The evening of January 8, Tucson marked the one-year anniversary of last year’s tragic shooting with a vigil on the mall at the University of Arizona. Funerals and memorial services for individuals had long passed, and the vigil was mostly a community celebration of healing, remembrance, and resilience in the face of violence and death. Congresswoman Gabby Giffords embodied this spirit, rising to the stage with her radiant, childlike smile and bright red scarf. Her energetic recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance drew chants, cheers, and even tears of goodwill from the crowd. Other shooting survivors and family members participated in a candle lighting ceremony. A local symphony and choir performed, and the Band Calexico, reportedly a longtime favorite of Giffords, sang “The Crystal Frontier.” At one point, on cue, the crowd transformed into a swaying ocean of blue glow sticks in the darkness.

The economic woes our society has undergone over the last three years were crystallized for me in a single story. On March 17, a man who worked at a city office in Costa Mesa was called into work to receive a layoff notice at the city maintenance offices. Huy Pham, an employee of that department, was at home with a broken ankle and not supposed to work. Suspecting the news, he chose to skip the meeting and instead went to City Hall and jumped off the roof.

In one bold, rash move, he exhibited an impulsive behavior that has more frequently crossed my mind and, I’d bet, many others’ across the country as, if not a rational response to our failed economy, most certainly an act that is not altogether shocking.

In early 2007, I was laid off from a job I’d held for nearly nine years.  It was a job I loved and a job that fit me like a clichéd, crocheted, personalized and otherwise lovely glove.  I was a bookseller at an indie.

In January of 2008 I got a second job after having taken a few language classes, hacking away at writing stories and going through every last bit of money I had saved from selling books (read: not much).  This new job involved writing and editing for an international engineering and project management firm.  It paid as much in six months as I’d ever earned in the best full year of employment since I was in high school.  It was corporate, and apart from being bearable because of a good friend who worked there, was so painfully dull that I once drew blood from my inner thigh while pinching it to keep awake during one of those two-hour, thrice-weekly corporate meetings whose riveting information would, in a small business, be disseminated perfectly in a five-minute conversation so we could get the fuck back to work.

Eight months later, in October of 2008, I was laid off for the second time in eighteen months.  It was also only the second time in my life I’d lost a job not by my own choice.

Beginning in November 2008, I began collecting unemployment and diligently applying for any writing/editing jobs I could find. I scoured industry postings, Craigslist notices, searched on my own for firms or persons which were looking for people with my expertise and figured, naively, that within a reasonable amount of time, I’d be employed doing something with words.

I started applying for jobs that were even tangentially related to writing and editing, jobs which mentioned that a successful applicant must be able to communicate effectively with the written word or simply be able to speak well.

I peppered these applications with occasional ones for delivery drivers – from auto parts to paper products to legal documents. Weeks turned into months, months turned into years, unemployment ran out, and I became one of the 99ers (those people who are not properly reflected in the most disseminated unemployment statistic, the Department of Labor’s U-3 number.  Once you are done with unemployment benefits, you simply vanish and become a ghost to U-3. This U-3 number is just one of the six ‘Alternative measures of labor underutilization’, the most striking, and accurate, of which is the U-6, a number which stands as of April 2011 at a seasonally adjusted 15.9 percent.  Even this U-6 number may not reflect the actual amount of people who are suffering un- or under- employment.  It is, after all, a figure that the government publishes, even though they use the U-3 number – a number which never hit ten percent because it is a psychological barrier that no one in control of analyzing and and publishing these figures could withstand politically if they wanted to be reelected or reappointed.  And because the government does take ownership of these numbers, I am going to go out on a limb and say our truer number reflecting un- or under- employment has remained perilously close to twenty percent).

Over the last two and a half years, I’ve cobbled together shards of extra money by selling books online, purchasing curiosities at thrift stores and hawking them on craigslist or ebay, generously being able to fill my gas tank with my dad’s Sam’s club membership, receiving a hundred or two from him as I spend time at his office and use his computer to search for jobs and run errands for him and act as a boy Friday.  Once, even, I found a ten dollar bill in a pair of pants at the Goodwill.  I felt like a scratch ticket winner.

