Sunday, February 28, 2016

Phoning It In

You know things are bad when your smartphone tells you to watch your mouth.

I could claim that I had been provoked, but then most hotheads say the same thing when they want to justify their temper tantrums.

I was walking down 69th Street one morning last week lugging my prized parka and searching for a cheap tailor.

I had broken the zipper on the damn thing after a hunk of fabric got caught up in the teeth.

That was bad enough, but it got even worse when I found out that repairing the thing would cost me 34 freaking bucks.

Do you people know I’m out of work?

I’m trying to keep my bills down and now I get blindsided by this grief. And of course the temperature was all set to swan dive straight to wind chill hell.

I politely bailed on my regular dry cleaner and hiked up to my backup guy only to get the same shocking price quote.

I was feeling pretty frustrated as I walked home and I guess I was also pretty distracted because I dropped the parka on the ground.

Fuck!” I declared for all the world to hear.

I don’t know about the world, but my I-phone, which I had apparently activated, heard me loud and clear.

Rob! Language!

It took me a second to realize the voice was real and coming from my hip pocket, instead of my imagination. Feeling somewhat ashamed of myself, I took out the phone for a face-to-face, so to speak.

Nosy Parka

“I’m sorry.”

It’s all right, Rob,” my phone said. “That’s why I hang out with you.”

Really? I thought you hang out with me because I paid a lot of money for you and carry you around in my pants. I’m glad we cleared that up. Now shut up and let me photograph a squirrel.

This all happened at 10 o’clock in the morning, a time when I’m usually at work. But I am seeing the world in a different angle—and at a different hour--now that there’s so much uncertainty in my life.

While riding on the subway Thursday morning I sat near two homeless men who muttered independently of each other.

One fellow, who was munching on a sandwich between ravings, dropped a handful of napkins on the floor.

“Do you want those?” the second homeless man asked, pointing to the napkins and quickly scooping them up.

Most of us toss paper napkins aside without a second thought, but they take on a much greater value when money is tight.

When I got off the train I struck up a conversation with a lady at the local Rite Aid, who was buying about 20 cans of cat food.

She told me she feeds the strays in her neighborhood, which I used to do when I lived in my family’s house.

The cat lady told me she doesn’t do as much with the cats because of her various physical problems. I praised her good efforts, wished her well, and went on my way. She was such a nice lady and I never would have met her if I hadn’t been jobless.

I wound up taking my parka to a dry cleaner of Fifth Avenue where I used to go when I was living in my family’s house and feeding stray cats.

The owner is a lovely women who welcomed my like a long lost relative and charged me only 27 bucks for the zipper job.

Now I’m waiting to receive my first unemployment check and I truly hope I get all that’s coming to me.

Otherwise I’m going to be cursing so much my I-phone won’t want to hang out with me anymore.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Rain Man

I stood on line in the pouring rain on W.57th Street with one question rolling around my mind.

Why the hell did I ever leave that sauna?

I had gone—quite reluctantly--to the Holiday Inn to attend a job fair where I planned to take a brief look around before going the hell home.

I didn’t want to go to this thing at all, but unemployment can drive you to do the strangest things and I was afraid to pass up a chance, no matter how slim, of landing a job.

When I reached 57th Street I saw a group of people with umbrellas standing in the rain and mistakenly took them for mourners attending a funeral at a nearby church.

But these were not mourners, at least not in the conventional sense. They were job seekers, just like myself, standing in a long, unmoving line of like-minded individuals who were trying to get into the job fair.

I don’t know why I was surprised by the turnout. Hedge fund managers and real estate moguls may be doing all right, but plenty more people are hurting and desperate.

I looked around and saw people of all ages and income levels standing in the rain with little more than their umbrellas and a whole lot of hope.

I took my place in line, the rain kept falling, and we all waited. And I thought about that sauna.

So, what do you that you can be here at this time of the day?

