I AM FIRED. That statement is not inteded to be defeatist or to invoke sympathy, no to require an explanation; it is merely a statement of fact. I am not surprised nor am I particularly dismayed, so I calmly sit sipping coffee while pondering my future. After a few minutes, I go to swipe a co-worker's Post.
Thursday, it seems, is not an auspicious day to be job-hunting, but the paper turns up an hopeful looking ad placed by a scienece-oriented association, for which I get an appointment this afternoon. I already have a resume tucked away in a desk drawer, which I Xerox, along with letters of recommendation from previous employers. I get the permission of a vice president to use him as a reference, call several friends and acquaintances for job leads and hie myself off to my first intervew, feeling very much like Dorothy on her way to Oz.
Would that I had met a few Munchkins along the way; it surely would have proved more interesting than being interviewed for a low-paying job with a rather dull association. Friday
I select three employment agencies at random from the Yellow Pages, grab a fistful of resumes and begin my second unemployed day. I am not impressed by my first agency experience, interviewed as I am by a very young woman who seems uncertain of what it is she should ask me. I help her through the interview, we thank each other and I walk downtown, certain that the day will improve.
I am wrong. The second agency proves to be a shabby affair, consisting of one large, unkept room with randomly placed desks, two of which are occupied. I fill out an application -- stopping briefly to smile at the irrelvancy of a request for my father's occupation and ignoring those questions that are now illegal -- and I gingerly approach one of the two women present. She drums her marred desktop and chain smokes her way through the interview.
While I'm scanning the front of her unstylish blouse for gravy stains, I am informed that I'm going to have to alter my resume if I expect to land a decent legal secretarial job. I inquire where in the world she got the idea that I'm seeking a legal secretarial job, only to be informed that in my field jobs are lowpaying and scare, and if I expect to work ever again it will have to be as a legal secretary.
To gather courage for my third interview of the day, I buy myself a double-dip ice cream cone for lunch, cursing the calories and thanking the gods for the restorative powers of chocolate. Thus fortified, I approach my last employment agency, and am more than pleasantly surpried by a tastefully decorated, seemingly well-run operation staffed by cheerful, helpful employes. My spirits lifted, I willingly fill out an application, spend a promising hour with an efficient counselor and depart determined to spend a worry-free holiday weekend. Saturday
The home delivery to The Post that I requested the other day began this morning, and Saturday apparently brings forth a plethora of real estate and a dearth the help wanted ads, so I give myself a reprieve from job-hunting and head out the door.
With a deplorable lack of logic, I decide to spend some money before I run out of it entirely, and hence make two very optimistic purchases: a typewriter and a pair of jogging shoes. I may never get any use out of the latter, but they look so sturdy on my closet shelf amid the more familiar colloection of callus-inducing three-inch-high sandals. The typewriter, however, is already busy cranking resume on its rounds. Sunday
I had forgotten how nice it is to have the paper delivered on Sunday morning (especially since Sunday's Times doesn't arrive until Monday afternoon), so I settle in for a leisurely day of reading, red pen at the ready for when I hit the emploment section.
Deciphering and evaluting help wanted ads is greatly softened by a little Cole Porter on the stereo and a chilled glass of Moselle at hand. I begin to entertain thoughts of living the life of Riley (no pun intended) for awhile, and am encouraged by three recent publications: a book by Jay Conrad Levinson entitled "Earning Money Without a Job," another by Bernard Lefkowitz, "Breaktime: Living Without Work in a Nine to Five World," and the new issue of Family Circle magazine, which features an eight-page guide to careers at home.
Still clutching my pen, I abandon the want ads and list the things that I do well, how and where my services and/or products are marketable and how I can apply all past work experience to my self-employed future. Realizing that I'm already getting ahead of myself, I decide to bake a loaf of pumpkin bread, and therein list the most concrete fact of this saga: being unemployed is fattening. Monday
How ironic to be celebrating Labor Day in an unemployed state, but I nonetheless resolve to enjoy the day. Since my idea of a real good time is to sleep late on Mondays, I immediately go back to bed.
I reawaken at noon, put on a stack of Gershwin records and check the phone directory for the location of the D.C. Department of Labor, having decided to pay my first visit to an unemployment office, a prospect that leaves me feeling vaguely uneasy. Tuesday
The new week begins with a call to the local Department of Labor, which is met by a recored message informing me that questions are not answered over the phone. I go in search of the unemployement office.
After waiting an interminable length of time in the "first offenders" line, I blithely approach a stern-faced woman, and before I can ask my one question she rattles off (apparently by remote control) the rules and regulations, hands me several forms to fill out and brochures to read and announces that I am to drop the completed forms in the box designated by her very authoritative finger, take a seat and I'll be called in two hours.
As quickly as I can I ask a question ("Since I'm on severance pay, am I correct in assuming that I may file for unemployment insurance today?"), which is met by one of her programmed statements (drop the forms in the box, take a seat, etc.). Not wishing to cause waves, I do as I'm told.
Having read both The Post and The Star cover to cover, I'm as knowledgeable about current events as I'll ever be and getting fidgety when, hallelujah, I hear my name called. Five other people and I are ordered to form a line near the exit door; a lethargic clerk heads of out little group, orders us to follow him and leads us out the door and down an unfriendly looking hallway. I am quite certain that, for having committed the unforgiveable crime of asking a question, I am being marched out to the waiting trucks, never to see my friends and family again.
We are led into a small room containing perhaps a dozen chairs, on the arms of which rest yet more forms. We are told to sit down, and our jailer proceeds to explain the very self-explanatory forms to us. We have not been told why the six of us have been singled out for this preferential treatment, and none of us dare ask. Our loyal Labor employe is joined by a second inquisitor, and they begin calling us up for individual interviews (I assume).
Fortunately, I'm the second person called, and before the man I'm now confronting can say a word I blurt out my question. This is met by his desmayed expression, followed by his announcement that I most certainly am not eligible of unemployment insurance until my severance pay runs out. Quite obviously annoyed, he thrusts all of my completed forms at me, tells me to return when I am offically unemployed, drop the completed forms in the box, take a seat, etc., etc. I am then impatiently waved away -- how dare I waste their time?
I depart in a stupor, which turns to rage, which subsides to bewilderment and bemusement at the Kafkaesque workings of city government. No wonder the D.C. Depatment of Labor is in such turmoil. Mayor Barry, I hope you're reading this. Wednesday
I am now resigned to my fate; I shall return to the unempoloyment office when I am "officially unempolyed." In the meantime, I'll continue job-hunting, working out the details of self-empolyment and marveling at being an unemployment statistic. I feel so newsworthy.