I don’t live month-to-month, or often even week-to-week. Sometimes I live day-to-day, choosing on certain weeks to live without: phone or power or gas or water for a couple of days so I can scrape together enough cash to restart these services and then be able to: go online to search for jobs, see inside my apartment without a lantern, cook on my stove or take a shower.

Though I have so far managed to keep myself hoveled and Ramened, I have gotten to the point where I expect that sometime soon in my life I will take residence in a homeless shelter or a friend’s couch for an extended period of time.

It is, to be blunt, a mentally taxing endeavor and depression triggerer to wake up each morning with the first thing on one’s mind if the day will win or I will eke out a small victory against the day. On the good days, the day and I run neck and neck, on the bad days the day dunks me repeatedly in the deep end where I have no footing and can barely gulp a wet breath.

I have fallen deeply in love with Saturdays and Sundays not because they afford me time to enjoy myself, but only because I know on those two days that if I have any of my previously mentioned utilities in tact on a Saturday morning, I’ll have it at least until Sunday night because municipalities and cities do not schedule shut offs for weekends. Thank fucking god.

A few weeks ago, I hit a benchmark which, as I’m writing this, surprises me still. I have sent off exactly 400 resumes.  Though a handful have been for regular jobs in a warehouse or for driving gigs, most have been to magazines, newspapers, websites, journals, companies, individuals, institutions and other entities which have advertised a need for writers or editors.

I have applied across the state, across the country, even, on a few occasions, overseas. I have applied for job postings as an assistant writer for people who believe their life stories are ultra-intriguing and as a ghostwriter for people who have ‘a novel in mind’ but just don’t know how to get it down on paper. I even threw my hat into the ring for a job that involved writing ‘juicy stories.’ Had someone advertised a need to write a suicide note for fear of being misinterpreted legally and their estate thrown into interminable probate, I’d have sent off samples of the dandiest last-ever words.

I have reformatted my resume a dozen times to reshape it into what I think a particular firm would find most enticing. I have, since about submission 150, even included in my cover letter a note that I am willing to take the job and work gratis for the first month if only to prove my worth, to offer them up a voluntary probationary period in which they can assess if we’re a good fit or not.

I know just how desperate that must seem to the resume screener but desperation tugs at my thoughts only during the moments of the day I’m awake.

I have received a few dozen automated replies that an entity has received my resume, thanking me and that they will contact me if I fit a need they have. Out of those 400 resumes I have received no job offers and exactly, get this, one response.

It was, needless to say, a note saying I wasn’t quite the candidate they were looking for and was personalized in that way credit card offers are personalized – with the salutation ‘Dear Mr. Mark Sutz.’

Apparently, the other 399 submissions I made have disappeared into the same black hole in which float millions of lonely, uncoupled socks or into the same 900 mile high virtual slushpile in which linger dozens of my stories that literary magazines conspire to not read.

None of these other 399 entities has found it within their abilities to even send out a rejection email or letter.

I know I am not the only person in this boat, but those 399 non-responses have served to both build up a thick, cynical hide and redefined demoralization for me. I feel a camaraderie with people that I never would have four or five years ago.

I took my regular employment for granted and have now been firmly, absolutely, depressingly humbled.

I suspect I share versions of these feelings with many tens of thousands of anonymous worker bees across the country and stare with a similar stunned face into the mirror at night as I brush my teeth and wonder if I am indeed an unwitting character in an unscripted, unaired, unfilmed, unending episode of The Twilight Zone being sent into the future by a maniacal, time-bending puppeteer spirit of Rod Serling whose hand has crossed time and space and multiple dimensions and lodged itself perfectly up my ass and animates me by fingering my bowels.

Remove the hand, Rod.  Please.

I have, as many others also have done, reassessed every single choice I’ve made in my life that is remotely related to education and work. I have come to the conclusion that, somehow, in my acquisition of a BA and a Master’s, I utterly missed the boat. I feel, like Silent Cal said, an ‘educated derelict.’

