Tag Archives: laid off

So What’s the Answer? Thoughts after a Year of Being a Statistic

Lordy, what a surreal year. I packed up my desk in a cardboard box nearly 365 days ago and started my little adventure as a statistic. That just doesn’t seem possible.

It feels very strange to read all those stories about long-term unemployment and to know that all those stories are about you. Everyone has an opinion about what to do about “the jobs crisis,” and they feel free to share it with you. Answering the question, “What do you do?” takes some creativity, if you want to avoid the looks of pity (and sometimes scorn). Not to mention the well-meaning job search tips.

You need ready cocktail party conversation topics to head off discussion about your ongoing situation with your friends. How many ways are there to say that things are still the same? Nope. Still unemployed. No jobs out there. I still don’t know what I’m ultimately going to do about it. I am still on Unemployment, but it’s not going to last forever. Freelancing is slow, but I like it and would like to keep doing it if I can. I like not working in an office. Still not feeling all that bad about my situation and still enjoying having time to find myself. I may as well enjoy myself, because I’m fucked either way, right?

How do you respond to all those people who tell you to stay positive? Really? How is losing one’s job in the “worst economic downturn since the Great Depression,” brought on by corporate greed and insanity, something to be positive about? Woo hoo! I’m unemployed! I have no real hope of getting a new job! Get out the champagne! You keep saying that things are turning around, but what’s your proof? While we all have to play with the hand we’re dealt, you have to admit that I have shitty cards right now, no? Asswipe.

That one’s not so hard (I take wicked pleasure in it . . . sometimes), but what do you say to Barbara Ehrenreich, who in Bright-Sided hands it to you straight? Positive thinking is delusional thinking, she says, and it blames the victim for the job loss. Thinking positively gives the illusion of control over things you don’t control. It can be a comforting illusion, though, to think that you can take lemons and make a tasty beverage. Here’s the thing, Barbara. I am mad as hell, and I know exactly what got me here. I don’t for a minute believe that this was done to me for my benefit. I vote, I protest, I speak out. But I also still have to live with myself every single day. And I don’t want to live with a bitter person. I didn’t ask for this, but I’ll be damned if I don’t use the time to my advantage and find something to be happy about.

The above is just what to say in conversation. It doesn’t answer the question of what you’re going to do with your bad self every day. The proverb is a wise one. Be careful what you wish for. Having all the time in the world is dangerous. When it comes down to it, there isn’t a real reason to get out of bed. Or shower. Or do anything besides watch TV online and drink all the time. You don’t have any money. You can’t really afford to go out, but staying in all the time makes you a little bit weird. Your friends have jobs, well, most of your friends, anyway, so they aren’t around during the day. Your house is clean. Too clean. Or, it might be a disaster, and you can’t bring yourself to touch it. Dating’s difficult, as who wants to date someone with no money and no prospects? Not to mention someone wearing old clothes and the dregs of once-good makeup and hair products. Sexy.

The truth is that unemployed life can really suck ass. I don’t like being broke. I don’t like thinking about the future. In spite of everything, though, I can’t say that this has been all bad. Some of it has been really fucking great. I’ve given in to TV and wine more times than I care to admit, but I’ve also been doing a lot of thinking about how to answer this question:

How do I live a good life, anyway?

I don’t know yet, but it’s been interesting trying to figure it out. I thought I’d resurrect this bloggy thing and write a few posts about what I’ve done with my surreal year. We’ll see what happens.

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This isn’t a good idea, but I’m doing it anyway. The name’s Sara. Sara Scott. I kept this thing anonymous because . . . well, I drink, smoke sometimes, use the word “fuck” liberally, and hold socialist views. I didn’t think it wise to let the whole world know. Also, I found the idea of writing in public terrifying, so I figured if it wasn’t really me doing it, I’d feel more comfortable about things. It worked for me for a while, but now hiding behind my Big Wheel just feels cowardly. So, there you have it. My name is Sara Scott, and I occasionally do bad things and say bad words. So sue me. You won’t get much.

