I am a Whore by Robyn Segal

I am a whore, a prostitute, a holler-for-a-dollar lowlife scum. I lied to the Girl Scouts of America. I have lied to the American Cancer Society, The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Lutheran Adoption Services, Catholic Charities, even a community program that helps at risk youth. I lied. I will continue to lie until someone believes my lies and gives me a job.

It’s Armageddon week on the History Channel. It has been Armageddon week on CNN for years. It’s been Armageddon week in my life since last April when I lost my job.

Each night for a week the History Channel airs a different documentary about the numerous possibilities as to how the world will come to an end. After the world didn’t end on New Year’s Eve 2000, I stopped buying rolls of duct tape and gave up my subscription to “How to Build a Fallout Shelter in your Backyard.” The days are short. Gray dirty snow flanks both sides of my street. I get in my pajamas at 4:30pm. I am unemployed. The idea of the world coming to an end has given me a renewed sense of hope.

The economists on Meet the Press said that under the best circumstances, we will not see a decline in the unemployment rate until the 4th quarter. I consider the possibilities and decide that if the worst does happen and I am forced to work the soda can redemption machines at Stop and Shop to support my family, I won’t have to do it forever.

I wake each day with dread. I have only one thing to do. I must find a job. That is my job. I am my own co-worker. I am my own boss. I am my own department head. I am my whole department. My department and I break for lunch in my bed under the warmth of the electric blanket. For lunch we eat pistachio nuts while watching re-runs of the Twilight Zone. None of us can stand to watch the news anymore.

The Republicans and Democrats are fighting over the next bill to pass or not pass. While watching the news, I feel like a kid watching Santa Claus take presents out of his sack, praying that he has something in there for me. Birth control, Internet Service, Bridge Repairs, Medicare, Education. Santa offers me up a small package. It turns out that it’s not for me. It’s a tax break for working Americans. I am not a working American. It’s not like I am looking for a diamond ring, maybe just a little health insurance and a way to pay back my student loan.

I type in the same search criteria at Career Builder for ten months. I have seen the results drop from over one-hundred job openings to thirty-four. Of those thirty-four potential jobs, one is for a geneticist, and fifteen are for entry-level marketing manager positions with unlimited earnings potential for an unnamed retail giant. Five of the postings actually ask the job seeker for what they call “a small initial investment.”

There is one position for the Girl Scouts of Connecticut. I hate the Girl Scouts. I hate their sashes. I hate their patches. I hate the beret-like hats they wear. I hate their thin mint cookies. I apply. I scroll through the long list of resumes I have sent out since last April to: The Center for Traumatic Brain Injury, Cigna, Aetna, Norwalk Community College, Gateway Community College, Southern Connecticut State University, The Agency on Aging, Yale New Haven Hospital, Connecticut Public Television, The League of Woman Voters and numerous associations for every chronic and deadly disease. Each of these resumes is accompanied by a cover letter professing my lifelong dedication to whatever it is that they do, even evoking anecdotal stories about fictitious relatives and friends that have benefited from their fine organization.

I choose from the potpourri of resumes I’ve sent over the past ten months. I choose one that is free from spelling errors, and make the necessary revisions to highlight my numerous skills as they are listed in the Girl Scout ad. It takes me over two hours to revise my resume. I keep looking at the clock. I need to find a job. I need a nap. I need a shower. I tell the Girl Scouts about the impact they have made on my life, how my experiences as a Girl Scout have shaped my life, how I embody the Girl Scout spirit, how I love Snickerdoodles. I end the cover letter with my standard proclamation that I have committed both my personal and professional life to promoting the values and advocating for the rights of (in this case) young girls and women. Having already committed my personal and professional life to the elderly, mentally ill, the disabled, minorities, and even a two state solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, I have little confidence that I will be working for The Girl Scouts.

“Have you heard anything?” asks my stepfather on the phone.

I wonder what he could possibly be thinking. I call him and my mother about every job opening, resume, cover letter, phone interview, real interview, leaving no detail to the imagination. With each call I repeat who I sent what to and when it was sent.

“Nothing!” I tell him.

I hate saying it. I hate him for asking. With all that calling you would think I’d have mentioned something if I got offered a job.

“Well you are a very smart person,” he encourages me, “someone will recognize your talents and you will be working soon.” He believes that being smart is going to get me a job. I say nothing.

“You are very conscientious and they will recognize this and you will be working soon,” he continues.

“Have you been watching the news?” I ask.

