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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