Given the choice to go back in time just around high school, I’d place in my path a person who was a tradesman of sorts and a very persuasive one: maybe a plumber, a carpenter, an electrician, a taxidermist, a phlebotomist, a cryptologist, even a damn meteorologist, and I’d also give myself openmindedness enough to listen to that person and be taken on as an apprentice with him or her. I think I missed my ist somewhere along the way.

I suspect working with my hands would find me at least one more opportunity than moving bits of the alphabet around blank pages has found me.

I have thought greatly through my 400 blows about what the value of work is in our country, what the value of the worker is, what it means to negotiate a system which we have been told since we could speak is the greatest on the planet.

The only thing our country certainly owns as its unique brand is an ongoing lesson, perhaps even a type of indoctrination from early on, that rampant, unabashed capitalism is the only way out and the thing we all deserve.

There isn’t a kid in the country who doesn’t understand that if you buy a few lemons, some sugar, a stack of cups and a pitcher that you can’t double your money simply by laying out your cost per glass of lemonade on one side of a piece of paper and then doubling it on the other side then hawking it on the sidewalk on a hot summer day.

Making a profit is something that kids from Hawaii to Maine understand and are told is something uniquely, personally, rightfully American.

I do not disagree that it is a keen and necessary lesson, but it is not the only one.

A lesson they’re not told, one I wasn’t told by my father, a disciple of pure, unfettered Capitalism, is that behind this profit motive are dozens of other concerns, chiefly involving those profit-making things, human beings.

I won’t go into those dozens, but I’m pretty certain whoever is reading this might have been softened a bit to recognize a few of them by, if not personally experiencing the ride on our economic slide, at least knowing someone whom has been affected by it.

The sad thing is that even the dumbest, most selfish, fish-breathed, communicatively challenged bosses that exist (for me as recent as my penultimate superiors) understand how to eke out another point at the cost of a person.  To a degree, they’re as knowledgeable about the economy as Warren Buffett. Buy low, sell high.

Some of them should take an etiquette class and learn about responding to earnest inquiries for employment.

Come to think of it, that’s a job I’m well qualified for.  Hire me to write your rejection letters. At least those folks will know someone out there has heard them.

Unemployed and looking for an inexpensive way to not feel miserable and lonely? Richard Ford has edited a new anthology of short stories about work and class: Blue Collar, White Collar, No Collar. It features an array of established authors—Ann Beattie, Donald Barthelme, Junot Díaz, John Cheever, Joyce Carol Oates, Tobias Wolff, and more—but collecting a bunch of stories about work and slapping a light blue cover on it is nothing new. In 1999 Signet Classics published a similar compilation, The Haves and Have-Nots edited by Barbara Solomon, and in 2004 Random House published Labor Days—I think you can guess what those stories are about—edited by David Gates.

How is today different from yesterday? Well, to begin with, yesterday I had a job, and today I am unemployed.

I only got my job because I have a huge ass. I just realized this recently. Despite the four years I spent in college (where I majored in film; yes, I know, laugh it up), my super impressive bachelor’s degree, and winning personality, these are not what secured my job. It was my huge, fat ass and the fact that the person who interviewed me was a sex addict.

I spent most of the first year cringing in horror when this dude would make a pass at me; laughing loudly and protractedly when he asked me if it was true that young women preferred older men; ignoring comments about going to bars and the state of my underwear and whatever else drifted into his sex-addled mind. Finally asked if he’d appreciate me phoning his wife.

“Stacie,” he drew out, “I wasn’t serious, of course. It was all just a joke.”

“Yeah sure,” I said, jabbing my finger in his direction. “Just don’t let it happen again.”

OK, maybe it wasn’t exactly like that. But it was pretty damn close. It didn’t happen again, but a lot of other stupid shit did. One day I came to work to see the SEC (that’s the Securities and Exchange Commission, for you dreamers out there) raiding my building. I rolled down my window as a stern-faced officer made her way to my car.

“I work here,” I told her apologetically.

