Monday, March 1, 2010

Notes from the Unemployment Office.

This morning, I accompanied my best friend to the unemployment office. You know me ... always up for an adventure. It's weird to think, but now half of my musician friends had to go and get jobs, and half of my full-time career friends are now unemployed. My morning walking partners have shifted from classical guitar players to former non-profit workers.

This morning I dutifully arose at 6-something, drove to a faraway land in Louisville that reminded me of Amarillo, Texas, with its wide lanes and strip malls, and waited in line (in the north, you wait ON-line, but here we wait IN-line) outside until the doors opened just before 7:30. I kept hoping that the 50+ (heavy on the plus) people in front of us were also just one person plus a friend, meaning that maybe there were really only 25+ people in the actual line ... but no, we waited a full two hours before getting to speak with someone.

I could write a hundred pages based on this morning's adventure, but I promise I won't. I find it absurd that this can't all be done online (not the northern version of "in"-line, but the actual Interweb and stuff). I understand that you can request checks online, but you must show up in person for your reviews, which involves simply filling out a form and handing to a person who says "Thanks! See you in six weeks," that could easily also be put online. But then I suppose there are plenty of governmental forms that could be easily put online and aren't...

I am thankful that I'm not unemployed and that I don't have to stand in that line again. Although, for the record, my being self-employed only guarantees that I'll never be eligible for unemployment benefits, despite all those years having worked a "real job" and paying into the system. Add me to the list of "under"-employed folks, I guess, and I'll keep searching for paying gigs (please, no more "no pay but great exposure" shows!). Maybe I could play accordion each morning for the depressed folks at the Unemployment Office. It would either alleviate some depression and make people smile momentarily, or it might run some folks off the deep end.

This morning, I was proud of myself for being cognizant enough NOT to attract the crazies. (Generally, they swarm to me like bees to my zinnia garden.) The crazy one was right in front of me, too, so I consider this a grand feat. The poor guy three people in front me had to listen to her diatribe about "aliens among us," the end of the world, and the "things you wouldn't believe I've seen." She sounded perfectly sane -- don't they all -- and you wouldn't have noticed the odd nature of their conversation unless you were eavesdropping.

Well, eavesdropping was impossible to avoid in a line of such close quarters, and the novel I'd brought with me was losing the fight for my attention. The crazy lady started talking of all the crucifixes and garlic she kept hidden at various places in her home, as if such items of lore would protect her from the aliens. "Something's coming, I tell you. Something. I know. I've seen it."

The poor kid caught listening to her sermon couldn't escape, stuck in that unemployment line for two hours sneaking furtive glances to me and my friend, who smiled sympathetically, then turned our backs to the crazy and our noses to our novels, all the while speaking nonsensical "German" to each other because we didn't want Crazy to think she could engage us as well. It's really quite amazing how much you can actually communicate to someone when you're speaking gibberish. Every so often, when it looked like she was trying to catch my attention, my friend would pull me by the coat collar toward him and mumble, "She's looking at you. Turn away." I just replied, "Volkswagen sprachen, ja?"

I don't like this whole Depression thing. It's sad, and I'm sorry that 10% of the country has to deal with that. I know everyone there this morning would rather be working that in that horrid line. Except maybe that crazy lady, who I'm not even convinced had a reason to be there. I think maybe she just liked the audience.

Self-employment may not qualify me for unemployment checks, but at least I work from home, I guess, where the only crazy person is me. I don't have a crucifix, but I have plenty of garlic.


  1. reat story Brigid!

    I was born and raised in New Hampshire, and now live in Western Massachusetts. In between I spent a few years in Nashville, a short spell in Memphis, and about five years in Mississippi. I know no one cares, but here's the thing - I wait in line. I am pretty certain I waited in line long before my first adventure to the American South, because most of the regional phrases seem to fall out of my vocabulary within six months to a year after re-entering the northeast. Now the idea of waiting on-line is not crazy to me (like "a sack of groceries" crazy or "might could" crazy), so it has me wondering....

    Who exactly does wait on line? Maybe you could conduct a little test where all your readers post where they are from and whether they wait in line, or on line.

    Just a thought. Anyway keep writing - we'll keep reading.

    Have fun!

  2. Great - that first word should say "great".

  3. I love that idea! Do you wait IN or ON.. a reader's poll ... thanks, Troy. Still hope to tour up your way.... gotta get a new record first:)

  4. of course, if you're overseas, then you wait in the "queue"

    which, by the way, is a word that is spelled a bit insane. you could put 5 more "ue"'s after it and it would probably still sound the same.