Guilty Pleasure: Unemployment

by Adam Finley

Almost everyone would like to quit their job. They might even peruse the want ads during their afternoon break while they munch on vending machine snacks, but very few of them will actually get up and walk out without the promise of a new job.

Because no one wants to be unemployed.

Except me.

When you’re unemployed, your only job is to look for another job, and that is the easiest job there is. My first taste of unemployment came in the summer of 2000. I was working as a copy editor in the methamphetamine-riddled Iowa town Tom Arnold once called home. After three months of piecing together obituaries, I was called into my editor’s office where he told me I would be given a one week review, and then they’d decide whether to keep me or not. This was my first time being fired, so I thought there was a possibility they would keep me. I have learned much since then. Unemployment hurts at first. They tell you to relax, it won’t hurt that bad, but they’re wrong. They tell you to just lie back, it might even feel good, but you don’t believe them. You even consider backing out, but so many other people have been unemployed before you, so it must not be all bad.

It does hurt the first time, it hurts a lot.

But after that, it kind of starts to feel good.

Unemployment isn’t like a real job, in fact, by its very definition, it’s not a job at all, but it‚s the only job you have while you don’t have a job, and the key to enjoying it to its fullest potential is to act as if it is
your job.

Every morning you have to wake up and buy a newspaper.

Then you go online.

You read the comics, and check your e-mail. Yes, the Family Circus is still unfunny, and yes, you are still subscribed to the Flaming Lips mailing list. You may be unemployed, but the world is still marching on per usual.

And as long as you have a newspaper and Internet access, you might as well check the job ads.

You skim the local paper for local jobs, perhaps something that has to do with restaurants or hospitality. That’s the heading they list “Front Desk Clerk” under in the Careers section of the paper. I’ve worked in
three different Super 8 Motels, and my total time spent in all of them is about three months.

When I become unemployed, however, I am a motel genius. I know the motel business inside and out. I ran the front desk, checked clients in and out, cleaned the pool area, and stocked the continental breakfast bar. What I definitely did not do is sit in the lobby watching television all night reading Hunter S. Thompson and chatting with this insane twenty-four-year-old newspaper boy who rubber-banded his papers together at five in the morning while he blathered on and on about things which I knew nothing about, and which I’m pretty sure he didn’t either.

Once you’ve found a few job possibilities, you can run out and pick up applications. This is really all you need to do, because the unemployed’s workday is actually quite short. If you have time, you can take these home and fill them out, but if it’s after 10 a.m., forget about it. The traffic starts to get bad around that time, and by “traffic” I mean the band Steve Winwood used to be in.

I used to think the song “Valerie” was actually called “Mallory.” When I learned the truth, I also learned how artificial the world could be.

Being unemployed makes you sensitive in this way.

You get a lot of reading done when you’re unemployed, too.

And you can drive around if you feel like it, because the traffic is really light at 10 a.m.

According to the AP Stylebook, that’s the correct way to write the time, with a period after both the “a” and the “m.”

This is part of my journalistic knowledge, which may soon garner me another writing job, something as cool as the last writing job I had. For two years I worked out of my home, set my own hours, and never saw my boss (he lived in San Francisco and I lived in Des Moines). It was like getting paid to be unemployed. My job was to watch online films, listen to online music, and write about them. Then I got out the Play-Doh.

Actually, you can get paid to be unemployed, although they don’t call it that; they call it “collecting unemployment,” and while I’m sure that only adds to the fun factor of not having a job, I’ve never actually done it. I tried collecting unemployment after I lost my last job, but according to some mystical file the gods have on me, I have no record of being employed during certain times. I credit this to a lot of “non-jobs” I’ve held over the years, jobs with no specific title like “Kid who trims the grass around grain silos” or “That guy who puts tree branches into a shredder and gets whacked repeatedly in the face with said branch in the process.”

That was the summer I was able to peel reddened skin from my face like an apple peel. My face hurt a lot that summer, what with being sunburned and smacked with tree branches all day. Unemployment, however, has never made my face hurt.

You also get less paper cuts when you’re unemployed.

And nobody yells at you.

Or makes you urinate into a cup to prove your typing ability.

But it’s more than just not having to put up with the daily grind all of those poor employed bastards have to. It’s about the wonderful world of discovery and enchantment that awaits the unemployed person every day. During those unemployed times I’ve listened to Gremlins 2: The New Batch on DVD through headphones for no good reason, I’ve written letters, and I’ve read the dictionary. I also came up with the phrase “I am so Bill Paxton.”

Here’s an example of how to use the phrase:

You went to a bar the other night, and you flirted with a cute girl sitting at the end of the bar. Before she leaves, she gives you her phone number. The next day you slyly tell all of your co-workers, “I was so Bill Paxton.”

You may have gotten the girl, but while you‚re at work, I’m at home watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in French.

You sad, deluded, employed bastard.


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