Unemployment Blues

by Jenny Jackson

Copyright┬ę 2006 by Jenny Jackson

: Everyone hates the Unemployment office. It's about time to get even.



Jenny Jackson walked through the glass, double, Kawneer doors on the front of the Oregon Employment Division field office in Beaverton at 9:30 AM. The office was a nice single story brick building with tall radius-head windows with black glass that did not allow anyone to see in from the outside. The appearance was one of red brick with tall, black, keyholes at intervals around the exterior.

A quick look around the office, Jenny spied a table off to one side where it was certain to be missed by the uninitiated. On the wall above the table were two old and faded signs. Someone could probably have made out the printing on the signs sometime back around 1984 but the ink was so deteriorated in 2006 that was impossible. Jenny made for the table. There she found her application, and the "handy employment guide" from the Oregon Employment Division. "Why the hell do they call themselves the 'Employment Division' then you wouldn't come her if you had a job?" she wondered. "I really seems like 'Unemployment Division' is more appropriate."

A long counter ran the full width of the office separating the unemployed from the employed State workers. Jenny noticed the counter was taller than most and came nearly to her armpits. It stood there like a great barrier between those behind the counter who held themselves in high esteem due to "job security" and those in front of the counter who had been downsized by the economy.

Jenny took her application to a seat at a table near the front of the office and opened the application. The guy next to her tugged at her sleeve and whispered, "Hey, doll. You got a pencil?"

She raised her head to look at this cretin. The classic holes in the knees of his "Can't Bust 'Um" bib overalls was a dead give away as to the intelligence of this moron. "Yes. I have a pencil, thank you," she said dismissively.

"No, doll. I mean can I have a pencil?"

"You actually came to fill out an application having nothing to write with? No pencil? No Pen? No charred, pointed stick? Nothing?" she asked.

The guy looked a bit uncomfortable. "Umm. No. They didn't tell me I'd need one."

"Jesus H. Christ," Jenny mumbled digging in her purse. After a moment, she handed the guy half a "Hot Pink" Crayola crayon she'd picked up after her niece. "This is all I have. Enjoy."

Jenny turned back to her application and began to write quickly. She had gotten down to filling in her most recent employment when there was a tug on her shirtsleeve.

"Yes? What the fuck do you want now?" she said without looking up.

"There's a question on here. Is says, 'Sex (m/f)?' What do I put there?," the moron in the overalls asked.

"Put 'YES-BOTH'. That's what everyone puts there."

"Okay," the man said happily turning to his application.

At the bottom, Jenny signed her name with a flourish and dropped the application in the box at the left end of the counter. She then found a seat on the other end of the building to escape Mr. Bib Overalls. Jenny sat. Jenny waited. Jenny watched the various people moving too and fro filling in applications and dropping them in the box at the left end of the counter. Most of all, Jenny watched the State workers as they chatted around the coffee bar, threw paper air planes at each other and pretended to be working while they chatted with each other on both the phone and the internet.

At 4:15 a black woman came from somewhere in the back of the building and pulled all the applications out of the box. She then turned the pile upside down so she could start with the oldest applications first.

"Ronnie Schwartz?" she said in a loud voice. The woman looked around the office, a stern expression on her face. "Ronnie Schwartz? Are you here?" There was no answer. His application was dropped into a file for those individuals who were not interested enough to waste an entire day waiting. The night custodial crew would do a proper job of completing the task when the file was dumped later that night into the dumpster behind the building.

"Annette Haskell?" the woman, who had now become somewhat irritated, shouted. Jenny looked around the office. There seemed to be only seven people waiting in the low-life, unemployed side of the towering counter, while the pile had at least one hundred fifty applications. "What da hell wrong wid des people?" the woman muttered under her breath.

At 4:53 the black woman announced, "Jennifer Jackson?" Jenny jumped up and ran the two steps to the counter just as the woman was about to drop her application into the "special file". "I'm Jennifer Jackson."

The woman looked even more irritated. "Is you da Jennifer Jackson dat live on Cranberry Lane?" she asked eying Jenny closely.

"Yes. 1634 Cranberry Lane. That's me."

"The woman took on an angry look. "Am dis yo social sa-curity number?"

Jenny looked at the application. "Yes. That's it."

The woman turn her head to look over her shoulder at the clock on the wall. "Damn, two mo minutes," she muttered.

Jenny smiled at the woman. "See? It's all filled out. All the 'I' dotted and 'T's crossed. I did orientation yesterday. You can test me if you want. I know the official handy employment guide by heart. You can test me if you want."

"Damn!" mumbled the woman. "Jes one minute. I be right back," the woman said as the turned on her heel and said something to the woman on the switchboard behind her.

In only a moment a man came running from the rear of the "employed" side of the office. "What's this all about?" he demanded.

"Dis here woman filled out everyting and even did the orientation," the black woman said. "I think she a troublemaker."

The man picked up Jenny's application and stared at it. "Follow me, Miss Jackson," he said sternly. Jenny followed the man along the counter to the end. There was a buzz and a door popped open. Jenny stepped in. The door slammed behind her. The man was already in the room waiting for her.

"Now, Miss Jackson, I have several questions for you. First, why did you take the orientation the day before you applied?"

"Why not?" Jenny asked.

"Look. I'm asking the questions here. Now, why did you arrive at exactly 9:28 AM before the rush and wait all day for the interview?"

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