Monday, April 5, 2010

Sitting Down: Lessons Learned at the Unemployment Office

As I finally progressed from line to desk at the unemployment office, the employee manning it gave me a blank stare. No “May I help you?” would ever fall from those lips.
Me (cheerfully): “I’m here to file for unemployment.”

Blank-faced Employee (bored): “Sit down. They’ll call you.”

Me: “They’ll call me?”

“Blank-faced Employee (with a sigh): “Yes.”

Me (puzzled): “Do I sign in or anything?”

Blank-faced Employee (wearily): “No, just sit. They’ll call you.”

Me (more puzzled): “How will they know I’m here?”

Blank-faced Employee: “They’ll call you.”

I sat.

Following long minutes of contemplation, I deduced something was clearly not right. I knew from my HR experience that some people would be there for interviews, others for classes, some to write résumés and others for appeal hearings. “They’ll call you” did not seem reasonable to me.

I noticed people signing a clipboard at the information desk. Convinced I had done something wrong, I decided to brave the “information” officer again. She was smiling and chatting with someone who was clearly a personal acquaintance. That is until her eyes landed on me. Her expression returned to default setting: supreme annoyance.

“Information” Officer (scolding): “I thought I told you to get in that line.”

Me: “Yes, but, I have a question . . .”

“Information” Officer (more annoyed): “I don’t have time for questions. Just get in line.” 

She had time to talk with a friend, but no time for questions? Despite getting paid to provide information, she had no time for questions? Despite the huge “Information” sign over her desk, she had NO TIME FOR QUESTIONS?

Deep breath. Repeat to self: I will not get annoyed. I will not get annoyed. I will not get annoyed.


I would get in line again to check back with my old “they’ll-call-you” nemesis.

Me: “I’m not sure what to do. I’m here to file for unemployment. I’m supposed to sit in the waiting area here until I’m called, right?”

Blank-faced Employee: “Yes.”

Me: “How will they know what I’m here for?”

“Blank-faced Employee: “They just will. They’ll call you.”

Scanning the room I could see that everybody else seemed to know the drill. Clearly, it must be just me. Apparently, when I lost my job, I lost my good sense, too.

Meekly, my self-esteem at zero and my spirits at twenty below that, I sat down as commanded—again.

And, I had to wonder if I—or my situation—would ever rise again.


Anonymous said...

Love the post! I can totally relate to this! I happened to fall into the baffling lost property box that seems to be our local unemployment office too! I came out feeling completely the same as you. It didn't matter what qualifications I had they weren't interested.

Getting any money out of them seemed to be a Herculean task too... they were more interested in the 'regular' customers than the first time 'dole-rookie' willing to do ANY job!

Keep writing.. it makes good reading!

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