Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

On Waking Up As A Statistic

SCAREDSMy kid, who just turned five, wakes up before me every morning and plays in his room. I hear him talking through my half-sleep, spooling out imaginary dialogue between his Ben 10 action figures, mostly about who will defeat who, who has stronger magical powers or superior fire power. This morning, though, amidst the usual, I heard something different.

"Oh, you lost your jobs?" he said, in a deep monster voice. "I'm sorry."

Then in the higher voice of another character, "We're just kids!"


Then back to the sounds of laser blasts and clashing swords, etc. But it seems that someone's been eavesdropping on the grown-up conversations at holiday parties.

After contemplating the psychological effect my unemployment might be having on my child, and wondering if there might be any percocet left in the medicine cabinet, I got out of bed and went in to the kitchen to fix his lunch for school.

My wife, in pants already, was preparing to leave for work. She'd made him breakfast and gotten the newspaper, which I found on the counter. Here's the headline stretching across the front page: "Poll Reveals Trauma of Joblessness in U.S."

Out of 708 unemployed adults surveyed last week, it said, "Almost half have suffered from depression or anxiety. About 4 in 10 parents have noticed behavioral changes in their children that they attribute to their difficulties in finding work." The article, and three accompanying profiles of out-of-work Americans (losers!!!), is full of depressing anecdotes. Evan Gutierrez, who lost his job as a music director in Los Angeles, has moved his wife and newborn son into a smaller apartment and applied to a church's goodwill fund to help pay the rent while he looks for work. "We grow up with the impression there's a correlation between effort and the fruits of your labor," he said. "To be honest with you, I have very little confidence I'm going to be able to turn this around. It just feels completely, completely out of my control."

2009, ladies and gentlemen! This year can not be over soon enough.

25 Comments / Post A Comment

KarenUhOh (#19)

What also really sucks is that, in the midst of this part- or faux-recovery, as everyone is encouraged to feel warmfuzzy about "declining" numbers of job losses–or even net gains, in this month or that–there are still tens to hundreds of thousands who will continue to get canned, or cut back. Which is a bit like sitting alone in your apartment, watching the party across the courtyard.

Hang in there.

Baboleen (#1,430)

What is the worst that can happen? You lose all of your material things, right? Well, I did lose all of my material things. Me and my son live with a friend. The belongings I could take with me are in a garage. Fortunately I did find a job. I am starting to build up a savings again while working two jobs(meager, but it's something.) I can tell you though, there is hope on the other side. I am free of the anguish and sleepless nights. Most importantly, my son doesn't have to see his mother suffering (as much as I tried to hide it from him.) To all of those who are in the thick of it-stay strong. Finally, I cannot emphasize how kind people have been in my time of need. THAT has been the greatest gift of 2009.

Abe Sauer (#148)

I think this tripped The Awl's sincerity alarm.

Vulpes (#946)

I want to make a funny quip about "Cat the Cat will be here to take you away momentarily" or something, and be one of the cool kids, but it just seems wrong, you know? Baboleen, I'm so happy to know you're doing better, and echo your call to stay strong, brothers and sisters! Stay strong!

HiredGoons (#603)

2009: When the Chickens Came Home to Roost.

oudemia (#177)

But not to the roosts of the folks who let the chickens out. Sigh.

HiredGoons (#603)

Never have, never will.

mathnet (#27)

Here's what I think, Dave Bry. As far as your son is aware, your job is being a writer and being his dad. The fact that unemployment is on his mind probably has to do with the fact that everyone's talking about it everywhere; I doubt it's about your family's situation. And the way he set it up seems really healthy to me. He's reminding himself it's a grown-up problem, and not one of his own.

HiredGoons (#603)

I also read that article and it made me really, really angry. Not that I haven't been really, really angry for the past 8 or so years.

My brow lines are much more prominent than I feel they should be for someone at my age, and while I've had gray streaks since I was eight (birthmarks) I would like to blame them on The Nads.

Seriously, this decade: deez nuts.

garge (#736)

If my appreciation for your columns could get you a job, you'd have a few dozen or so.

rj77 (#210)

Seriously. Public Apology is just aching for a book deal. Get that shit locked down so I can pre-order.

iplaudius (#1,066)

Good point.

Baboleen (#1,430)

With my meager savings, I would buy that book.

sigerson (#179)

Or crowd-source it like Andrew Sullivan's silly "View from your window" book.

garge (#736)

UPDATE [Robert Stack voice]


(in case it is relevant to the book)

mathnet (#27)

LOVE IT. And would buy!

HiredGoons (#603)

Dave Bry Calendar.

Peteykins (#1,916)

Make sure to punish him if he uses the word funemployed.

Dave Bry (#422)

Umm, I am fumbling with how to respond to these comments. I am feeling emotional. Baboleen, your story humbled me and made me feel a bit stupid for writing my own. I am very glad to hear you found a job and it's awfully nice of you to be thinking of and supporting other people who are, to use your good term, in the thick of it. And to everyone else, too, words are too weak to express my thanks. Probably the best I can do is to never, never make a Dave Bry calendar.

Bittersweet (#765)

OK, no calendar. But please consider rj77's book request.

slinkimalinki (#182)

book! book! book!

Ken Layne (#262)

Yeah seriously book that up. Choire, "facilitate the deal," please. (Choire is made of Magic & Smoke.)

Oh, and that poll? "Almost half have suffered from depression or anxiety." That seems miraculous to me, that only "almost half" of jobless people are freaked out and depressed. Is that even possible? I've been unemployed or underemployed for most of my life, and it is constantly depressing and humiliating to be broke and in debt and having no idea how to get out of the hole.


brianvan (#149)


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