Saturday, December 20, 2008

Blown Job: an Unemployment Odyssey

Originally posted October 24, 2004

Two years and seven months ago, I was fired from my job; a casualty of the post-9/11 economic downturn. After 18 months of looking for work without success, I sat down to write a book, entitled, "Blown Job: an unemployment odyssey," my comic, sardonic take on a desperate situation. Turns out I had as much success tantalizing editorial agents as I did Human Resources directors. Rather than consign it to obscurity, I've decided to share my book with you, dear reader, in a series of excerpts, the first of which you will find below.


On January 31, 2002, I was let go from a job I hated and probably would have died in, so I guess the bastards did me a favor. But it really doesn’t seem like that now, because I’ve been out of work for 18 months and my unemployment insurance is but a distant memory, and my savings have been vastly depleted and my COBRA health insurance is about to terminate and I haven’t had an interview in I can’t remember when and lately I’ve been thinking of doing myself in, though I need to do it cheaply because I’m on a budget.

But enough about me. I’ve written this book for you, one of the 9 million (and counting) unemployed Americans who share my pain. We’re a mighty big club without a clubhouse. We don’t have the clout of AARP, the aura of PETA, or the chutzpah of ACTUP. We’re men and women without a country, cast adrift in a world that used to make sense, with skills and experience that now lie dormant. We spend our days chasing a dream that used to be a right; the right to work in the land of opportunity. We’ve been forced to do things that humiliate us and set us back ten years in our careers and cause us to fight with our loved ones and embarrass our friends. We take what crumbs we can get and we feel grateful. Is this what we sat through Accounting 101 and read “What Color is Your Parachute” and watched “The Graduate” for? I don’t think so.

Are you as pissed off as I am about the way things have turned out? Of course you are. Well then, come with me, as I recount for you the odyssey of one unemployed woman in America in the 21st century. This story has all the elements of the Great American Novel – the flawed protagonist, the journey fraught with perils, the angst and pathos and bathos and quite a few other words that I don’t know the meaning of – without the happy ending. I invite you to laugh at the absurdity of my situation to ease the pain and bitterness and frustration of your own. And, if you’re reading this introduction, it means that I’m actually making some money now and all I have to worry about is that I can sell enough books to make back my fabulously generous advance. [ed. note: that's back when I thought this would be a trade paperback.] (Remember, though, as I’m writing these words, I’ve been unemployed for 18 months and my COBRA insurance is running out and my savings are vastly depleted, and you know the rest.)

Come along as I recount the embarrassment of working for two months at a job from which I’ve already been fired. Share with me the experience of going back into the classroom after decades away from attendance-taking and hand-raising. Chuckle at the humiliation of being interviewed by someone who wasn’t born until after “Rhoda” went off the air. Learn how looking for work can be your whole new career. And – this is really important – at the end of the last chapter, if you find that you like this book, I want you to do something for me. Write one of your own. Everybody who is unemployed in America should write a book and everyone else who is unemployed should buy it and read it. Look, we nine million have to support each other; we who are the charter members of the newest mega-association in the country.

Let’s get organized, people. I’ll start us out by giving our group a name: FEDUP, for Forced to Entertain DUmb Employment Possibilities. Okay, not so great, but we can work on it. Hey, it will give us something to do.

We’ll meet on Thursdays. You bring the Krispy Kremes.

(See Archives from October 2004 through January 2005 for Chapters 1 - 11.)