“You should probably go home,” she replied, not bothering to explain why. When a federal agent tells you to go home, you go home, no questions asked. The next day I called work to see if I still had a job. Surprisingly, I did. Even more surprising, I fucking went.

Another time I got into a huge fight with the owner, and he fired and rehired me in the span of five minutes. This guy was fond of calling people cock suckers and once stopped me in the hall to point out that Jesus Christ himself had chosen to etch his image into the engineer’s office door. Stacie Adams, smiling politely. I also worked with a guy who assured me that a race war was bound to happen within the next few years. He eventually had to go back ‘underground’ as he put it, which meant that he was finally caught in the one of the myriad of illegal activities in which he was involved, and this entailed him fleeing the state to avoid jail time.

Last week I received a pay check from the owner’s personal bank account. “Oh fuck,” I said to myself. That’s never good. I cashed it first thing, while he still had sufficient funds. Today he sat me down, took on a dour expression and said,

“Look Stacie…” I brought my head to my waiting hands.

“Oh god,” I moaned.

“It’s just for a week,” he insisted. Bankruptcy is never just for a week, I told myself.

“I can’t believe this,” I chanted over and over, until he wrote me another check.

So now I’m on the dole, like the British say. I’m a member of the non-working poor. I can do a lot of shit, just none of it officially. I’m what they used to call a dilettante, or, I guess even more hilariously, an autodidactic. I’m also a polymath, I know because I took a test on the internet.

I haven’t been out of a job since I graduated college. I’m still in shock. Some people tell me I should go back to school, and I refrain from slapping them because I’m a charitable person. I have no interest in adding to the already massive debt I accrued spending four years jawing about mise en scène and whether or not Charles Foster Kane was supposed to be a sympathetic character. That information will totally help me when I’m cold calling for Verizon or fighting with drunks in a bar.

I had a plan yesterday. Well, not a plan as much as a routine. Today is wide open, just waiting for me to take a running leap and fall right on my fucking face. My job sucked, but I had my own desk tucked way in the back where I could listen to Mr. Bungle and Queens of the Stone Age and Khanate, where no one gave me shit. I could wear whatever I wanted. I could flaunt my rat tail and tattoos and nobody thought twice. Those days are gone. Here come the fake smiles and awkward handshakes and bullshit questions about goals and strengths and weaknesses that no normal human being could answer with a straight face.

I was talking to my boyfriend about it. “Imagine what I’m going to look like by the end of next week,” I queried. He had a vision of a bedraggled, old-faced woman in a stained bath robe, with a massive dildo jutting out of the pocket, brandishing a glass of liquor at all times and crying mascara, lamenting the ‘good old days’ when the daily 9 to 5 didn’t entail fudding yourself insane to Maury Povich.

Is this destined to happen? I can’t say. I promise you, if it does, I will provide pictures.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away (from galaxies that are far, far away), I worked in IT.

I supported a massive financial software system at a billion dollar company that spanned several continents and nearly thirty countries.  I was part of a large international team that was constantly fixing, configuring, and testing the accounting system and then training employees on how to use it.*

From time to time, the software manufacturer would release a bigger and better version of the software package and when that happened, the company would ask us to upgrade the financial system to the latest and greatest version.

The accounting systems of billion dollar companies are monitored and maintained with mind-melting precision.  Whenever you change the tiniest configuration in the most insignificant area of an application, you need to present incontrovertible proof that you have tested the change exhaustively and that having done so, you would wager your children’s eyeballs that in making this teensy little change, you have not fucked up everything all to hell.

To change the whole blessed system is NASA-esque in its complexity.  Such an upgrade is a multi-million dollar project that requires roughly a year of planning, testing, re-configuring, data conversions, etc.

It’s a big fucking deal.

***

The upgrade of our company’s system was an international project coordinated from our corporate headquarters on the east coast, where I worked at the time.

After a year of preparation, we were ready to “go live.”  This meant that we would turn off the company’s financial and manufacturing systems at the end of business on a Friday, and then all hands in the IT department would work around the clock and through the weekend to install the new software, configure it, move all the old data into the new system, and then test the bejesus out of it to  ensure that when our European colleagues showed up for work on Monday morning, all systems were error-free and fully-functional.

