UNEMPLOYMENT CAUSES NIGHT SWEATS
By JOAN M KOP
Maybe I could learn to laugh. Maybe if I were younger. Or, at least not over 50. Maybe if I weren’t afraid the unemployment money would run out. Or, maybe if I had majored in something related to my true passion (English instead of Business Administration), maybe I could get a job I really like. Maybe if my secretarial skills weren’t so rusty. Maybe if I had bigger boobs. Or, maybe if I could remember to wear makeup. Maybe if I lived in a larger city, I would have an easier time or more chances to get a job that paid a decent wage.
I tried. Believe me, for over a year ever since October 2009 I experienced night sweats about it. Spokane’s job market is tighter than Calvin Klein jeans on a 300-pound woman. There are very few employers I haven’t already tried. Jobs, especially good jobs, are hard to come by; vacancies exist mostly when someone moves or dies. Besides, I don’t qualify for every kind of job.
This past year I dusted off my black, funeral-appropriate suit, fussed with my hair, stuffed my bra with socks, pasted a smile on my face and trudged to about 25 interviews out of the 200 job contacts I made, not counting the months of employment I spent at three different jobs.
First, I tried a Medicare company. Although I was leery of this straight-commission job, the manager told me it promised a great future because of all the baby boomers who were aging, that is, if you could hack all the quirky enrollment periods, driving to and from appointments, high gas prices and regulations, regulations, regulations. I didn’t make enough money to stick around long enough to find out. I listened to people rant about their illnesses but what really pissed me off was that these folks wanted you to take care of them, solve all their medical billing nightmares and basically wanted the Medicare plan at little or no cost to them. And, if you offered any resistance, they took their business to nearby competitors. I saw no viable alternative but when I found out that the top producer in the company wasn’t faring much better I quit.
I spent weeks getting sick of filling out online applications, revising cover letters, perfecting resumes and not getting out of bed some days because of the depression. Feeling insecure, unloved and suffering from low self-esteem, I took a job as an Enumerator for the 2010 Federal Census. Although, I am not allowed to talk in depth about my work, let me say this. As a bean counter, I fended off large dogs, low income housing, rude people who begged me to get off their property and the paranoid who didn’t want the government interfering in their business. Even though it took courage to knock on each door, I found the job was just another job, not the sort of adventure I had hoped for. After all, I couldn’t say having a door slammed in my face was my idea of adventure. And, again, regulations, regulations, regulations. I lasted about a month and a half.
So, what to do? Try again. This time bone up your skills, WorkSource said. Get acclimated to the 21st Century. So, I thought I’d make myself more employable and learn all about the new cell phone technology—the world of 4G, touchscreens, androids and its 70,000 applications, qwerty keyboards, BlackBerrys and Smartphones (is there such a thing as a Dumbphone?).
The stress of learning another new job and navigating or multi-tasking through several complex computer programs was far too much for me to wrap my head around. It fried my brain. There were days when I couldn’t even remember my own name.
Turned out I was more interested in the colorful past of my mentor in the company, a red-headed, cell phone trainer who tried for 20 years to get rid of her meth-addict husband and whose father had been convicted of White Slavery in the 60s. This woman who had a Doctor of Divinity degree also promised to read tarot cards for me.
After seven long weeks of putting up with 20-year-olds who threw rubber balls at each other to pass the time (I got hit in the head with a ball while on a call), I quickly saw my demise coming because the kids grew up with the technology and, thus, were more proficient at selling the stuff than I was. I got fired for lack of production.
Back on the streets again, I felt rejected, ugly and alone. I didn’t have anyone to talk to or eat lunch with. My friends and family, sick and tired of hearing about my job hunt, never returned my calls.
Luckily, I didn’t have to cope with the horrendous snowfall Spokane had in November and December. I stayed toasty warm locked inside my home. Glad to be on unemployment.
Not so glad when the end of the month rolled around and I had to pay bills. The money I received from unemployment, recently cut to $300/week, barely covered my mortgage and condo fee. Tried for food stamps but only qualified for $15/month, hardly worth the hassle of filling out all the forms and dealing with regulations, regulations, regulations.
And, finally, there was the annoying stress of having to remember to file each week. When I forgot or screwed up, it meant calling several times or days to get through then waiting in a long queue to talk to someone from unemployment to fix it. A teachable moment. Who would’ve thought I’d learn patience. Made me laugh at myself. Now if only I could learn to laugh at stress…