Jobless in St. Louis
The Rat Race - The way is was
I had a job...13-years of my life were invested in this job. I started each day at 5:00 a.m., performed my routine and set out on the 90-mile, round-trip commute to work.
I was good at my job. My reviews told me so, as well as all the people within the office and visiting outsiders, vendors and clients. I made many friends through my work. I was the "first person contact" at my workplace, be it via telephone or in person. My job title evolved from "receptionist" to "administrative assistant" to "client relations". My salary rose from the meager $8.50 per hour to close to $19 per hour. I was a busy, sometimes maniacally, vital part of the work world. I was happy. I was a well respected, often complimented, necessary team player at a thriving, family-owned business.
At the end of each productive day I was exhausted and looking at a 2-hour commute home on the frenetic, highways from St. Louis to Hillsboro, Missouri. Most days, the ride home was silent sans even the radio news. The days were so filled with the relentless 8-line switchboard, demanding my immediate attention, the door access control demands of welcoming the next incoming visitor, the urgent, steady stream of correspondence needing my skills to type and/or compose from 12 project managers, in addition to the mail, UPS, some inventory and ordering supplies, scanning documents and extra projects, I needed the commute time silence with my thoughts.
I generally rolled into my driveway about 5:45 to 6:00 p.m. everyday. I had a full evening ahead to plow through all the mundane yet necessary chores everyone deals with. I had two dogs (my Scottie, and one rescue), one aquatic turtle, one Sun Conyer, a stray outside cat and her four kittens all awaiting greetings and dinner. The yard work, which I took on, was a 3/4 acre with eighteen oak trees. In the fall, I was buried in the leaves I removed. My now ex, did the cooking. Usually, I went to sleep around 1:00 a.m. to revitalize for the next challenging day. I didn't stop long enough to consider how much I'd miss it when it went away.
The bomb falls
May 20, 2010 started like any other day. I arrived early and had just opened the switchboard to begin the workday. My supervisor stopped at my desk and asked me to come into his office. I am certain my panic was painfully, visibly apparent as I followed him. Layoffs had been occurring sporatically for about a year with everyone on edge, but the actual events blindsided the affected like a sneak attack. We never knew who or when.
The office was a typical dysfunctional family. Everyone knew about the important life events affecting each player. It was well known I had just finalized a divorce and was scoping out new digs. I had signed a lease on an apartment close to work to make the drive time less stressful. The move was upcoming, which would reduce my commute from 2-hours to 12-minutes. I was surrounded by all the conveniences, most within walking distance. Things were looking up. I had found homes for the critters, with the exception of my Scottish Terrier, MacGregor. He was going to acclimate to life as a "city" dog.
Then, my own personal "Pearl Harbor" descended. With shame, I confess to dissolving into hysterics in the supervisor's office with the president of the company sitting in the corner. I somehow grabbed my few personal belongings and managed to escape quickly and quietly before my supervisor could "escort" me out like a common thief. Another employee in the trials of her own personal chaos was let go the same morning. So, at least my misery had company.
It was raining when I made the trek home, crying unabashedly, calling to inform my ex, my mom and my best friend of my devastating news. Now I began my new life, alone, without a source of income.
On the dole
Try telling someone on unemployment "money won't make you happy" and I say "you won't be happy hungry or sick, unable to see the doctor due to either no insurance or a $50 co-pay. I'm one of the lucky, sent packing with a decent severance package, small 401K and a nice profit sharing check. I qualified for unemployment and received it until the past two weeks when a mystery "pending issue" has left me without any income. I've been told they will contact me if they need any further information. When? I have now gone two-weeks without any money coming in. My rent is due today and the landlord will not accept any excuses. Why doesn't it follow that the unemployment I have paid into all my working life requires no accountability? I'll get my dole when they can manage to give it attention and resolution. Until then, I guess I don't eat.
It is frustrating when a government agency can stall and leave desperate, unemployed Americans at their mercy with little or no recourse. What about the stimulus package and the creation of new jobs to end the recession? If I can call the MO Dept. of Labor continuously for days and only get a recording telling me to call back as all the lines are filled with others waiting, it sounds like an opportunity for the powers that be to step up to the plate and hire more workers to handle the huge numbers of unemployed trapped in the system.
Hope Is A Four Letter Word
Looking for work
It is difficult to maintain composure as I write this hub. The level of my frustration, aggravation and desperation is not conducive to organized thinking. I must stop and start again and again because I am so distracted by my anger with "the system".
I began the quest for work by going with my neighbor, who was laid off two-years ago (now penniless, evicted and living with his mother), to St. Patrick's Center for a weekly workshop that sponsors a guest speaker and help with compiling a resume along with information related to acquiring the job of your dreams. The one Tuesday I went the speaker was talking about "Following your Passion". I'd clean toilets at this point. Later that week, I treated my neighbor to the movie, Eat Pray Love and on the car ride home, we talked about the "Go Network" at St. Patrick's Center. He was cajoling me to keep attending. He then casually mentioned that he had been seeing the same faces for the past two-years he has been in attendance. With that in mind, I made the decision to not participate. I am not motivated to get up early and dress, as if going to work, to attend a workshop that does not have a high track record for finding work for the unemployed.
I have had one temporary stint that may prove to be, at the least, additional temporary work. I had a call from a reputable university regarding my resume that I submitted directly on their website. The remainder of emails from the well-known job websites have generated strictly work-from-home scams and career schools looking to boost enrollment and clog up my email.
At this point, I remain thoroughly disenchanted and uncharacteristically hopeless about my future in the job market.
The social highlight of most days is my short walk to the mailbox. Recently, I have gotten a notice from COBRA that my coverage does not include prescription drugs, which is diametrically at the opposite pole of what I was told when I signed up and sent my check. Next, I got an inflated bill from my cellphone company with charges from scam job sites charging me for text messages for codes to access information from their websites, which I rectified by instigating "no third party texts". Then, my Internet wireless service sent me a threatening letter about my first bill, stating my payment was late and I would be cut off and have to pay a service charge for the company to recover their equipment if I did not remit the balance immediately. I called and the check had arrived at their office 5 days before the due date. If I had handled my job in the piss poor fashion I am experiencing as a consumer, I would not have been at my post 6-months. I feel victimized by the system itself.
Today, I got a notice from the landlord stating all tenants now have to pay $11 extra in their rent due to a trash service increase.
I think I'd best go back to bed...and stay there. And so it goes.