Wednesday, September 1, 2010

180 Good Things about Unemployment

180. When it is too hot to do squat, you sit in front of a fan all day and envision working. But not too hard. 

179. Another job, another interview: Congratulations to you. How many hip words can you use in your half-hour interview? Benchmark, outcome measure, work plan, interactive tools, effectiveness, quality, core principals, strategic plan, performance management, linkage, culture of excellence, overarching framework, indicators, implementation mechanism, objectives, strategies, activities, assessment rating… I am smart. I am cool. I can play the game. Just give me the frickin’ job. Smile. Handshake. Thank you for this opportunity.

178. Your best friend tries to tell you something when you ask, “How was your morning? Did you sleep well? How do I look for this interview?”

177. Recalling today's job interview:
"Can you tell me about a time when you were employed?"
"Well, that's a tough one..." and I drift off...
Let's just say the interview could have gone better.

176. You can ponder the real mysteries of life, like why do shoes squeak and is it the right shoe or the left? How can you sneak with sneakers that squeak?

175. Your weekly activity report to the boss is not due. Oh, good news, I actually got a call for a job interview today. Of course, I missed the call but it is captured on my answering machine so I can play it over and over. I'm on a roll.

174. You wait all day for someone from the electric company to show up and when the someone finally arrives, he doesn’t know what he’s supposed to do. Here is the story.

When we received our last electricity bill, I was concerned that the electric company (We will call them NYE) hadn’t read our meter since December so had estimated charges for the last six months.  Bill, my partner, asked why I should be concerned about this. I reminded him that I am unemployed and prone to worry about incidentals including why he cannot handle plastic wrap. I patiently explained that NYE’s estimated readings are always low. He argued that missed readings would then be a good thing. I reminded him that women think ahead, contrary to the script that most men follow, and when NYE finally reads the meter, we may owe them considerably more than one employed person (him) could afford to pay. Fearing an untimely disconnect, I figured having electricity this winter would be a better thing.

So, I called NYE and, as you might expect, was transferred numerous times. I ended up with a young woman who sounded concerned. She agreed six months is a long time not to have our meter read and did I have dogs? Yes, I said, but the dogs cannot be the problem. She did not believe me. Maybe there is a new worker, she said, and the dogs bother her. The only way to find out, she continued, would be to talk with the meter reader. So, she scheduled an appointment for the two of us to meet when the worker would be in the neighborhood--between 8:00 and 10:00 yesterday. I put the date on my calendar, which, of course, is crowded with job interviews. Okay, the last clause is an exaggeration.

I was dressed by 8:00 a.m. and told the dogs we’d take our walk after NYE left. They accepted that, along with breakfast served at their feet. At 10:30, I called NYE. Again transferred a few times, I explained to the young man what wasn’t happening. He confirmed that my address was on the schedule and said the worker had to be on his way.

At 1:30 p.m., I called again and explained to a third person that NYE was supposed to have visited me this morning in order to tell me why there was a problem visiting me. The woman I got this time said she was sorry but I was not on the schedule and that this was her fault. She could have been crying. Would I still like someone to come out today? I had already been confined for five and half hours, so what were a few more hours? I said yes. I could tell she was drying her eyes.

At 2:30 p.m., as rain came from nowhere to flatten most living things, a guy in a NYE truck appeared saying he was there to turn on my electricity. The dogs and I, on the porch and wet, were perplexed but we patiently explained the situation again.

The NYE visitor said, “Let me call in to see what is going on.”

“Believe me,” I said, “I’m the only person who knows what is going on.”

He didn’t believe me. He took out his cell phone. I told him his cellphone probably wouldn’t work out here (we live in a rural area known as the boonies) and he could come in to use our land line. Of course, his cellphone worked, but the dispatcher didn’t answer her phone. I told him I thought she ran to the store for more tissues.

He said he had no idea why someone wasn’t reading my meter. I convinced him to put in a good word about our dogs. He asked for their names, but he seemed to lose interest when I told him one of the dogs was named Snot. He left after reading the meter.

About 3:30 p.m., the dispatcher called me. She had done some research. It turns out that the meter reader hadn’t finished our route since December and about 70 homes were affected. All my neighbors were paying estimated bills and our dogs had been wrongly accused. I told her I didn’t know whether Snot and Buddy would get over it, but I’d help them work through it.

You may think this is the end of the story but our real meter reader returned today to read the meter. I ran out to say hello. The young man said he went home sick last time and didn’t finish the route. I told him I was sorry I ever inquired about the issue. Sometime before the last phone call yesterday, I no longer cared that our bill was estimated. I just wanted NYE to get out of my life.
 Now, I debate whether to tell Bill the saga of this unemployed day because he will say, “I told you not dealing with NYE was a good thing.” And I will have to agree.

