Monday, July 21, 2008

Something About Nothing

Not much is going on in my life so I don’t have anything to write about.

So I decided to write about having nothing to write about.

But writing about having nothing to write is writing about something, so it’s sort of a paradox. Like those future movies where you kill off your grandparents. If you did you wouldn’t be there to kill off your grandparents. If I had nothing to write about I wouldn’t be writing. Those kinds of movies always give me a headache.

Not having anything to write about gives me a headache as well. But since I am writing about something,i.e. having nothing to write about, you will be happy to know that my head is doing fine so far. The nice part about writing about nothing is that you don't have to know anything which plays to my strong suit.

I don’t think it is what they call a writer's block. A writer’s block is when you can’t write….because you are blocked. Fascinating things can be happening to you, but you can’t write them. In my case, if I had something to write about, I would be able to write about it…..I think.

I usually like these essays to be about 500 words. Let’s run our little word counter tool and see where we are at now. I have reached 185 words. That’s depressing because I have a long way to go. I am starting to get a headache. I am also running out of things to say about having nothing to say. How many words is that?

Wow. I just cut out my whole next paragraph which has really put me in a hole.

I think the problem here is that the last few days have been very boring. I have settled into a mind numbing routine of working on the computer, sending out resumes, taking my walks and generally not accomplishing much of anything. Sounds like retirement to me. I did do a Full Body Immersion when I was fishing the other day, but let’s not go there. Right now, I am waiting for the cable guys to finish getting our cable telephone installed. As usual This Old House we live in is fighting them to the finish. Working on this place is like trying to clip the nails of a pit bull. There Will Be Blood. At least they are cursing in Spanish so they’re not upsetting the neighbors.

Well, that’s all I have to say on that subject. I am sure you have your own grisly cable story.

Oh! Here’s something that is about to happen: I am getting a haircut at 4:00. Kathie is concerned because this will be my first venture to a local barber. I used to get my haircut in New York. She fears they will give me a mullet.

I hope you appreciate the risk I am taking here. I have exhausted a subject. What am I going to write about the next time I have nothing to write about? I am getting a writers block just thinking about it.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Unemployment Office

The notice was clear. On July 10 I was required to report at the New York Department of Labor, Unemployment Division, for employment counseling. It reminded me a little of my draft notice in its officiousness: “This is mandatory. Failure to appear will result in the loss of your unemployment benefits.”

So off I trudge to the Big Apple for the first time since June 5.

I arrive at 2:30 sharp, my appointed time, and check-in. I am told to join the group that is just going into the conference room. A break, I think, because this might be the 2:00 group just getting started.

The conference room is packed. Rows and rows of long tables fill the room. I take one of the last seats in the last row. A swarm of Gray Ladies are busily handing out questionnaires and collecting the ones we were required to bring with us.

The head Gray Lady reminds me of Sister Helen Maurice, my third grade teacher. “No one will be allowed to leave the room without turning in your forms!”, she cackles. “No one will be allowed to leave without an exit interview! No eating or drinking!” I am thinking “defrocked nun.”

I am desperately trying to concentrate. I have to confess that I break down in the face of bullying bureaucracy, and questionnaires are not my strong point. I turn mine in to an oriental Gray Lady. She takes one look at it and slams it down in front of me. “Write,write!,” she says. Apparently she doesn’t have the vocabulary to explain my deficiency further. I am sweating bullets as I look at my paper and see all of the questions answered. I can think of nothing to do but add a few lines to one of them and hand the paper back. “Write,write!!,” she barks again plopping my paper down in front of me. Now panic sets in. I am back in grammar school with sister looming over my desk. I will never be allowed to leave the room until I satisfy Write-Write Lady.

Suddenly the man next to me saves the day. “She wants you to write down what you have been doing to find a job,” he explains. I look at the form and see no question to this effect. I write my response on the bottom of the page. This satisfies Write-Write Lady and she drifts away.

I thank him. He is a salesman from New Jersey and he seems to have done this before. “They are just trying to make us feel like shit for collecting our benefits,” he explains.

The woman in the row ahead of us turns and says: “You two are going to get detention if you keep talking like that.”

Sister Helen is now in front of the room and about to begin her presentation. She asks if there are any veterans present. One man raises his hand. “You can leave and see one of our counselors on the way out. There is no reason for you to sit through this,” she says.

Now my mind is racing. What are they going to put us through that even a battle hardened vet cannot endure? Suddenly a wild thought enters my head: a physical!!
Long suppressed memories of my army physical come storming back. Maybe they want to make sure we are physically fit for employment. I begin scanning the doorways for the appearance of a white smock clad doctor with a box of rubber gloves who will utter those dreaded words: “Drop drawers and bend over.”

Sister Helen is speaking. There is a power point presentation projecting on a green wall that is unreadable from where I am sitting. She does not explain it except to say that it is important. Will there be a quiz?