That seemed like a fair question. Earlier that day I was steaming myself in the sauna at a gym on E. 59th Street at an hour when most people are at work and a gentleman sitting on a nearby bench wanted to know my story.

My new companion was in his late 60s, spoke with what I believed was a Scandinavian accent, and completely naked.

But even though he wasn’t wearing a stitch of clothing—I was wrapped in a towel--I could tell he was probably retired and quite well-off.

“Well,” I told him, “I’m out of work right now but I’m heading over to a job fair in a little while.”

Sweat and Wild

We talked about the stock market, the abysmal slate of presidential candidates currently stalking the country, and how the high cost of campaigning and the fear of scandal are keeping many talented people away from politics.

“I have a gardener,” the man said, “and I don’t pay his Social Security. So for that alone I couldn’t be president.”

How unfortunate. We only spoke for a brief time, but I’d sooner take this man as my commander-in-chief than most of the current crop of losers trying to claw their way to the White House.

I could’ve spoken to this man all day—and I wish to hell I had—but the fear of being out of work gnawed at me. I even briefly entertained this fantasy that this man would hire me or introduce me to a wealthy friend, but then I thought I should really get across town and attend that job fair.

I bid this gentleman farewell, he wished me luck, and I’m so sorry that we didn’t exchange contact information—or least properly introduced ourselves—before I left.

But I didn’t bring my business card into the sauna and even I had this man didn’t have any place to put it. And so I went out into the rain.

The line outside the Holiday Inn barely moved. I don’t know if the organizers of this event were pulling some kind of a scam or if they were genuinely unprepared for the massive turnout.

As the rain continued I debated giving up and leaving. I didn’t want to come in the first place and now here I was in a suit and tie risking pneumonia. Not a good place for a hypochondriac.

You stayed this long, I thought, stay a little longer and you might get in.

Finally I had enough. I was tired, wet, and freezing. I stepped off the line and started walking toward Seventh Avenue.

By that time the line was almost of full city block long and these people didn’t appear to have any intention of leaving.

My friends and family members told me I should’ve left a lot sooner, but I don’t regret this experience. Looking for a job is tough and you’re going to make missteps and waste a lot of time.

I’m glad I saw all those other people so I can appreciate that I’m not the only one who’s out of work and that there are people a lot worse off than I am.

Everyone is just looking to get out of the rain.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Climax Blues

Well, I said I would consider all possibilities.

Ever since I became a free agent earlier this month I’ve been scouring the online want ads in search of reasonably honest work.

I confess it’s been a little eerie not having any place to go during normal working hours.

I still go to my early morning boxing class in lower Manhattan twice a week and, in an effort to expand my job search, I approached two of my classmates to let them know I was looking for work—and promptly learned that both of them were unemployed as well.

On the way home last week I ran into a tsunami of commuters bubbling up out of the R train station at Rector Street and I struggled against the human tide to reach the Brooklyn bound platform.

On Friday morning I saw my bus, the X27—or my ex-bus— picking up passengers at Ridge Boulevard for the commute into Manhattan. But I wasn’t on board.

That evening I took the subway into midtown to meet some friends and I watched a woman on the D train carefully putting away her work ID card, wrapping the lanyard around the laminated photo and sliding the workplace dog tag into her purse.

I remember when I used to have one of those cards clipped to my belt like a dog license. And I think I know how my canine brethren feel right about now.

I like being off the leash and roaming around the countryside without a schedule, but I’m getting a little worried about being able to fill the old food dish.

I’ve got plenty to do, of course, a laundry list of personal projects I’ve been putting off for the longest time. And there’s also the laundry.

And I’m running across some intriguing employment opportunities in my job search, including this little number on Craig’s List.

All that Jizz

Got Sperm?” the notice asked. “Earn up to $1,500 a month.”

Hey, now that sounds like something I could handle—in more ways than one.

Be a hero,” the ad continued. “Become a sperm donor. Help create families.

