Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Loser is Employed

Though the Complete and Total Loser has a retail job that is humiliatingly below him he realizes that it is, nonetheless, a job and one that he will probably not lose unless he abuses a coworker or a customer, which he has no intention of doing.
Being employed in hard times feels odd to him; he's usually on the other side of the recession mirror, watching others laughingly gripe about their jobs as they dine in restaurants and shop in department stores for luxury items.
In the early 1980s, the Loser's first year out of college, there was a relatively short but severe recession. Ever timid companies cut jobs and the Loser, whose ignorance of how to find work was unforgivable even considering his youth and inexperience, would put on the one necktie he owned and a shabby sport coat and march into gleaming structures where he would get no farther than the reception desk. They would give him a generic application and he would fill it out. Days later, he would call, as his mother advised, to show his burning interest in working for Company X where a secretary would say someone would call him if they had any interest.
Weeks oozed into months. The days grew short. By midwinter, the Loser's routine was to awake around 11 p.m., shower, dress, get the day's newspaper, return to his apartment and eat a simple yet filling breakfast.
His door knocking had evolved to making telephone calls, and he made rules about when to call in those days long before common Internet use. No calls on Mondays; people are just getting back to their workweek and may be irritable. Calling on a Tuesday or a Wednesday was fine, but not in the morning. Too many people skip breakfast and aren't focused on talking to outsiders. People eat lunch at different times of the day and few want to be disturbed immediately after a meal, so before two was out. From 3:30 on they were wrapping up their day and looking forward to leaving work. That was true for all of Thursday afternoons and all day Friday. Weeks with or near holidays were best skipped.
The end result was that the Loser had exactly three hours out of the entire week during which to make telephone calls to prospective employers, and three p.m. was his own prime napping time. The continual rejection comforted him a little by validating how tough it was out there but it wounded him more, sapping the little self confidence he was born with. By the time he got a decently paying job—manual labor in a liquor factory—he was so beaten down that he's still astonished that he has a job when others do not.

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