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The Sassy Sundries: My Week in Review

Wow, what a lazy week. Friday’s here already, and so it’s time for the Sassy Sundries, my weekly tally of things personal, political, and nonsensical.

The unemployment figures released this week make me feel like a total joiner. There are 5.56 million of us on unemployment the dole in this country. Minus 5,560,000

Obama gives his second press conference. It’s so nice to have a president who can speak in complete sentences. Interestingly, with only a couple of exceptions, every question was about the economy. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan didn’t come up once. While obviously the economy is on the front burner, I hope that the wars don’t fade into the background. Even

Speaking of war, Obama is expected to announce that he will be sending 4,000 new troops to Afghanistan, with the goal of training Afghan security forces. This brings the total number of new troops in Afghanistan to 21,000. In addition, more aid will be given to Pakistan for counterterrorism measures. The new focus on Afghanistan will set benchmarks for both Afghanistan and Pakistan. While I can see the point of trying to clean things up in a region where we’ve been fighting a half-assed war in for so long, I wonder if recent history doesn’t have some lessons for us here. Minus One

Went on a bit of a bender and made a bit of an ass out of myself. Oh well. It was great to see Andraste (who wasn’t involved in the bender or the ass-making), and today is a new day. Plus One

The Boston Globe announces yet another round of layoffs. Minus Two

During the presidential press conference, Obama indicated that the Republican criticism of his budget needs to be backed up with an actual counter budget proposal. Today House Republicans announced that they had a budget. The only problem? There aren’t any numbers attached to it. Minus Two

Twilight at Boston Latin? Vampire rumors spread through the school, prompting a memo home to parents about bullying. Gimme your lunch money or I’ll bite your neck? Minus One

Sarah Palin threw a snit this week, saying that she couldn’t find anyone to pray with her before the Vice Presidential Debate. You’d think that everyone on McCain’s team would have laid hands on her. Thank heavens the religious right isn’t in charge any more. Plus One

I have a date tonight. Plus Five

Total Plus: 7
Total Minus: 6

TOTAL FOR THE WEEK: -5,559,999

Last Week’s Total: -165,000,00

Tangled Up in Red Tape: Fun with the Unemployment Office

Into every unemployed person’s life, a giant roll of bureaucratic red tape falls. However much I’ve enjoyed my extended stay on the couch, there are certain annoying things I’ve had to tend to.

The day after my sacking, I called the Massachusetts Division of Unemployment Assistance in order to register for unemployment. I’d been told not to expect sympathy or kindness, let alone patience, and as I dialed, I steeled myself for an interminable hold time followed by an unpleasant encounter.

I have to say that despite the long wait for my call to be received, my initial encounter proved relatively painless. The man on the other end of the line was witty and charming, and he chatted a blue streak as I gave him my information. When it came time to talk about my severance package, he was a bit too chatty. I told him that yes, I had received a severance package, and I read to him the section of my letter detailing how the package had been calculated, as he interrupted me to ask about the particulars. I was a bit nervous that he hadn’t gotten everything down, but he assured me he had. He told me how to call in every week and then transferred me to the line where I could apply for direct deposit of my checks.

Well, that wasn’t so bad, I thought after I hung up the phone. So long as I call each Sunday and sign on, I’ll be fine. And call in each week I have. I figured that when my severance period ran out, the checks would start coming in until I made it as a freelancer or begrudgingly took another office job. I’d received a letter from the good unemployment folks saying how much I’d get, and I hadn’t received any requests for more information. Everything was all set.

Or so I thought.

On Friday, I started looking into health insurance options. My current coverage runs out at the end of the month, and there’s no way I can afford the COBRA payments. I decided to apply for Commonwealth Care, but as I was filling out the application, I noticed that they required information about my unemployment compensation. The Division of Unemployment Assistance has a handy Web site, so I figured I’d check there to confirm my payment information.

I logged into the site and noticed a big red alert telling me that they still needed information about my claim. Blood pressure rising, I clicked on the link. “Your employer has told us you received a severance package,” the notice read. No kidding. I told you people all about it. There was an online form where I could provide the information, so I figured I’d fill it out just in case something was missing.

