A Humbling Experience

I’ve been out of work since the middle of October. And as time goes by without me being any closer to being employed again, my living situation has become increasingly grim.

I started out with a halfway decent amount in savings, which is nearly gone. My former employer challenged my claim for unemployment money, which resulted in me having to wait three months before I saw any unemployment checks, which are a measly pittance.

In the meantime, I took aptitude tests and resume seminars at the unemployment office. I did exceptionally well on the tests, especially in my knowledge of reading and writing. None of this has done me the slightest bit of good in finding a new job.

I’ve cut spending to the bone. I do most of my job hunting at home, online, because I can’t afford to be driving around every day, especially since gas prices have jumped. My car is also acting up, which also discourages much driving, as I’m trying to baby the car along until I can get another job.

I went through the winter freezing my ass off, because I didn’t want a high electric bill. I wore several layers of clothing in the house and went to bed wearing gloves and a woolen cap. It didn’t help — I got a high bill for that one month, despite shivering in the dark. Even now that it’s warmed up, I’m sitting here typing in the dark.

While waiting for my unemployment checks to kick in, I did something I’ve never had to do before. I applied and received food stamps. Before getting that, I went to a church in a bad part of town that hands out nearly-expired food every week. And, most recently, I had to go to a social service agency to help me from getting my power shut off, which, I think, has been the most humbling thing of all.

There’s a certain routine that goes with applying for various forms of assistance. Doing so involves waiting hours in lines that often form before the sun comes up. Such avenues of assistance can only offer limited resources, so if you’re going to have a chance of getting anything at all, you have to get in line hours before the appointed time, otherwise you’ll go home empty handed.

And this means waiting outside in all kinds of weather. One place has a covered ramp for people to wait under, but at most places, there’s no protection whatsoever from the elements.

Another ubiquitous feature of applying for assistance is calling the agency in question, which often has only one or two people to answer, with one or two phone lines. If this wasn’t bad enough, most such places have a very limited window in which one may call to request an appointment. In other words, constant busy signals in which you’ll be dialing over and over, hoping to finally break through.

I’m sure the powers that be set it up this way quite purposely to discourage as many people as possible from seeking help, so that only the most persistent will successfully run the gauntlet.

I’ve hesitated writing about this — or anything at all — in the last few months, as it’s rather an embarrassing thing for me to be in this position at my age.

I’m grateful for the food stamps, especially, which allows me to have plenty to eat, but it doesn’t buy toilet paper or deodorant or cat food. And I think I would kill for a McDonald’s burger just about now.

It’s been said in the news that the economy is getting better. That might well be true, but I’ve seen no indication of it in my own life.

~ by libertine58 on March 10, 2011.

7 Responses to “A Humbling Experience”

  1. So sorry to hear of this, Libertine. An all too common story from ex Voxers, unfortunately, so there’s no need to be embarrassed about your misfortune. Hoping things improve for you soon.

  2. I’m so very sorry, W. And as Snowy said, it’s a painfully common condition in America right now, so you’ve nothing to be ashamed of. It just burns me up to hear people talking about those in need of assistance right now as though it were a cushy free- ride when it is, in fact, anything but. We still have that Puritan ethos in this country that says people who are rich must be graced by God, and those who are not deserve their fate. The truth is, those who are rich are because they have the Republican party to make them richer, and screw the guy in the unemployment line.

    I hope it feels a bit better to know that people care about you and are pulling for you. It doesn’t heat the house, but it’s there, for what it’s worth.

  3. I know exactly how you feel, I was in exactly the same situation for nearly two years. It’s demoralising and depressing, but keep your hopes high, there are jobs out there it’s just a matter of time until you find one.

  4. Hey W,

    I am so saddened to hear about your situation and it is certainly nothing of which to be ashamed. Take comfort in “This, too shall pass.”

    Just have to say that while reading your post, it was pure W writing talent; so descriptive and vivid that I felt like I was right there with you every step of the way.

    And want to let you know I’m “with you” as you press on in your job search, every step of the way… for what’s that’s worth.

  5. Thanks for all the kind words, everyone.

  6. I’m just checking in to let you know I’m still thinking about you. You’ll let us know if the situation changes, I hope.

  7. Hi Will!

    I sincerely hope that when you read this that your situation has greatly improved. It’s never easy to seek help when you’ve been fully self suffient your whole life, but some times it’s a must to survive. Yes. what you have been going through can be and is very demoralizing to say the least, but we who know you from your years of wisdom realize what a strong person you are and that you will get through this. Keep the faith in self and always look forward as hard as it may seem at times. I wish there was something I could do for you and so many others!

    Mary Blu

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