Monthly Archives: April 2017

Hope: Crack for the unemployed

It’s job interview day and I’m wrapping a peppermint “strangle ribbon” around my neck. Out of the three hundred jobs I applied for, only one company has asked me to come and see them. It’s a job of halves: half the pay of my last job, half the hours and even coworkers who are half my age. But it offers full health benefits and I can practice my Japanese. It’ll be great if I can just find a real job later to go with it. But that’s not to say I’m in high spirits. Breakfast is the bitter bile of disappointment, self-loathing and the burning rage I feel for fate, karma or whatever it is that has dropped me into this middle-aged conundrum. I put on my game face, try not to seem excessively psychopathic and head for the office.

The interview is alarmingly short. The HR guy tells me that if I don’t hear from them by the end of the week, they’re no longer considering my application. The realization that I’m not even worth a patronizing mass email drops my mood down another floor. We say our good-byes, and he’s cordially unfriendly. Hope has drained from me, leaving a sticky puddle on the dirty carpet. Feeling dejected, I walk slowly to my car, a 20-year-old hand-me-down Toyota. I’m dragging with me a nagging fear that these are the early days of long-term unemployment. The thought fills my head like a loose bowel fills a toilet bowl — I long for a silver lever to flush it all away. Sadly, I find none.

Dead Ricky and Lucy

I return to my apartment where the long afternoon shadows await. I fight the urge to lie down and drift away into a safe sitcom solace. It would be so nice to douse the frenetic fear and weighty laments in my head with the banal banter of those trapped celluloid marionettes of 1950s T.V: Lucy and Ricky.  How relaxing it would be to hide under the covers and let late Lucy sweetly torment dead Ricky for dead audiences. So easy to switch them on and switch myself off. Let them prance upon the stage while I play the corpse, fading back and forth into dreamless unconsciousness, savoring a few moments of psychic peace, far away from my own endless loop of worry and regrets.

Instead, I grab my running shoes, slather myself with sun block, and head for the beach to punish my feet. As I run, the endorphins kick in and my outlook brightens. It comes down to fortitude. I have to remain positive and keep trying. Succumb to the comfy bed and pillow and all will be lost.

Target

Target

It’s 4:30 a.m., and I am still prowling the streets of South Bay waiting for passengers. It’s been a slow night and I’m trying to meet my personal revenue goal. In a few hours it will be light again, just like it was when I started driving the day before at 4 p.m.

The Lyft app buzzes and I am quick to accept the ride on the app. It’s in one of the more come-as-you-are neighborhoods of L.A. so I am a little apprehensive. It would be easy for a criminal who has stolen a credit card to lure me in and then steal my car. But even the criminals aren’t up this early, I tell myself.

I stop at the address and I see a shadow walking towards me. It’s a young, Hispanic woman, barely 20. I unlock the doors and she hops into the backseat. She tells me she’s going to work at Target. She’s petite but will be unloading trucks for the next eight hours.

On the way over, we talk. We share how circumstances have placed us here in the shadow of LAX heading for a target store so early in the morning. The unemployed, desperate-for-work middle-aged guy and the very young single mom without a car. She tells me about her one-year-old before I drop her off. How her daughter had been so excited to see her that she wouldn’t go to sleep. But with a bath, mommy won.

Her story buzzes in my head as I head for home. I remember my earlier passengers: three drunken white girls about the same age as her. I drove them from the bars in Hermosa Beach back to a large home a short distance up the hill. They giggled and shrieked, happily recounting the evening’s fun. They stumbled from my car, sloppily closed the door and soon disappeared.