The database guys would do their thing all night Friday and all day Saturday.  When the new software was installed, it was time for my team and me to do our thing.

On Sunday morning, my two co-workers and I would march into HQ with bucket-sized coffees and boxes of Dunkin’ Donuts and we would run through a series of test scripts over the course of a few hours.  We would have a TV on somewhere so we could watch football, as the test script process was fairly mindless by this point:  “Click this button,” <check>, “Open this window,” <check>, “Enter a transaction,” <check>, etc.

But as anyone who has ever owned a computer knows, shit will always crash at the worst possible time.

***

Brian, Hammer**, and I all performed similar roles within our team, each specializing in a different area of finance.  We had worked together for a couple of years and we were sarcastic, disrespectful, profane, and apathetic.  And that was just towards the employees we were hired to support.

We arrived on Sunday morning at around nine a.m., ready to go.

The project manager greeted us with, “there’s been a little problem guys.”

He advised that late on Saturday evening, a rather significant step in the upgrade had gone quite disastrously.  He further advised that the delay in troubleshooting this issue had pushed the entire project plan back several hours.

He suggested that we go get some breakfast and be back at noon.

***

Upon arrival at the Irish pub down the street, we noticed that the Sunday brunch menu included drink specials.

“What time do you guys start serving,” asked Brian.

“Eleven,” said our waiter.

At approximately 11:00:15 a.m., the pints hit our table, and two subsequent rounds arrived in quick succession.

We were pretty comfortable in the pub, and with the beers going down like water, we decided to check in with the upgrade team and make sure they still wanted us back at noon.  Hammer called in to the office.

“What?  You’re kidding?  That’s horrible,” Hammer said into his phone while smiling and giving us a thumbs up.  “Two o’clock?  Yeah, OK, we’ll see you then.”  He hung up.

“Yeah, they’re fucked.  Let’s get another round.”

***

We finished a few more rounds and then I opted to run home to check in on my dogs.  Hammer and Brian relocated to another pub near our office, and I agreed to meet them there for one last round before we’d all go to work at two o’clock.

As I drove home from breakfast, it occurred to me that I had no business driving.

It was about 12:30 p.m.

***

When I arrived back at the pub an hour later, Hammer and Brian were steaming drunk.  The empty glasses in front of them told a story that their glassy eyes and slurs confirmed.

I had quite a bit of catching up to do.

“Hey, can we get some Jameson’s chilled over here?” I called out to the bartender before even removing my jacket and sitting down.

By the time I had satisfied myself that I was sufficiently caught up with my colleagues, we learned that while some progress on the upgrade had been made, delays persisted.  Nonetheless, we should report back to the office for a team meeting.

This would have been an appropriate time for us to order a couple baskets of fries and Cokes to sober up before returning to work.

Instead, we agreed, “yeah, we have time for one more.”

***

When we arrived back at the office, the rest of the team was gathered in a semi-circle of swivel chairs in a large, open area of the floor.  The project manager’s horrified expression indicated that he understood how we had spent our day.  Certainly the odor of booze was a strong indicator but if anyone harbored any lingering doubts, it was likely removed when Brian kicked Hammer’s ankle from behind as he walked towards a chair, sending all of Hammer’s two hundred plus pounds crashing to the floor in front of the whole team.

Our total inability to stop laughing at this seemed to somewhat irritate our sober colleagues.

We were advised that the issue would likely soon be resolved and that our testing should begin shortly.  However, the risk of failure was sufficiently high that the vice president of our department was driving in from the suburbs to receive a full briefing.  Should the upgrade fail, he would be required to face the CEO in the morning, hat in hand, to explain why millions of dollars had just been urinated out the window.  In such dire circumstances, terminations would almost certainly ensue.

Therefore our inebriation was met with some concern by both our supervisor and the project manager.

It was suggested that we get some food, in the somewhat likely event that we find ourselves in a team meeting with the vice president.

“Hey, what about the pub at the Marriott next door?” I asked.