173. You play with snake skins. Somebody said there was a job in it for you. So where is that somebody? For free entertainment, here is a video of a snake shedding its skin. He is quite the performer: I easily amuse myself.

172. You eat homegrown tomatoes, reflect and genuflect. Here is a story I posted today on Open Salon at as part of a call for light tomato recipes.

My tomato ate the Principal: A sad story of taste and Sacrifice
I have a terrible memory. It is the reason I didn't reach beyond a BA in English. I never remember the particulars of a book. In fact, most of the time, I don't remember I've even read the book or watched the movie. I can view a work of art 27 times before it seems redundant. And if I have a free pass to a museum, I can see the same exhibit over and over again without complaint.

My memory functions fine, unfortunately, surrounding traumatic events. And I remember vividly my tragic grade school encounter with a sliced tomato.

I attended a cruel Catholic school with a policy that students eat everything on their lunch plates. This, of course, was because there were starving children who would be grateful for canned white grapefruit and canned spinach—regulars that made me gag. This was also true of the raw tomato.

Students could not engage in conversation while eating lunch. If you were caught talking, you ate your lunch against the wall for a week or more. This gag order (no pun intended) limited our ability to trade food we did not like. No one would take canned spinach off your tray, but the fate of a sliced tomato wasn’t that limited. Until the day I still have trouble talking about.

No one would take my tomato. I was a cute girl, even a teacher’s pet in first grade, with bangs my mother must have cut with a knife. And I sat through my lunch period not lifting a bite of that tomato to my mouth. All of my classmates were dismissed from the table. School Principal Sister Mary Sacrifice would not let me leave until I ate my tomato. So I sat and stared at the thing.

The tomato began to grow. Soon, it had not only taken over the table, it was nearly as big as the cafeteria, which was the size of a basketball gymnasium. In fact, it was our gym. I began to cry knowing my colleagues were outside enjoying their long 30-minute recess. I cried. And I cried.

As the older kids began to stream in for their lunch period, I sat alone in the cafeteria except for my tomato, which slowly consumed Sister Mary Sacrifice. This was my first experience with Transcendental Meditation.

Then, a miracle happened. Carla Rodriguez, a 6th grader, appeared from nowhere and took the tomato off my plate. For the last 48 years, I have nominated her for canonization due to her heroic virtue.

It took almost that long before I would eat a raw tomato. I could stomach spaghetti and pizza sauce, but no fresh tomato was ever contemplated. And if I accidently got a piece of tomato from a salad in my mouth, I casually spit it out without any concern for good manners.

So my path toward tomato reverence was long and not particularly graceful. Now, however, I grow tomatoes in my garden and eat them from the vine. I’m not sure when the transition took place, but it is over. After planting eight tomato plants in May, I anxiously waited until last week when I ceremoniously plucked the first ripe tomato from a vine. Then, I marched into the kitchen to continue the ritual of slicing, salting and stuffing it in my mouth. After all, there is nothing better than a homegrown tomato.

Here is my favorite way of eating a raw tomato. I do so each summer, sometimes twice a day, in honor of Saint Carla Rodriguez.

Tragic Tomato No More: A summer recipe and ritual
Cut a homegrown tomato into big chunks and put it in a salad bowl. Add sliced homegrown basil. Use a fork to scrape out some Chevre from the container. (I buy Chevre--soft cheese made from goat milk, enzymes and salt--from our Farmers Market. Mine comes from the Polymeadows Farm in Shaftsbury, VT, and I adore it.) Add some sliced raw almonds, which I roast lightly in a skillet and store in the refrigerator. Sometimes I add fresh corn off the cob or wild blueberries from our yard, but these are extra and not necessary. Put a smidgen of olive oil on top, salt and pepper. Chew. Savor. Genuflect.

171. You understand the worth of old customs, such as hanging clothes outside to dry. We installed this clothesline last weekend. Essentially, it is a 100-foot rope, with a few feet cut off, hooked from the house to the barn. In between the hooks, there is a piece of waste wood that my partner kept because he knew sometime in his lifetime he would use it. Our yard is littered with similar valuable items including this broken upside-down toilet now joined by Oxeye Daisies and other discarded goods, and a cast iron bathtub that isn’t going anywhere unless hernia surgery is already scheduled. The clothesline cost $4, which was returned by not using the dryer the last time I washed towels. And when I’m bored, I watch the wash flap in the breeze. Cheap entertainment for the rural unemployed: me.

\\\ For Good Things numbered 161 through 170, see
For Good Things numbered 151 through 160, see
For Good Things numbered 101 through 150, see
For Good Things numbered 1 through 100, see ///

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