Friday, March 13, 2009

Unemployment's not cake; frogs aren't dinosaurs

By Jacob Bennett

If this gig in Louisville didn’t work out, the horizon would be as bleak as the surface of the moon.

I’d been cool hand Luke for the first couple of weeks since I’d lost my job, especially since I got three interviews right away.But now it had been a month. I was feeling fragile as a glass menagerie, and this was the last gentleman caller unafraid of my pleurisy.

If they didn’t want me, I would have to give back my house and move in with my parents and die homeless and penniless and 20 pounds overweight, and no one would ever love me.

For a life so full of new possibility, I was out of possibilities. I was fighting with 11 million unemployed people for what little was left.

It’s a helpless feeling when nobody needs the part you make, or wants the food you bake. The mailman still brings the bills. I learned to cut costs: layer up, thermostat down. Cable off. Don’t eat out unless it’s on a co-worker with survivor’s guilt. There's always more shampoo in the bottle.

I needed my savings to buy time. I always say, when life hands you lemons, change everything about yourself. So I turned down one job because the drive was too much and the pay was too little. Much to my parents’ chagrin, I probably would have rejected another job that paid decent but wasn’t what I wanted to do. I never had to make that choice, because that offer never came.

I wanted to work in Hawaii or Nashville or one place in Indy, just because they asked for my favorite movie quote (I ended my cover letter with "good talk, son," but almost went with "Nice try, Lao Che").

But even before my day job quit me, Kentucky beckoned. And since the Playboy Mansion wasn’t looking for a pool boy, this last prospect in Louisville was the kind of thing I wanted to try. After two interviews and a personality test and some ACT-type questions, I didn’t want to leave without a job.

I also wanted the answer to this question:
Frog: dinosaur :: whale : ___
a. mouse
b. fish
c. bird
d. snake

I think I put fish, but I can’t defend the answer. I googled it just now, and nobody else knows either. But I digress.

Another lesson came the day they said they’d make their decision: staring at the phone doesn’t make it ring any faster.

But it can be worth the wait. I’m back on a payroll, before the Indiana Department of Workforce Development could process my first claim. Thanks for the help, guys.

Not that I’m complaining. Every day I take the Gene Snyder Freeway or Preston Highway or Breckenridge Lane or one of those roads I used take back in the day on trips to Louisville, always on the way to something awesome.

First, I had to drive back to Indiana to knot some loose ends. As I traveled the highway through downtown Louisville, the river was murky and the sky was gray. But that one tall building and that other tall building and that one hotel were all lit up in the night, just like this side of the moon.

Maybe the answer is mouse.