***

Our boss was a good-natured, quiet type who generally gave us wide leeway to do our jobs, so long as we eventually got our work done.  However, in the throes of a disaster-plagued upgrade, his patience was thinner than the ice on which we were skating.

He enthusiastically discouraged us from visiting the pub at the Marriott for dinner and suggested we repair to our cubicles to come up with a better choice for dinner- preferably a place without a liquor license.

It was on the way to our cubicles that our vice president arrived on the floor, almost bumping into us.

He took one look at us, shook his head, and said, “You guys should go get some food,” before storming down the hall in search of our boss.

***

While we sat in our cubicles, trying to resolve the food dilemma, Hammer and I indulged in a name-calling contest that ended when he abruptly leapt out of his chair and dove into my cubicle, pile driving me out of my chair, onto the floor, and practically folding me in half.

It felt like my spine was going to snap and so I unleashed a torrent of screams and profanity that generally accompany particularly graphic murders.

Our boss soon careened around the corner to see what had happened.  Unbeknown to the three of us, he, the vice president, and the project manager were in the room across the hall from us, with the door open.  They had been listening to the entire incident.

He glared at us, suggesting that we find something to do that didn’t involve wrestling, and retreated back into his meeting, probably five years older.

***

As we sat in our cubicles, twiddling our thumbs waiting for our blood alcohol contents to decrease, we still had no plan for food.  Brian had been asking where we wanted to eat, but we were ignoring him.  Just because.

Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the huge un-potted plant fly over the wall from Brian’s cubicle into Hammer’s.  It was a volleyball-sized mass of leaves, vines, and a large clump of roots caked by about five pounds of dry soil that seemed to fly in slow motion.

When Brian inherited his cubicle, there were four potted plants hanging along the side.  These plants were likely never watered, and I doubt if anyone had ever paid attention to them.  Until then.

The plant hit Hammer’s bald head with a dusty thud, sending dirt and leaves everywhere- all over his keyboard, his desk, his clothing, and his floor.

Before I could fully process what had just happened, Hammer calmly stood up, walked over to Brian’s cubicle, removed the rack containing the remaining three plants, and hurled them at Brian, point blank.

Dried soil and profanity flew, and Brian looked like someone had just dumped a wheelbarrow full of dirt on him.  He sprung up and advanced on Hammer.

I had just jumped up and ran over to assess the disaster, when our boss again came storming out of the conference room.

“What the fuck are you guys doing?” he demanded as his final nerves unraveled.  We stood there weaving, slurring, and blaming each other.

Then, releasing his hands from Hammer’s neck, Brian, drunk as a hobo and covered in dirt, looked around and replied without a shred of irony, “You know, Chief- I can’t help but feel partially responsible for this.”

We were asked to leave the building until the executives completed their meeting.

We decided that our only viable option was the bar at the Marriott next door.

***

At ten p.m., we had yet to begin our testing, and the three of us were drinking at the hotel bar, waiting for them to call us back to work.

Suddenly our boss stormed in, pointed at the village of empty beer bottles in front of us and inquired why we were not answering our phone.  He had apparently been calling us for the better part of an hour before finally put two and two together and walking over to the nearest bar to find us.

He directed us to put our beers down and get back to the office, toute de suite.

Brian gamely offered that we’d meet him over there as soon as we finished our beers.

To say that this comment did not go over well would be a spectacular understatement.

We weaved back to the office and began working.

***

Somehow the testing was completed without further incident and the system was turned on just in time for our European colleagues to log in on Monday morning.  Despite all of the excitement, the upgrade was ultimately a success and our group was commended for our diligence and perseverance through the challenges we had endured during the weekend.

Our team even threw a party to celebrate going live.

Our boss eventually forgave us, although on his final day with the company, he admitted that the one time that he ever got really mad at us was when he had to go pull us out of the bar to do our jobs and we said we’d be over as soon as we finished our beers.

I think back on that comment from time to time and feel shitty and embarrassed about how selfish and immature we were that day.  We were disrespectful to our boss, to our colleagues, and to ourselves.  I would have to guess that most people in our shoes would have made very different choices that day- ones that didn’t involve 12 hour drinking binges, wrestling during meetings, and office vandalism.   In fact, when I look back on all the problems that occurred that day and take an honest look at my part in everything, I too can’t help but feel partially responsible.





