On Being Unemployed in Texas: Part II

In April 2014, I was laid off for the first time. I now have to begin looking for work in Texas, my home for 4 years.

I begin the job search in my time-honored fashion: I get other people to do the hard work for me. This is how I demonstrate my management skills.

My people reach out to other people. Feelers are sent out. Inquiries made. In the meantime, I update my resume. What to me looked minimalist and stylish (it had got me my recently held job, after all) was now apparently “old-fashioned” and “too brief.” I added centered headings, a shameless, perhaps shamefully boastful, list of accomplishments, and detail, detail, detail.

References, I bragged, were very much available upon request. They are sitting by the phone, I assured my theoretical next employer. They can’t wait to tell you how great I am. You just have to ask…

In time, and not too much time, I started to hear back. I am “delightful and skilled”; I am “impressive,” as is my resume.

But no one is currently in a position to offer me gainful employment.

When my desktop keeps shutting itself down, but no one can find anything wrong with it, I switch to the emergency laptop – the one that needs a new battery but is fine as long as you keep it plugged in. I plow on because the alternative is to be plowed under.

And where would be the fun in that?

At times like this, times of quiet desperation, the basics are important. Feeling like I was doing something practical and useful became essential. Finances became paramount. Some expenses were fixed, like rent. I had recently signed a new lease. Other spending was very much optional. I decided to keep my Amazon Prime, for instance, but I cancelled Netflix and Loot Crate as soon as I got the news; I’m not even sure if I can cancel Prime. And if the time comes when I really need that $99 (plus tax), then it’s too late by then, isn’t it?

But more than Amazon Prime, and the weird and wonderful series Hannibal that I got addicted to, there was the issue of people.

Although Hell may well be other people, I am most certainly not an island (to artfully, perhaps even delightfully, mix my clichés). And if I did turn out to be an island, I’m the kind that needs a regular ferry-full of tourists to visit me, preferably to bring cake. This role falls chiefly to my magnificent future wife. I am, however, also receiving overly-familiar hugs from older ladies of my acquaintance. When so many people are cast adrift at the same time, they tend to cling together. Lunches, email updates, social media – all come to the fore at times like this. Gossip is in plentiful supply; and I’ve never had so many Facebook friends. My LinkedIn page has never been busier.

This is what it must feel like to be a minor Internet celebrity (or maybe someone rumored to be dating one of the lesser-known royals, but it turns out they just happened to be standing together at a bar). I have that level of attention, but on a much smaller scale. No one is asking for my autograph yet. Or offering to give me money if I claim to prefer this deodorant over that one.

But, for now, the attention is not only nice, it’s a necessity. I’m not alone, we’re all in this together, and all that jazz. A success for one of us becomes proof that success is possible for any of us. I cling to other people’s successes as evidence that it could very well be my turn next.

I sit by the phone with all digits crossed, with one eye on whatever the hell is going on in Hannibal.

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