She is now talking about how she has no computer or technological skills and still has a dial up phone in her house. I am thinking “defrocked cloistered nun.” She then begins a rant as to why she will never set foot in Walmart. I wonder what this has to do with anything. Maybe it is to make us feel better about ourselves: if someone like this can hold a job, there is hope for us.

She announces that this ends the formal presentation and that each of us will be called up for an individual exit interview and counseling. Four Gray Ladies divvy up the pile of questionnaires and resumes. Two set up shop in the conference room, and two lead their victims off to the rabbit warren of cubicles outside.

There are 32 of us in the room as this begins. Gradually, as names are read out the crowd thins. Salesman is on my left and Vicky from New Jersey is on my right. Soon, we are the only ones in our row. We begin to wonder if our earlier chit chat is being held against us.

Salesman says “I hope we get that mousy chick in front of the room. She is turning them over fast.” I guess this shows how much he esteems the counseling one receives here.

Finally Vicky and Salesman are gone along with everyone else. I am alone. A team of two counselors have been involved for what seems like forever trying to sort out a banker's resume. Mousy Chick is deep in conversation with another applicant. It is 4:30. If they don’t get to me, will I have to return?

Mousy Chick finishes. She turns, surveys the empty room as though she is searching for someone in a sea of faces and calls out in a loud voice “Gerard Andersen.” I don’t correct her but spring from my seat to join her.

She looks at my resume. “This is long,” she opines. I explain that I have shorter versions desperately hoping to divert her from reconstructing my resume at this late hour.

“What is this organization you worked for…a union?”, she asks. I tell her that it is a trade association, a group that represents manufacturers rather than workers. “Oh, I never heard of that,” she says. Now I am in full flight mode. What kind of advise can I expect from someone who has never heard of what I do?

“I see you started in 1973…..25 years is a long time,” she says as she reads further. I tactfully point out that 1973 was 35 years ago. “Oh, I never was good at math,” she responds. “I was in high school then,” she adds. Yeah, and I bet you didn’t get asked to the prom.

Finally, she asks what kind of employment I am seeking. I say I would like to join another non-profit. She makes a graceful gesture with her hand that resembles a bird in flight and says: “Those union jobs are gooooooooing awaaaaaaay.”

With this nugget of counseling firmly lodged in my head I bolt for the door and home.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Spam I Am

FYI: I am not checking my regular e-mail anymore, just my spam file.

Here’s why: regular e-mail = bad news; spam=good news

There is never anything good in my regular e-mail just resume and article rejections, would-you-do-this-for-me’s, and when-can-we-expect-payment notices. My spam folder is a wonderful little world full of cheerful stuff and people trying to give me money and improve my life.

Sadly though I must have passed over some demographic line because I no longer get the dozens of Viagra and penis enlargement offers that I used to receive. I guess they think I am beyond all that now.

Here is a sampling from my spam of the last few days:

• Robert Mueller, Director of the FBI, has been in touch. It seems he is in Nigeria now. He doesn’t say why. He wants to send me an ATM card with $800,000 on it that I can use any way I choose. He cautions me to be careful because there are a lot of phony FBI people out there who claim to be investigating e-mail scams. He also suggests that I ignore any notices that my credit card or ATM is being abused because the FBI is already on the case.
• The United Nations has contacted me and it has been agreed that all persons who have been scammed by international e-mail plots will be compensated. My share is $500,000.
• I have won the UK National Lottery 3 times in the last 3 days. This by someone who has never even won the table center piece at a wedding.
• By my account I am the sole survivor and beneficiary of at least 20 Nigerians who have died in the past few days. That’s a side of the family I guess my Norwegian/Irish relatives lost touch with after the great out of Africa migration 100,000 years ago.
• I received many diet offers including one that promised I would lose 9 pounds in 11 days. I am waiting for a better offer, like 20 pounds in a day. One thing the Nigerians have learned, if you are going to make false promises, make big false promises.
• Another Nigerian gentleman has stuffed a box with $1,500,000 and will ship it to me immediately. He says that he will label the box as “old clothes” to fool the customs people. I don’t think that will work. Who will believe that Africans are exporting old clothes to needy Americans?
• Everybody wants to put me and my computer to work making money at home. To hell with that. With all of this money pouring in from Africa, I’m all set.
• By the weirdest of coincidences, three widows of wealthy men who died in U.S. raids on terrorists, all of whom are dying of breast cancer, want to give me sums of money ranging from $8 million to $12 million. Hey, I guess it’s no more of a long shot than winning the lottery 3 times in 3 days.
• By my count, I have 12 laptops and 15 Palm Pilots waiting for me to claim free for nothing.
• My favorite name of a Nigerian scam artist: Reverend Earnest Oh.

So, this is the world I will be living in until further notice. If you want to reach me, make me an offer that is too good to be true.