*To this day I have very little understanding of computers, networks, servers, and the like.  Back then, I didn’t know a UNIX script from a movie script.  I could not install printers, and when people would call my desk looking for help mapping to a network drive, I would change my voice, adopt a vague foreign accent, and replied “Joe’s not here.  You call someone else,” before hanging up and going to lunch.

**Names have been changed

This past February, at this year’s AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) conference in Chicago, many of the overheard conversations did not involve the usual topics—Where’s the best place in the city to score a discount bottle of Booker’s bourbon?Do you know anyone who brought a bag of weed?Let’s get drunk/stoned, sit in a circle in someone’s hotel room and read some poetry/fiction/creative nonfiction, then seduce our former Russian Lit/Forms/Creative Writing Pedagogy professor.

This was actually the second time I’d gotten such an email, and in case you’ve never gotten one, here are the distinguishing characteristics: it is sent around 11:30 in the morning by the editor-in-chief’s assistant; it reads something cryptic like “All-staff meeting in the conference room NOW; there is often a red exclamation point attached to it. This is probably the only email you’ll ever receive that actually warrants that plaintive little symbol of distress.

Then there is the meeting itself, in which the editor-in-chief rushes in near tears (if you work at a women’s magazine anyway, I wonder how the male EICs do it? They probably act more grumpy than sad, if I may make a totally unqualified guess) and makes her announcement. “X Magazine is over!” or else, “Z Magazine has ceased to exist,” making it sound almost like a biological process that simply couldn’t be helped, as if the glossy publication had just turned over and sighed and stopped breathing and no one could resuscitate it.

If you are 34 weeks pregnant, don’t get your health insurance from said job, and were ready for a change anyway, I have to admit, being laid-off isn’t all that bad (besides the whole paycheck situation). A neighbor told me that the German company she worked for didn’t even let her work in the last two months of her pregnancy, insisting on beginning their generous and humane maternity leave package then. Germany, people, thus proves itself to be a thousand times more civilized than we are. Because I have to say, these last two months of pregnancy are a terrific time to not work. I can now safely admit that I wouldn’t have been terribly productive in an office right now anyway (but a very productive freelancer please send leads), spending most of my time futilely seeking elusive comfort from that torture device known as an office chair, getting up to pee every twenty minutes or so, distractedly looking at car seats online.

Now that I’m home all day, my day goes a little something like this:

1) Visit the Y, where the swimming lanes teem with whomever else doesn’t work on a weekday — Fellow fireds? Nightshift waiters? –, where the prenatal yoga classes overflow with out-of-work freelancers who congregate afterwards to bemoan the sudden dearth of clients, where the elliptical machines swish soothingly behind the dire news bleated out by mini-screens of CNN. Pregnant ladies: swimming and yoga really help those lower back pains!

2) Nap.

3) Look for work, which means sending out pitches (here was last week’s winner – an idea for a story about the city’s newly unemployed, which was answered with the news that the pitched publication was going out of business and that the editor whom I had contacted would soon be among us), trolling the strange terrain of Craig’s List gigs, getting distracted by some increasingly bizarre idea for a career change — Maybe I’ll research Library Science School, I’ll think, or else, NYC Police retire at 55? Hm! – and finally finding myself on a site about cloth diapers, blinking and confused and missing chunks of time like an alien abductee.

4) Nap.

5) Meet another unemployed person for lunch or coffee, share complaints, panic over having spent $6 on soup and water.

6) Start to feel guilty and unproductive, work on novel. Or else, start to work on novel and then realize that the kitchen floor is disgusting and must be mopped THIS SECOND or that a certain cabinet NEEDS to be cleaned out, etc.

7) Greet gainfully employed husband when he comes home with the unbridled enthusiasm of a puppy who needs badly to pee. Which I do.

Employed people, I’m not trying to brag.

Also, please send money.

Thanks.