Now I’m an intelligent person. I can fill out a form. But this form confused the hell out of me. I got through most of it but when I came to the question asking me if I’d signed release as a condition of receiving the severance package, I was stumped. The first part was easy enough. I had indeed signed a release, and in so doing I agreed not to sue my former employer or speak of the company disparagingly. So I checked yes. However, the second part of question asked me about the duration of the agreement. Forever, I thought, but the drop down menu did not allow for a “forever” response.

I really didn’t know how to answer this part, and I had to fill in something. Not knowing what else to do, I decided to call the unemployment office. After two tries, I got through the touchtone menu items and was told that I had a twenty-five minute wait. I grimaced and resolved to wait it out.

After about thirty minutes, a gruff woman answered the line. I told her who I was and tried to explain my situation. That took a while, as she kept cutting me off, thinking that she could answer my question. “No,” I said, “my question isn’t ‘What’s a severance?’ My question is how to answer the question asking about the duration of my severance agreement. So far as I know, it is in effect forever, but the menu only involves weeks and days.”

We haggled for several minutes, during which time the woman on the other end of the line told me about how busy everyone was, before she finally told me how to answer it. I then said, “You know, I provided this information when I filed my initial claim. Is there some reason why the information wasn’t recorded?”

“This is a different department,” she replied.

“OK. Well, I have also made my claims each week and have been told that if any more information is required of me that I would be contacted. Can you tell me why I only found out about this when I checked the Web site myself?”

“We’re incredibly busy. Now, you’ll also need to fax a copy of your severance agreement to your adjustor. Do you have a pen?”

I replied, “Yes, but I do not have a fax machine.”

“Does your husband have a fax machine?” I could hear her rolling her eyes at me.

Whaaaaat? “I don’t have a husband.”

“Well, there are plenty of places where you can find a fax machine, so here’s the number.”

I took down the number, thanked her for her time, and filled in the rest of the online form. I clicked “submit.” I received a message saying that the form had timed out and that I would need to fill it out again. Fuuuuuuuuuuuck. Are you even serious? I filled out the form again while singing, “Fuck the Employment Office. You’re so mean to me . . .” to the tune of “Puff the Magic Dragon.”

My roommate told me that I could probably find a fax machine at one of the convenience stores on Broadway. I grabbed my release agreement and headed out to find a fax machine. The first store I went to was mobbed with the Keno crowd, so I went to another shop. To my great joy, they informed me that they had a fax machine. I handed over my papers, only to realize that I had forgotten the number. So back home I went and retrieved the number.

When I got back to the store, the young man who helped me was gone, replaced by a woman who only spoke Portuguese. I have only a little Spanish, but we somehow managed to make the transaction. She took my papers and went out back. After a twenty-minute wait, I got the papers back, paid my five dollars, and hoped for the best. I went home and collapsed on the couch. That night I didn’t sleep well, wondering if my claim was going to be stuck in the bureacratic loop.

This morning I tried to call in to sign on. The line was busy, and so I tried the Web site. While the page took an eternity to load, I tried calling again. I figured I would sign on whichever way let me through first. The Web site won. I filled out the forms (answering four questions isn’t all that hard), and clicked submit.

Upon confirmation of my filing, I was informed that a payment will be going out on Monday. Oh joy! Thank you unemployment office! I’m so sorry I called you the Fuckemployment Office!

So that’s settled. Now I just need to get health insurance. . . .

Looking on the Bright Side of Unemployment

Earlier this week, Date forwarded me an article from the Boston Globe about people delighted to be among the newly unemployed. “We’re so fing cutting edge,” he wrote in the subject line. I suppose we are. He’s taken to calling unemployment Funemployment. I am in complete agreement.

