It is rare that I am absent from the blog-o-sphere for extended periods of time, but that has been the case as of late. I'd like to say it's because my life has been so jam-packed with fun-filled activities and ventures that I simply haven't had time to open my laptop but in truth it's because two weeks of being funemployed has turned my home into a den of slack. Call it apathy, call it lack of direction, call it what you will, no work and all play makes Jen a dull girl. Without my daily interactions with humanity, my potential for shenanigans is greatly reduced and I start getting twitchier than Jerry Sandusky at a Cub Scout Jamboree. I did, however, have a life-altering experience last week. . .the unemployment office.
First of all, let me just say "Wow". What a giant ball of suck. No, seriously. It did not even live up to my lowest expectations. This place makes the DMV look like Club Med, and every employee had this stricken look on their faces like their name had just been drawn for the Quarter Quell and they had no fucking clue how they wound up in the arena. Looking around at the people both working at and filing into the unemployment office I got that tight pinchy feeling low in my stomach and I knew that at any minute, things could get weird on an astronomical level.
I sat by the door, waiting for my name to be called and almost immediately a young woman in a Freddy Kruger T-shirt and enough facial piercings to set off a metal detector plopped into the seat next to me with a sigh. I smiled at her passively.
"Nightmare on Elm Street?" I asked, gesturing toward her shirt.
She nodded gravely. "Horror is, like, the only REAL genre, you know? It's, like, really PURE."
I bobbed my head in agreement but really? I don't get the whole horror movie thing. In fact, most people my age don't; it's pretty much just the 20-somethings who don't realize yet that there's no need to pay someone to scare you because real life will scare the ever-loving crap out of you. Zombies don't faze me, and vampires? Bitch, please. But if you want to see scary then open that letter from your mortgage company or listen to your doctor say your last mammogram showed "abnormalities". Yeah. . .that's when shit gets REAL.
After listening to 30 minutes of Zippy the Pinhead blather on about all things Wes Craven, my name was finally called and I was escorted to a computer by a woman with an unintelligible Eastern European accent and a pair of ((shudder)) bedazzled Crocs, named Svetlana.*
*I loathe Crocs with the burning fire of a thousand white-hot suns. Unless you are a toddler or an Asian gardener, Crocs are never a choice. Never. And if you are brazen enough to bedazzle these abominations? I. Will. Cut. You.
"Sbrhj skbf hdjf bnuwpog." she said, gesturing to the computer terminal. I stared blankly. She sighed deeply and repeated, "Sbrhj skbf hdjf bnuwpog."
"I. . .I'm sorry." I stammered. "I just. . .I don't understand."
Rolling her eyes and sucking her teeth, Svetlana took a deep breath and enunciated slowly through her heavy accent, "Enter. Your. Work. History."
Muttering in obeisance, I huddled over my terminal of shame and began entering my information on the WorkSource Oregon site. Before long, Pinhead took up residence to my left and a gentleman in his 40's sat down at my right. Shielding my eyes from the glare of the horror fan's multiple piercings, I turned slightly toward the man on my right and -- sweet 6 pound 8 ounce Baby Jeebus -- was smacked in the face by the stench of enough alcohol to anesthetize a wildebeest.
Peering cautiously at the man's bloodshot eyes and flushed cheeks I felt an initial sense of sorrow. But then I thought, you know what? Why not. You're unemployed. You probably got shit-canned out of the blue and your wife is pissed and the only time you're leaving the house today is to come to this crappy place so why not show up half in the bag at 10am? Good for you, Sir. I'm a fan. And don't try to tell me that alcoholics aren't productive, because glancing at this man's work history, he was on FIRE.
"This is so fucking stupid." grumbled the girl on my left, twisting a strand of her rainbow-glittered hair around her finger. "I've been, like, doing this for a year and, like, STILL can't find a job."
OK, tough love time, Rainbow Brite. I know it's nice to think that appearances don't matter but when you show up looking like you fell face first into a tackle box after Ke$ha threw up in your hair then you are seriously limiting your vocational options. Lose the slasher tees, stop painting your nails with a Sharpie, and maybe, just MAYBE that "dare to be great" opportunity will open up at Hot Dog On a Stick.*
*I hate to be judgmental, but I'm just so damned good at it.
As much as I was disturbed by my fellow funemployed companions, I have to say that it was better than a Saturday trip to WalMart in terms of making me feel good about my life choices. As I sat there feeling all of the awesome blowing off of me, Svetlana appeared over my left shoulder.
"Rnfskuk djb s kihh hvu?" she asked.
"I'm so sorry," I cried. "I just really have no idea what you're. . ."
"You! No! Have! G.E.D.!?!?" she shrieked, spittle flying from her frosted pink lips.
"I. . .no. I mean. . . yes." I babbled inanely. "I mean, I. . .I have a Master's degree."
Svetlana scowled and tapped at my computer screen. "You. No. Put. High. School."
I stared at her incredulously. "I have a Master's degree. I think the logical progression of thought is that I had to graduate high school at some given point in time to achieve said status."
She shook her head in frustration. "You. No. Said. Status. You. Put. In. High. School. Bbdjgfgdk akkhf tmj ahdbbegw!"*
*I'm sorry. Is there someone with a functional grasp of the English language and non-synthetic footwear who can explain this shit to me?
Murmuring a ham-handed apology, I finished the computer portion of the day's festivities and wandered over to the uncomfortable plastic chairs in the lobby, awaiting my one-on-one with a counselor. After an indeterminate amount of time, a tired-looking man who bore an uncanny resemblance to Wilford Brimley wandered out with a paper in hand.
"Brandon?" he called out. We all stared at him silently. "Brandon?" he asked again.
"Umm, do you mean Brandi?" the glitter-haired, pierced girl queried with a raise of her hand. "Cuz, umm. . .my name's Brandi."*
*Of course it is, Sweetie. Of. Course. It. Is.
Wilford stared at the paper in his hand again. "It says Brandon Schaeffer."
"Umm, well. I'm BRANDI Schaeffer." she girl explained.
Wilford shook his head. "No, that's wrong. This says BRANDON Schaeffer."
Brandi rolled her eyes. "Well, I'm Brandi." Then she gasped and threw her head back. "Ohmigod, you know what? I totally bet you got my brother's paperwork instead. Cuz he was here yesterday and HIS name is Brandon Schaeffer."
Wait. . .what? Back. The hell. Up. Your parents named you and your brother Brandon and Brandi? Color me reactionary, but isn't that the SAME NAME!?!? Who's your father, George Foreman? As I was pondering the sheer douchebaggery of this, a diminutive woman walked toward me with a smile. "Jennifer?"
Reeling with the overwhelming joy of finally meeting with someone I could freaking understand, I followed the woman, who introduced herself as Mona, back to her cubicle.
"So." she said with a smile. "A little confusing, isn't it?"
"Not at all what I expected." I agreed, nodding like a bobble-head doll.
She laughed warmly. "What DID you expect?"
"Honestly?" I answered. "I thought I'd come in, you'd tappity-tap on your computer, we'd share a few laughs, and I get my check. Didn't think it would involve me tracing my work history back to the time I sold candy bars for cheer camp when I was fifteen."
"It's a pain in the ass," Mona confirmed. "But it's all part of the process. Now, let's talk about how to get you working again."
And talk we did. For the better part of an hour. We talked about work, we talked about our kids, and we talked about our lives. And at the end of it all, I felt a little better about things. Because now I had hope that there WAS something for me on the horizon. I had hope that for every Svetlana there was someone like Mona out there who had my back. And most of all I had hope that I after I left that place and gave myself a thorough Silkwood shower, I would never, EVER have to return.