Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Many Roads to 'No'

No one will ever confuse me with Leif Erickson or Juan Pizzaro. Not Vasco da Gama, Hernan Cortes or Christopher Columbus.

And yet I too have discovered something. A place only rumored to exist. I have discovered hell.

How else to feel with days that begin like this?


La Piazza Gancio,


Thank you for your interest in ____'s Department Stores. We appreciate the time you took to consider us for employment at our store locations.

We have given your background and qualifications careful consideration in relation to the opportunity for which you've expressed interest and have determined that we are unable to match your qualifications to a position at this time. We would encourage you to continue to check snagajob.com for future opportunities.

Thank you again for your interest in ____'s and please accept our best wishes for success in your future career endeavors.


Best Regards,

Human Resources



At least it didn’t open with ‘Dear’.

It is unclear exactly what aspect of my background renders me ineligible for even seasonal, part-time employment.

Yet knowing the Van Halen-like heights (remember no brown M&Ms?) corporate fickleness has reached, I am likely better off in the darkness of my ignorance.

But as an occasionally-sentient being, questions persist.

I smile. I make eye contact. I speak in concise, direct sentences that answer the interviewer’s questions. I am nicely dressed. I am enthusiastic. I sit up straight, don’t fidget and even made everyone at a recent group interview belly laugh—twice. I am sober.

You read this blog—do I not ooze personality? Does charisma not spill from me like filling from a buttery, cinnamon-laced apple pie?

What’s not to like? Isn’t my pixie dust sparkly-enough?

How can prospective employers fail to see how I could lighten a customer’s mood, especially when they discover half the items they’re shopping for are either out of stock, the wrong size, style or color? Especially at 11:30 PM on a weeknight with just three shopping days left until Christmas.

I would be a two-legged Mai Tai. A warm mug of spiced cider. A pungent glass of Pinot Noir. No tipping required.

Perhaps I've been branded a flight risk. Since the majority of my employment has (thankfully) been for wages higher than what seasonal positions offer, this means I will vacate the position at first opportunity—as if there were any.

Then there is my college degree, which conveniently confirms to any would-be employer that I will be bored. This somehow differentiates me from the sullen, texting palm zombies already hired.

Bail is set at extended unemployment

Could it be that I fail to sufficiently impress the young women I am invariably interviewed by?

When asked why I want to work at the ________ store, perhaps I don’t become starry-eyed enough as I relate how working from midnight to eight AM the day after Thanksgiving for what can’t even be described as a living wage has been a dream of mine since I was a little boy.

Which presents yet-another another problem: I have a penis.

This provokes in me the unsettling feeling that to these women, drunk on some vague notion of girl-power, I am their enemy. Middle-aged white guys stand in the way of everything they want to be, and always have. Is this their chance for payback?

Just for a change, I’d like to receive a wan smile, a limp handshake and the complete avoidance of eye contact from a middle-aged white guy after an interview.

But the hideousness doesn’t end there.

That would be when friends, acquaintances and overheard conversations confirm that many of those deemed fit for seasonal slavery don’t even show up for their first day on the job, nor possess the integrity to even call employer number-one and inform them that they have accepted employment with employer number-two.

Were circumstances not so bleak, I would laugh and spit that these corporate shitheads get exactly what they deserve.

But money is oxygen, and I am suffocating.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

God Damn Emerson Bolen

Like my previous post, this letter also appeared in a Sunday edition of the Chicago Tribune. It is in response to Rachel Unterman’s letter, which appeared the previous Sunday.

As conservative Stepford Wives do, Bolen either reduces complex issues to simplistic, black-and-white conclusions, applies stereotypes without a shred of evidence or just plain gets it wrong.

Nowhere in Ms. Unterman’s letter does she indicate she is opposed to the military, capitalism, the government, or say society owes her anything. And where does she state she is too good to take a temporary job?

In the edition of the Tribune I received, Ms. Unterman said she has frequently worked two or three part-time jobs simultaneously to make ends meet. It's probably just me, but that seems very different from feeling you're too good to take a temporary job.

But why let facts get in the way of a blind, inaccurate, anti-democracy, elitist hissy fit?

Remarkably, Bolen did get a few things right. Rachel Unterman lives at home, is a liberal and is frustrated.

Only someone as willfully and spectacularly ignorant as Emerson Bolen wouldn’t be.



“This is in response to “Why I occupy” (Voice of the People, Oct. 30), by letter writer Rachel Unterman, which took up many paragraphs.

I can sum it up in one paragraph:

You occupy because you are anti-military, anti-capitalism, anti-government, feel that society owes you something, are well-educated and unemployed but too good to take a temporary job, still living at home, frustrated, bored and yep, liberal.”

Emerson Bolen
River Forest, Illinois

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

God Bless Rachel Unterman

This letter appeared in last Sunday's Chicago Tribune.

For those of you slumped in front of yet-another episode of 'Keeping Up With the Kardashians', it crystalizes why the Occupy Wall Street protests are so vital.

This movement (literally) represents ninety-nine percent of us, yet I have never heard such widespread criticism. Such petty whining. So many sideline editorialists opining about what the movement should be doing.

These protests are years overdue. We absolutely need to clog the streets of every city in the United States. We absolutely need to kick and scream and fight and yell until the vermin entrusted to represent us actually begins to do so.

And they won't without a hard shove from the electorate, which is us. You and me.

Rachel says it far-better than I.



"I occupy because corporations are not people, and money is not the same thing as free speech.

I occupy because I believe in united citizens, not Citizens United.

I occupy because our military is spending billions of dollars to occupy foreign countries while jobs, infrastructure and the economy suffer at home.

I occupy because my generation should have opposed these wars in greater numbers and with greater outrage to start with.

I occupy because I am tired of going to the polls and trying to decide which politician is least likely to attempt to sell a Senate seat to the highest bidder.

I occupy because I am tired of seeing executives of failed companies receiving bonuses while their employees are laid off without severance.

I occupy because I believe in the First Amendment and the civil liberties it grants us.

I occupy because the system is not broken but relies on this kind of active participation to remain strong.

I occupy because it is exciting to see democracy working.

I occupy because after seven years combined of undergraduate and graduate studies, I have student loan debt but not the gainful employment necessary to pay it down.

I occupy because I have been underemployed since finishing school, often working two or three part-time jobs to try to make ends meet.

I occupy because I have spent half of this year unemployed altogether, through no fault of my own. I occupy because the unemployed cannot afford to be invisible statistics any longer.

I occupy because the alternative is sitting in my parents' basement writing cover letters that won't even be rejected, just ignored.

I occupy because if it weren't for the safety net my parents have provided, I would be sitting on a street corner all day asking for a different kind of change.

I occupy because my dreams have been deferred, and it was only a matter of time before they would explode."

Rachel Unterman
Chicago, Illinois