Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Tales of the Unemployed

After a restless night with a four-thirty AM wake-up call, it’s kind of tough to find things to be grateful for.

When found, those things are usually of the “at least” variety. At least I don’t have pancreatic cancer. At least my car wasn’t stolen last night. At least I didn’t lose my keys.

Gratitude notwithstanding, the grind of unemployment continues. The fat, stubby forefinger of unanswered questions pokes my breastbone. What are you going to do?

I log on to the computer and apply at one of America’s biggest retailers—the one where the employees wear red tops and beige pants. Under the aegis of something called the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, the site asks me for my birth date.

Isn’t this illegal? I try to convince myself that as one of America’s leading companies, they’ll use that information responsibly. It doesn’t work.

I take a personality test which determines my suitability for wage-slavery.

What percentage of politicians are corrupt? What percentage of people would shoplift if they could get away with it? Is taking a pen home from work stealing? How many days a week do you feel angry for no reason? Are you happy with your life?

What percentage of your friends are more-satisfied with their lives than you are with yours? What is the consistency of your stool?

(Sorry. That last one is from my proctology exam--not the online questionnaire. It's so easy to confuse the two.)

The site then asks when I am available. Like the flotsam I am, I answer ‘anytime’. Two AM Saturdays, eight PM Wednesdays, seven AM on Mondays—it’s all the same to me. What I lack in life-satisfaction, I'll make-up for in availability.

It then asks me to confirm this yawning chasm of free-time using my digital signature, a combination of digits from my social security number and birth date. This is presumably legally-binding and allows the company to terminate in the event said employee isn’t as available as promised.

I am then asked a third time if I am actually this available. I take it as an insult.

The next question is ‘Have you ever applied to this company before, and if so, when?’

Answer ‘yes’ and your application is consigned to the circular file. If they didn’t want you before, why would they want you now?

Answer ‘no’ and your application survives until the next cut. (Or until your life-satisfaction is found to be wanting.) I lie and answer ‘no’. I wonder where and when I learned to obfuscate the truth.

I ignore the metaphorical implications and click the ‘submit’ button.

I do not hold my breath.

Later that night, I’m watching TV. A man defines insanity as the repetition of an action with the expectation of a different outcome. This bears a disturbing resemblance to my job search.

I go to bed. I do not sleep well.

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