Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Will Work For Unemployment

We've all seen them:  Beggars along the side of a highway at a popular intersection holding signs that say something stupidly profound like, "Will work for food," or my favourite, "Will work for cable."  And when I lived in DC, it was "Will work for you if your windscreen is dirty."  They loved to stand at the corner while you were waiting to merge onto the Beltway at Crystal City.  They never allowed you to decide if your windscreen was dirty, they simply started to clean it, and then subjected you to a verbal onslaught if you didn't want to pay them for their unwarranted service.  Bureaucrats.

After losing both my jobs in December of 2008 due to illness, I was forced to resort to applying for unemployment.  Thankfully, this ritual isn't as complicated as it once was the last time I needed to apply back in 1985.  Then, you were forced to stand in long and tiring lines with the dregs of humanity that you usually only bumped into at the DMV, in which case it wasn't so much a waiting game as a reunion.

Now, they've removed the human element by allowing us to apply online.  For which I was thankful.  But it's not all roses and tea parties.  Having to wait constantly for that next cheque to come in is hard.  In fact, I'm the reason my mailman carries a gun.

The really stupid thing about being on unemployment (besides the mind-numbing 1/4 of your original salary they expect you to live on), is you spend more time fighting for your benefits than you ever did on a real job.  If there's ever a problem (and there usually is), then you must haul your angry ass down to an office that doesn't even have GPS coordinates and can only be entered with a password found on the inside of a cereal box and a decoder ring worn by the kid from A Christmas Story.

I spent three hours one day waiting to see an unemployment agent.  Dealing with these kinds of issues are hard because you're always at the mercy of someone else.  Just once, don't you wish things were different?

Man's voice:  "Number 51."
You:  "Oh, that's me!  But can you call my number again in about an hour?  That's when I get back from lunch."

At least being unemployed allows me to have an imaginary day job.  However, with the state of this economy, I've now given myself an imaginary raise.  But then my imaginary boss called me into his imaginary office one day and complained that I was now breaking the imaginary budget, and that there may be an imaginary company-wide layoff, and that now my imaginary day job may be in imaginary jeopardy.

Is nothing safe in this economy?

So, after two years of fighting to keep benefits I earned and paid for, I'm not ashamed (okay, maybe just a little) to say that I've learned how the game is to be played.  I've now been forced to resort to the same exercise in futility.  Except my sign reads a little differently:

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