This was sounding better and better. I can play Batman without having to put on a cape and if anyone ever accused me of jerking off, I’ll say, “exactly!”
And I’d be releasing a whole bunch of bright-eyed offspring on an unsuspecting world. Talk about service with a smile…

So, pray tell, how does it work? The pay rate, I mean. I think I know how the rest of it works.

We offer a means to supplement income,” the notice said. “$125/donation up to 3 times/week--so that's up to $1500/month or $18,000/year and to receive comprehensive health and genetic screenings free of charge.”

Wow—all that dough for just doing what comes naturally with free health screenings to boot. This could be the (wet) dream job of a lifetime!

I was ready to swing into action when I read the ad’s fine print and my great plans were struck limp by a sudden bolt of realitus interruptus.

Must be aged 19-38 years old.”

Oh, come now! You’re going to pull the age limit routine on me? Wine gets better with age and so do I. This is vintage sperm I’m offering here. You guys are making a real boner.

We could be producing a whole crop of little Don Drapers, who smoke cigarettes, drink tiny martinis and look up their babysitters’ skirts. How could you pass that up?

But I’m afraid I’m losing out to some stiff competition.

No matter, there are plenty of other opportunities in the want ads. I especially like this one: “Hot Guys needed for ADULT FILMS!!!

Now that sounds like the job for me.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Fear No Evil

There was a moment during a recent morning commute when everything came together for me.

I had just settled into my seat on the X27 bus when I began my tradition of silently reciting the 23rd Psalm.

This may sound a little nutty to some people, but I find that it helps with job-related stress.

On this particular morning I had just started when the bus pulled up to an intersection and a fabulous ray of sunlight beamed right into me.

I could feel this purifying energy penetrate every cell of my body and it seemed like I was levitating right out of my seat, as I truly feared no evil.

Well, I’m going to need that kind of light, power, and courage since I have parted ways with my company of eight years and I am now officially unemployed.

I’ve been hinting at this situation in earlier blog posts, referring to a personal crisis and similar code words. Well, this is what I was talking about.

When I handed over my work ID on Monday morning, I felt physically lighter, somewhat exposed, and decidedly unwelcome.

My now former boss escorted me out of the building as if I were a plague victim and I walked down Frank Sinatra Drive in Hoboken to board the PATH train for the last time. At 10AM I had no trouble getting a seat.

I held back on my breakdown until I called my sister a short time later and told her the news.

“I’m tired of being the family fuck-up,” I said, my voice cracking.

I’m trying to focus on the future and not the fear, which has been quite challenging. I think it would probably be a good thing if I stopped referring to myself as a fuck-up.

Thy Rod and Thy Staff

I’m going to be 59 years old in May, hardly a prime time to be unemployed.

There’s a part of me that says I should be far more stable at this point in my life and that I ought to be looking at places to retire instead of pounding the pavement. I try not to listen to that voice.

I feel both frightened and excited; liberated and imprisoned. I need a source of income, of course, and I’m going to need healthcare, as well.
But I also feel like this is a time of great possibility, like I can do or be just about anything I want to be: cowboy, astronaut, lumberjack.

I’ve only been out of work for a short time, though, so my attitude might change in the coming weeks.

I’m revising the resume, answering job postings for full-time and part-time work and I’m looking for work in New York and California, though I’ll go anywhere for a good gig.

I want to get something positive out of this experience: acquire new skills, climb out of the comfort zone, develop a sense of gratitude, and learn how to make do with less.

I told the priest at confession on Saturday that maybe God is punishing me for all my misdeeds by taking away my job.

“I don’t think God acts that way,” the priest said.

No, neither do I, but I needed to say it just so someone else could shoot it down.

I’m thinking back on my commuting experience, how peaceful and calm I felt. Cynics will say that it was merely a combination of good timing, bright sunshine, and religious mumbo-jumbo.

Yes, well, screw them. I don’t need cynicism now. I need faith, magic, and mystery to restoreth my soul.

Wish me luck.