I’ve been thinking about Hamlet lately. After losing my job (I worked at Borders which recently filed for bankruptcy, forcing them to close the store where I worked.), I’ve become despondent and self-absorbed as my job prospects keep dwindling. It’s bad enough trying to enter the work force in such a bad economy, but since I was employed with Borders for twelve years, the application and interview process has been demeaning and demoralizing. Wading through those personality tests that are supposed to give the employer a peek into my psyche, has filled me with enough cynicism to last a lifetime. I’m expected to answer these inane questions, supposedly separating the mentally fit candidates from the drooling psychopaths with the blood stains on the overalls. Is the person who came up with this psychological test an asshole? Strongly Agree? Agree? Disagree? Strongly Disagree? Seriously, what’s the purpose here? Is this screening process really going to determine the person who best fits in a busy and interdependent workplace environment? Hell, John Wayne Gacy was a chatty extrovert who happened to keep dead bodies in a crawl space. I may be a bit of a misanthrope, but my attic and basement are both free of skeletons.
After subjecting myself to a few of these absurd tests that go on for pages, I still have no job. And to that statement, my bank account strongly agrees. It’s been a nightmare. I filled out over a dozen applications and I still haven’t received anything but the perfunctory thank you for your interest. Well, with one exception. Wegman’s did invite me to a second interview, albeit a part-time position, but I guess I didn’t wow them with my knowledge of canned goods or the proper temperature to store a leg of lamb. I would have gladly stood and given them an improvised Wegman’s cheer inside the cramped room, but these two barely twenty-somethings conducting the interview seemed more intent on how I would handle certain situations, i.e. what would I do if molten lava were to suddenly erupt in the bakery department? Maybe they thought I wasn’t a team player when I answered I would throw my body on top of the scorching rock. It also appears that I ’m not even qualified to gather up the carts from the parking lot, a sad testament to where my life has gone since I was rudely deposited into the ranks of the unemployed.
Once again I find myself cast about from one online application to the next. Alas, these cruel slings and arrows.
My employment, or more accurately, my unemployment saga gets worse. I attended a job fair arranged by my local congressman. Between balancing pork projects, he found time to gather together some of the biggest employers in the Lehigh Valley for the sole purpose of laughing uncontrollably at my resumé. I guess I should have padded it more, adding experiences that would have made me more attractive. I could have said I was once considered the best telephone lineman in the business, someone who won recognition for their outstanding shimmy, a true artist when it comes to racing up poles. Unfortunately, there isn’t much call from an expert shimmier since cell towers now dominate the landscape.
I left the job fair with a few leads, deciding to concentrate on a company that does the hiring for one of the largest companies in the world. Landing a job with this company was a virtual guarantee for life. After losing two jobs to the digital revolution, I wanted to latch on to something that was going to remain viable in the future, and this company offered that opportunity.
I drove to their offices with the required documents, only to be shuttled to some room where I had to watch cheesy videos explaining the rigors of the job and who is most likely to hauled away on molestation charges. Following that tutorial, I was given a brief aptitude test, and then asked to submit some saliva so they could analyze it in their handy do-it-yourself drug kits courtesy of Keith Richards and Company.
To my surprise I passed and was told I could start on May 16. This was great except that the shift offered was 7:30 pm to 4:30 am. Yikes! This would cut into my social calendar; if I had one, that is, but it would also interfere with my freelancing work that put a little money into my pocket each month. I told the man behind the desk I would think about it.
Since no one else was knocking down my door, I called back and said I would take the job. I was told by a woman on the other end of the line that the May 16 job was filled and that I could begin a new assignment on May 23. That too would be the 7:30 to 4:30 shift, she said. I agreed and took down instructions on where to go and what palms to grease so I could snag the prime daytime shift.
This left me with about a week off before I would embark on the next phase of my work life. With a new job safely in my back pocket, I could travel or work on that graphic novel that has been sitting on my computer for a year. And just when I thought I had a blissful week, the trouble began.
(I will continue this story in the next blog entry.)