“Today I had to go to the doctor because I had a small rash on my left wrist and wanted to make sure it wasn’t serious, as I will be going to New York City tomorrow to see YoYo Ma at Lincoln Center with your mother, and the following day I am taking my friend Joe, the gentleman with whom I play bridge on Monday evenings, the gentleman who hosted the holiday party with his friend that your mother and I attended on December 12th of two thousand and eight, I’m taking him to Smithtown University Hospital for a colonoscopy, and since my doctor has me taking Coumadin, I have to be very careful with my diet and I find that I easily bruise.” He finishes.

“Is my mother home?” I quickly sneak in.

“So the nurses, for whom I have the utmost respect, told me that the other doctor who recently joined the practice will be out of town because his oldest daughter, who moved to Minnesota, is getting married, and they need to reschedule my appointment for the 27th of April which is a Thursday, because Dr Fisher, will be out of the office. The nurses there know me because whenever I have coupons for things I think they can use, I cut them out and leave them there for the women in the office.”

“So everything is fine?” I ask trying to move the conversation along.

“Oh yes, the doctor said that I shouldn’t be concerned, but he gave me the paperwork to get my blood drawn because I will be going to North Carolina on the 3rd of March to visit with my friend Richard, and I don’t have an appointment to see the doctor before then to get the necessary paper work for the lab to perform the blood tests. You know your mother and I have excellent health insurance through the West Babylon School district teachers union.”

“Oh, the kids just came in.” I manage to get out.

“Well your mother went to the spa,” he goes on.

“Hold on a minute,” I say, as I can’t hear a thing over the voices of my three sons all talking to me at once.

“And then she was going to meet Elaine at the library at 4:30pm, but she should be back by 3:45pm. I think she will be leaving the house about 4:10pm so they can make a 5 o’clock movie. Should I have her call you?”

One of my sons screams, “Mom, Oliver just took a knife and put in up to my neck.”

I cover the receiver, “Hold on,” I yell, “I’m on the phone.”

“I have to go,” I tell my stepfather. I hang up.

“Nana says you think you’re a big shot. You shouldn’t be applying for such big time jobs,” My mother tells me twice in one phone call. My mother holds Nana’s opinions in very low regard yet in this one isolated area; Nana’s opinion apparently holds sway.

“How is nana feeling?” I ask.

“She is impossible. You’re lucky you don’t have to deal with her,” screams my mother into the phone.

“What kind of job does Nana think I should apply for?” I ask

“What does she know about you finding a job,” she snipes back.

I remind my mother of my years of management experience, graduate degree, public speaking, writing and various skills that are so valued in the work place. I don’t know why I bother. She isn’t planning on hiring me and neither are any of the close to one-hundred employers I have sent my resume to.

My mother likes to set the bar low. Among her suggestions for my future employment; I should go back to the last place I worked, the one before that and if necessary to all past employers, to beg if not grovel for my old job.

“What are you doing?” asks my sister-in-law in that bored sing song voice she has when she has spent too many hours doing nothing.

“I got a raise today,” I tell her.

“Oh good,” she says as if it’s perfectly reasonable that I have no job and got a raise.

After working for nearly twenty years for a handful of 3% cost of living increases, I finally got the big one, the mother of all raises, the one Larry Tate gave Daren Stevens for landing the big account on Bewitched, and the one Mr. Slate gave Fred Flintstone for hauling ass at the quarry. Today I got the biggest raise of my professional life. I received a $25.00 raise in my weekly unemployment check. Had I known about the raise, I would have gotten fired years ago. Is this an annual thing? If they gave me health insurance and some sick and vacation days, this would be the best job I never had.

I look outside my kitchen window. I see grass. It’s the first time I’ve seen grass in months. The winter snow has melted. I am horrified. Soon it will be spring. I have been living on unemployment since the last time it was spring. There is so much I haven’t accomplished. I am still on season one of The Gilmore Girls, I haven’t painted my bathroom. I haven’t found a job.

I am aware of the historical significance of my situation. I am on my third extension and will soon be moving into my fourth extension thanks to the good graces of the federal government. I’ve become like one of those losers that hang around OTB, living on the infrequent winnings from some long shot bet placed with borrowed money, on a horse trotting across a TV screen, except I am placing my bet on Congress and the President. I follow every race all day long. Even when I want to look away from the screen, I can’t resist Andrea Michell repeating for the fifth time in thirty minutes that there are many Republicans who feel tax breaks for the middle class won’t stimulate the economy. Saying it more often doesn’t make it true.

The phone rings. I look at the caller ID. Unless they are offering me a job, I’m done listening.

 

 

© 2014 Robyn Segal


Robyn Segal is a writer and mother of four. Her short stories and essays have been previously published in The Doctor TJ Eckleburg Review, Equally Wed Magazine, Literary Yard, Connotation Press, Flagler Review, Gravel Magazine, Blotterature and other publications. She lives in Connecticut with her four children and wife.