The past couple of weeks of not having to work have left me positively giddy. My hellish commute? Gone. My should-I-stay-or-should-I-go dance I’d been doing with my job for the last couple of years? Over. Sitting in an office all day, doing someone else’s bidding? Nope. Not me. Aside from the still, small voice telling me that the money is going to run out sometime soon, I can’t remember a time in my adult life when I’ve been happier.

In the days that followed the layoff, I followed the advice those gurus offer the newly unemployed and got in touch with contacts and friends to share with them the news that I’d become a statistic. The results amazed me. Not only did people promise to be on the lookout for jobs, they also reached out to let me know that they cared for me and wanted the best for me. Those close by invited me over to their homes, or out for a meal or a drink. I’ve been in touch with old friends I haven’t talked to in years. My old coworkers pitched in and sent me a care package. However cheesy it may sound, knowing that people value me and my contributions to the world has been affirming.

My life has a natural rhythm to it these days. I get up without an alarm clock. I stay in my jammies long past when it is proper. The Great American Novel this blog ain’t, but these scribbles represent the first writing I have done in over a year. I’ve been cooking real food again, with joy instead of begrudging necessity. I made bread this week! Last week I cooked dinner for Date, and yesterday I had my sister and nephew over for lunch. Sure I also spent Tuesday working on my résumé and sending out applications (I can’t be completely impractical), but I’ve also spent a lot of time imagining how my life could be. Because if I am really honest with myself, if I could get away with it, I would never work in an office again.

Yesterday I went to the Pink Slip Coffee Meetup, and until Date showed up, I might have been the only one happy with my current lot. I know I am lucky, in that my severance was generous and that I have a little bit of time before I need to scramble, but I really talked up the upside of unemployment. It was the first time I’d admitted to anyone outside a few close friends that I do not want to rejoin the rat race. It felt really, really good.

What am I going to do? I don’t know. I do need to figure out a way to make a living, and soon. But right now, in this moment, with the sun shining through my open window (it’s warm!), life is absolutely perfect.

I have to go now. I’m going to go to my favorite North End caffè and then to a wine bottega. After that, I will pick up some fruit, veg, and cheese at Haymarket before heading home to cook some more. Date is coming over this afternoon to watch Twin Peaks.

It’s Friday. And I don’t have to work.

Hash Wednesday and Why Sassy Is Going to the Bad Place

This year I forgot all about Mardi Gras. Drat! I love dressing up in masks and beads and partying down. In times past, there was often a big party, and Mardi Gras was one of my favorite holidays.

No partying this year. So busy was I on Tuesday polishing up my résumé, applying for jobs, and following what was going on with Obama’s non-State-of-the-Union address that the whole whoopdepoop happened without me. Sigh. I not only missed the show, but also Obama has ruined the State of the Union drinking game. How are we going to get smashed without “nuke-u-ler”? Maybe by the time he gets around to delivering an actual State of the Union, we’ll have figured out some new rules. Every time Obama speaks in complete sentences, drink one shot. When the policies make sense and will do the country some good, drink two shots. Something like that.

Anyhow, yesterday I was in the Post Office to pick up a registered letter (I have learned that getting laid off involves tons of certified mail), when I noticed that the woman at the counter had a giant ink stain on her head. A dripping continent of ink. Gorbachev would have envied this inkblot. Given that postal workers work with ink pads and such, I figured she had had a mishap and thought I would be a nice person and tell her about it.

“Um, I’m sorry, but I think you have a little ink on your forehead.”

I saw her mentally roll her eyes at me. She replied flatly, “Religious holiday.”

Oh shit. It’s Hash Wednesday! “I’m so sorry,” I said, trying to recover, “I forgot all about Ash Wednesday.” Because I’m going to burn in the Bad Place. “My sister is Catholic,” I offered weakly in an attempt to redeem myself. At least I didn’t say Hash Wednesday?

I’m an asshole. Drink two shots.

Unemployed in Greenland

Well, add another check mark on the life experience list. This morning I was laid off. I got the news, packed up my stuff, and, for the first time since 1999, joined the Legion of the Unemployed.

It feels very strange to be a statistic.

Bright side? Blogging is back on the agenda.