The Unemployment Diary Part 9: It’s Not So Bad
How long can one person sit in their apartment, devoid of all social interaction, before going mad? How much daytime TV can a human consume before losing all faith in humanity, and in modern television programming? And just how much stress can one neurotic Jewess endure before going completely bat-shit insane?
These are all questions we’ve aimed to answer throughout the last three installments of The Unemployment Diary, featuring Angela Bunt as the main player. Fortunately for Angela, the long roller-coaster ride of freelancing in NYC has come to an end, and thus, so has this diary. Unless, of course, somebody else gets laid off…
January – February
Health insurance, student loans, weddings, vacations… I cycle over and over in my mind the endless possibilities of things that can happen, or that will happen, which are going to cost money that I don’t have.What if I take an unexpected tumble down the stairs? Or somebody sends me an envelope of Anthrax? (I have a lot of stalkers.) The health insurance I have under my parents – for the few short months before my 26th birthday – only covers me in Massachusetts. I envision myself needing to be rushed to the hospital, and as the ambulance straps me in I weakly tell the driver, “take me to the Megabus, I have to go home!” I play out countless scenarios in my mind – all of which end in me on the streets with a gangrenous leg – and before I know it hours have passed and I’m frozen, stiff-necked, throbbing shoulders, in front of a blank laptop screen. I really should get back to writing. Instead, I absorb hours of court television shows – one of which features a couple adorned in matching purple shirts as they try to sue the defendant for recanting on a verbal contract – which makes me think that maybe my life isn’t so bad. I watch Harvey Levin interview folks outside of the People’s Court, and wonder how he has time to work on this show and also run the TMZ franchise. How do I get a job at TMZ? How is he so successful? I am putting power Jews all over the world to shame.
It’s hard having your only skill be something basically everybody can do. Sure, not all people are great with words, but almost anyone can string a sentence together. It’s not like being good at math or science. Those are skills you can actually apply to a multitude of well-paying jobs. I think to the future: what if this doesn’t work out? Am I really dumb enough to think I could make a career change in this shit-storm of a job market – specifically an editing/writing job? Angela, you’re a fool, and now it’s too late to change your mind because you’ve already told everybody and their mother that you refuse to give up on “your dreams.” With each passing day, my self-confidence dwindles. Until I get my first job interview.
I’m called back to the unemployment office, my fav place ever, deep into the bowels of Queens in Flushing. In the back of my mind I hope/think that this may be the last time I’ll have to do this, so I try to enjoy the hour long train ride and I smile knowingly at all of the Asians wearing SARS masks once I get off at the Flushing-Main Street stop. Upon arrival, I am ushered into the usual classroom and I quickly claim the only left-handed desk, which happens to be broken, and which also happens to be shoved all the way to the left wall rendering it pointless. When the career counselor asks me why I took the broken desk, I loudly exclaim: “It’s the only left-handed one,” and while I still have most of the classroom’s attention I follow-up with: “It’s a left-handed world and I’m just living in it.” This time around, we are made to watch a 45-minute video that explains the same things they always explain, except with more of a sense of urgency because our benefits will be running out soon. I bring a book and hope I don’t get caught reading. It’s very reminiscent of high school, except replace reading with sleeping.
On the bright side, something about being in the unemployment office always brings out the funnies in me. It’s the same thing that happens to me when I’m on the Megabus. Maybe joking to myself, or flaming irresponsible bus companies on Twitter, is a type of defense mechanism to shield me from idiocy and incompetence, or just plain torturous situations. On this day, my defense mechanism manifested itself in the form of haikus:
|Hot Spanish man here
Wears camo pantalones
Room for one more, si?
|Frauding the unem-
ployment office is scary
But I need to eat
|Slight grasp of language
Teaching me about Gmail
This is ironic
Age 40 and has no job
Didn’t expect this
|Herded like cattle
Work search form is filled with lies
Down with the system
|No matter the age
Is totally fucked
I got a job, I got a job, I got a job, I got a job. Thank fuck. Tears of relief squirt from my eyes and I have to wait until I stop crying out all the stress from the last nine months before I can call my mom to share the news. (Bury those emotions, girl. Bury them deep.) I’ll be working full-time at the same place I’ve spent the last nine months freelancing, and my mom tells me she “knew i’d get it all along.” Oh, well, I’m glad one of us wasn’t worried.
Beginning of March
It’s been two weeks since I’ve re-joined the living in the working world. I slog through my morning commute from Astoria to Union Square, and while I think the new gig is going swimmingly, my perky “I’m going to make myself lunch every day, get eight hours of sleep every night, and wake up early every morning” attitude slowly begins to dwindle. It only takes two taps of the snooze button to turn my 8:30am wake-up into 8:45, and my morning routine goes from cute-outfit-full-makeup to spray-your-dirty-jeans-with-perfume-and-slap-some-coverup-on-your-baggy-eyes. I debate throwing myself down the stairs in the morning just to make use of my health insurance, and because who hasn’t fantasized about being in the hospital and seeing which of their friends would come visit them?
I write this from the laundromat at 10 o’clock at night. Working out and doing laundry are the two most noticeable things I can’t get done during the day now, and Lord knows I refuse to get fat. Or be smelly. The beef jerky-filled office isn’t helping with either. I look up at the televisions that are mounted throughout the large, 24-hour Quick Wash. One is playing Fox, and a blonde, makeup-laden news anchor is fear-mongering me about the dangers of the hot new club drug, “Molly” (news flash: it’s not new). Another is playing the Telemundo channel, and I think to myself how many more television options I’d have living in Queens if I could just learn Spanish. At the far end of the laundromat a repeat of the People’s Court plays on mute. The disgruntled-looking plaintiffs are learning the hard way that a verbal contract does not hold up in court, and they are wearing matching purple shirts. I watch my clothes whir in the washing machine as they switch from soak to rinse to spin, and I think to myself: “life isn’t so bad.”