lease a new car without an Employer because of my history of being a Toyota customer and my good credit. But I cannot just go get a Toyota because if I get a job at the competitor car dealership how would I look if I were driving around in a new Rav4? Like a hypocritical ass! Yet I cannot just go ahead and lease the competitor car because I cannot afford it without the car salesperson job. So I had to rent a car to get to interviews and get my kids to their appointments and whatnot. More money hemorrhaging.
- I’ll do almost anything to make money – work at a supermarket or even pimp out my kids. Yes, enough people have commented on how beautiful my daughter is that I’ve begun to take seriously the possibility of her modeling. (It’s quite an experience to walk down the streets in New York with my thirteen-year-old daughter. All the men look at her. All Of Them – boys, men, old men, guys with women. Random boys ask to take her picture. Whenever I have to go to a store and expect any unpleasantness I ask her to come because we always get better service. See above in which I brought her along to pester the car dealership manager.) So I sent pictures of both my adorable children to modeling agencies, only because someone I know said I MUST do it, and I followed-up with the requisite phone calls and emails. And the response? Nil Nada Zip Zilch.
Here is your post-bullet summary of my personal economic maelstrom: my daughter and I are, for now, still camping in our month-to-month apartment in a community where we know no one. She sleeps on a blow-up bed and there are clothes all over the floor because we don’t have a dresser and – worst of all – we lost the big TV that the nice landlady had been letting us use. Thank God I had the foresight to lug one of those old boxy crap TVs from our old house and we’re using that. The TV, and books (I’ve been reading Infinite Jest – which swings from brilliant to boring and back), the internet, magazines – all a very necessary part of enduring God’s Waiting Room.
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