My watch has stopped and I’m frantic. Pretty soon people are going to begin their ascent, and I run the risk of being late. That’s nothing new for me; I hold a master’s degree in tardiness, a foible that has left me the object of scorn at family gatherings since it’s hard to sit down at a Thanksgiving dinner without a turkey. With such a shoddy track record, I’m relegated to bringing the lima beans to the annual gathering.
I peek through the blinds to see if any of my neighbors are starting their climb toward the heavens. I wonder if Mrs. Abernathy is going to bring her poodle with her since those two are inseparable, the proud pair parading around Vicksburg in matching outfits. I can’t see her leaving Peaches behind to face the Tribulation. She wouldn’t stand for any rampaging demon from some fiery pit mussing Peaches’ coat, putting her out of contention for a best-in-show medal at the Vicksburg Dog Show. If she’s heading up with Peaches in tow, replete with matching wings and halos, I just don’t want to get stuck behind any animal if it’s a long ascent.
I cautiously open the door, letting a sliver of light creep into my apartment. I should embrace this moment, but I’m not sure how to prepare for such a life-altering event. The Rapture presents some problems, not the least of which is what to wear. I don’t want to be seen in Heaven with some grimy sweatpants, the drawstring fraying which significantly raises the possibility of unintentionally mooning someone in the Seraphim. However, I don’t want to be shoved into a three-piece suit that will make the afterlife uncomfortable, especially during those infinite days of summer. Or will I experience seasons? Will I never see the gentle arc of a maple leaf as it makes its climatic descent onto the forest floor? It’s certainly a lot to digest right now. As for the clothes, I think I’ll opt for Rapture casual.
Now, the Rapture should be a cause for joy, but my mind is fretting over the people I may meet as I make that journey. My ex-girlfriend, the one who dumped me for a swarthy pawnbroker, is bound to be among the lifted. She’s been born again so many times, her birth certificate has stretch marks. I don’t think she’ll be too happy to see me, though. In her estimation, I didn’t have Rapture credentials. In fact, she often said that I could have been a proprietor of a fruit stand in the Garden of Eden.
Still, I want to be a good Rapture ready. I think I led a good life and believe I can contribute something useful. I’m handy with a trumpet.
I race around my apartment searching for a clock. As I turn on the television, the digital display clearly reads 5:45 pm. I glance out the window and don’t see any movement. Perhaps I need a better perspective, the Rapture too big to be contained by my narrow view.
I open the door and the sun is begin to dip behind the mountains. I shade my eyes as I see a figure walking toward me. Emerging from this sunset is Mrs. Abernathy, her ever-present Peaches walking at her heels.
“Aren’t we the cutest pair of cherubs you ever seen in your life,” said Mrs. Abernathy, encouraging Peaches to wiggle his halo as she passes.
I turn around and walk back into my apartment, Peaches' shrill bark ringing in my ears.
I have to write. It seemed as soon as I could formulate a sentence, I was thinking about a way to express myself that didn't involve the foreboding task of verbal communication. I was much more comfortable within the confines of a sentence, taking care to formulate my thoughts in a coherent pattern. I liked the precision of it, each word neatly stacked to convey my exact thoughts and emotions.
I began to dedicate myself to writing, accumulating stories that filled numerous Big Chief tablets.
Armed with a near-Dickensian amount of material, I made the rounds of the publishers, dutifully sending my manuscripts with the aspirations of joining the fraternity of published writers.
This went on for a number of years, the long procession of rejection letters quietly filed in the back of a briefcase that I received upon graduation from college.
Despite the Sisyphean challenge, I kept climbing that mountain in the hope that one day I would reach the summit. Still, no matter how hard I pushed, it seemed the traditional route was blocked, and that I would never see my stories in print.
But along came the internet (thank you, Al Gore) and the playing field changed. The possibility of bypassing publishing houses and getting a book into print electronically was a viable option.
So here I am, still dedicated to the craft and wearing the battle scars to prove it. It's been a long journey, but I'm still going at it, and will be forever beholden to that mistress.
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