Life after working at the gold-buying store begins…
As we drove away from the store for the last time, my co-worker regaled me with how she was going to scam the unemployment system. The scheme was simple:
Say you sign up to collect unemployment. You must select your former employer from a database of recently bankrupt businesses. Then, every two weeks you get paid. However, you must submit proof that you’re looking for work. This can be done with something as simple as documentation that you’ve applied for five different jobs every two weeks. (When it comes to the specific numbers, I’m going off memory here.)
The deviousness, of course, is in the details
You can apply for jobs on the Department of Labor’s database. And you choose your standards for a potential job, which means you can select criteria that you’re grossly underqualified for. My co-worker made sure she was only sent information about jobs that paid almost six figures and required a PhD. She’d apply to them all, and would never hear back from a single one (probably). But she was still fulfilling her required “work” to collect unemployment for months and months.
For all I know, that’s exactly what she did while living off savings and her husband’s income.
(If you’ve ever attempted to hire employees, and were inundated with garbage resumes and applications… this scam might have been why. You were simply a blip on the sender’s bi-weekly effort to keep the unemployment spigot on.)
Anyway, I dropped her off, returned the Uhaul…
… settled back into my Aurora condo, and crawled under the covers for early sleep
The next morning, I awoke feeling like I was still in a dream.
The light shining through my tiny condo seemed stale and still.
Since becoming a sign-spinner, I’d changed cities… met dozens of new people… formed relationships… felt my heart open… blasted through challenges… heck even went through a bankruptcy… and through it all I had one common, comforting string:
And now that was gone.
It felt like my tether rope had just snapped
I had managed to grab a few mementos. One of the business’s posters. A sign I spun. A t-shirt. And a pair of shoes gifted to me by a fellow sign-spinner. In the next three months, I’d punish them to shreds.
But for the time being, I rummaged through Craigslist, continuing my job search.
On Monday, I drove to what I thought was a simple unloading job on a dock… but would turn out to be probably the grossest job for which I’ll ever apply.
At the address, I found a little office nestled in between massive industrial equipment – like a refinery.
Inside, a secretary and little dog greeted me with an equal level of enthusiasm. He (the dog) sort of sniffed my hand a bit when I placed it near enough to give him the option.
“I guess he kinda likes me,” I said.
“Yeah, he’s not too enthusiastic.”
I was directed to a room with some forms to fill out. Another man there, was already halfway through them. We talked about marriage. He highly recommended it.
Then I went in for my interview
The patches of frostbitten skin covering my interviewer’s face revealed his decades of outdoor labor.
“Are you scared of heights?” he asked.
“… A little.”
I wasn’t going to lie. But, I suppose a more truthful answer would have been heights terrify me. This wasn’t going well.
“Are you scared of confined spaces?”
“Now that’s a surprising answer. There are two kinds of people who can’t handle small spaces. Guys like me…” (he was a big guy) “… and guys like you.” He was referring to my height.
I pondered that a bit… and wondered if maybe I could get claustrophobic, if given the opportunity. But I wasn’t about to pontificate my speculative doubts out loud. Especially when a job was on the line, and I already had one strike against me.
At least he didn’t ask me about back taxes owed
Instead, he began describing exactly what the company did, and what my role would be. When I first saw the brief Craigslist ad, I had visions of unloading boxes of produce or something.
The truth was closer to this:
I’d don a protective Hazmat suit complete with oxygen tank, crawl inside a tanker full of human shit, and scrap the inner walls clean of shit residue
Maybe I had some details wrong, but that sounded like the essence.
The family-owned company contracted with other companies that used portable toilets. These guys would drive their trucks in, suck all the collected shit and urine out, and transport it back to their refining facility. They’d drain their trucks of the shit, and then a couple guys (in the position for which I was applying) would mop up the remainder from inside.
“It’s hard… dirty… smelly work,” he said.
Okay, maybe he hadn’t mentioned smelly.
Truth be told, I hardly recoiled at the nastiness of the work. Instead, I worried about how physically tough it’d be. Sign-spinning’s ease and simplicity was such a blessing. I feared my multi-year respite was over.
More than fear. I was terrified.
My interviewer grabbed a stack of filled-out forms from other applicants. “This is my week ahead.”
So even getting this shitty (literally) job was a long-shot
Still, I knew the raw odds were an illusion – displaying a modicum of common sense and congeniality in an interview can be quite the leg-up.
As I drove home, I felt it went perfectly. Not because I knew I’d get the job… simply because I was meant to show up and do my thing, whatever the outcome.
Open interviews for the laundry company truck-loading job, were the next day.
It would be the strangest, multi-hour-long interview process I’d ever experienced…