I should be more excited about the prospect of gainful employment, I realize this. After benefiting from Obama’s unemployment extension I should be refreshed and ready to rejoin the workforce. Frankly I feel like I never left it: the unpaid work of running a household keeps me quite nicely busy, available as I am for family members, friends and the community which happily accepts my volunteering hours at my kid’s middle school. I didn’t feel the slightest bit of guilt drawing unemployment — call it my own small contribution to keeping federal money in the country rather than exporting tear gas to dubious foreign regimes at the taxpayers’ expense. Perhaps I’m just conforming to type here, one of the infamous slacker generation, but this would be too simplistic, because I have been applying for jobs, many, many types of jobs, all of which I seem to be unsuitable for. Strange really when I have so much work experience my true resume would cover pages.
This kind of document holds little interest for those fine companies and miscellaneous entities because … well I’m not quite sure why, but a hundred or so recent solicitations for work have drawn negligible responses. Its true that a couple of automated replies have graced my inbox, sadly only to inform me that while I haven’t been considered for the position, my information has been stored somewhere and I can rest assured that I will be contacted if something suitable comes along.
Part of my problem is my veritable lack of a career path, it seems that running one’s own businesses doesn’t denote anything remarkable or even desirable in a potential work drone. Of course it would help if I had some handy twenty-first century skills like a little Java know-how or even some years answering telephones for a restaurant. Not surprisingly this leaves me feeling a little redundant, although I know that there is barely a position I’ve applied for that I couldn’t execute competently.
I have had a couple of interviews which I’ve scurried along to, decked out optimistically in my buddie’s Agnes B jacket, looking for all the world like your average employable mama. My first interview was with an internet company who were looking for operatives who could “market through social networking”. I called them up confidently, I felt sure that when they saw how creatively I could update, how many “likes” and “comments” and even click-throughs to attendance lists I’d aggregated for club nights and activist meetings I’d be on the payroll tout-suite. The woman who I spoke to on the phone had seemed pretty excited that I was a published writer and encouraged me to join them for a breakfast meeting with other wannabe employees. I arrived at the downtown hotel and joined several others who were already glumly listening to Sherilee holding forth about Bling!Bling! (the company was actually called something close and just as crass) Straightaway I got the sense that Sherilee was selling us something and not interviewing in any conventional sense. Bling!Bling! she informed us was the biggest shopping destination on the web with the most competitive prices for thousands of brand-name items! As I was late, Sherilee drew me into her presentation by asking me how much “extra” money I wanted to earn a month. “Maybe two or three thousand dollars” I replied modestly. “Great!” she bellowed, “But just remember, there are people working for us in the Mid-West who will work just as hard to make five hundred dollars “extra” a month”.
I smiled apologetically but her meaning was lost on me, I sensed a trick question but couldn’t imagine what the right answer might have been. No matter, for although Sherilee’s “overview” of Bling!Bling!’s business plan was beginning to sound like some kind of pyramid selling venture, she was quite mesmerizing. Perhaps it was her heavily made-up bronze-colored face with eyebrows painstakingly plucked into arches of perpetual alertness that kept my attention – it was impossible to figure her age though her outfit suggested she’d stepped out of a Banana Republic in Walnut Creek circa 1995 ready to take the corporate world on in her lycra-enhanced black two-piece. “How much do you think I paid for this?” she fairly shrieked at us as she waved a shiny leather briefcase in our faces. My fellow interviewees eyed the Coach logo and suggested $200, $300, I held back on my impulse to hazard $30 at the Chiang-Mai night market. “Only $140!” Sherilee squealed, “Bling!Bling! under cuts the price of all designer accessories, across the web!” Her smile was so winning I could see cracks beginning to appear in her lavishly applied foundation.
Basically Bling!Bling! was inviting us to start our own little storefronts on the Bling!Bling! website, where we could sell Coach nail-clippers, Kate Spade tissue dispensers and other designer goodies at knock-down prices. Those social networking skills we had at our fingertips would be utilized as we enticed our “networks” to the wonderful bargains that being Bling!Bling! affiliates enabled us to offer.
Despite the dizzy fascination of her blood-red fingernails I had to ask, “So this isn’t really a job interview?” Sherilee, a true professional, unleashed her bronze smile in my direction and demonstrating her troubleshooting acumen said,
“You know, because you were late, I think it would be really useful if you went and talked to my husband, he can answer all your questions!” I followed her scarlet talon across the atrium to a table for one where Chet sat nursing a half-finished Bloody Mary.
Chet, looked like the kind of guy that aspires to hang out with Gavin Newsom, his eyes were small and flecked with so many broken blood vessels a bucket of Visine wouldn’t have helped him. I tried to extract myself immediately but Chet had heard my English accent and was keen to tell me about his trip to London and how much he’d loved Stringfellows. At least I didn’t have to guess how much his sorry-ass Armani suit cost, I just glazed over and mentally catalogued the rest of my day: walk the dog, peel vegetables for dinner, drive my kid to his guitar lesson, bring the washing in off the line, fold it….. cook dinner, help with homework, feed the dog, feed the family, descend to my husband’s studio and critique his remix….
It was another couple of weeks before I got another invite to interview, again I was told, there was more than one position available and so I’d be in a group.. this job was more specific at least, funeral sales. This I reasoned would be a position unaffected by the recession, after all we all die and our bodies have to be disposed of according to custom and local regulation.
Steve, the Head of Marketing for this local mortuary told us that he had studied Political Science at Berkeley and that he loved working in the funeral business, smugly he revealed that the 7 series BMW we might have noticed in the parking lot was many of the status-related perks that his salary afforded him. I was pretty confident that he was going to call me back for the second round of interviews, not least because he had commented favorably on the way I’d written my name so clearly on my name-tag. I expected to see Myra back too, a savvy sixty year-old lady who had her insurance certification in place and many years of selling experience under her belt. Half way through the second interview Steve told us that we’d be knocking on doors in Daly City selling our competitive funeral packages. Myra and I made our excuses and exited. We went to the local Starbucks and she told me how she’d been dating an FBI agent who was an exuberant lover.
I went home and made an executive decision to call a reputable agency for domestics but Trudi, the intake drone told me that my experience with children, which spans two decades and has been entirely successful didn’t count because they were my own kids and I hadn’t been paid.
Back in 1969 when Buckminster Fuller published The Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth he was optimistic enough to think that by the year 2000 nobody on the planet would be starving. He believed this favorable reality would have been achieved, in part, by a policy of paying the unemployed to come up with “good ideas”. Sadly capitalism isn’t interested in such altruism, it doesn’t buy us BMWs or even a lick of bronze foundation.
If you see me in Dolores Park selling earrings made out of recycled beer cans do stop and buy a pair, or suggest a trade, I particularly need a feathered roach clip keyring.