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.
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.