Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Outside the Alexandria Safe Zone*

For the last several months my wife and I had begun to dare to hope that our tiny foothold back into the world of relative economic security would last.

Sadly it has not.  

Effective immediately I am unemployed again  Lost one of my two, low-wage "paper route" jobs -- this one is going to hurt because this was the one with an income that actually amounted to anything and provide my family with health insurance.  

So once again we are cast out.

For those keeping score at home, this is the fifth time I've been laid off from a job in the last six and a half years.

I must confess it's taking a toll.  

As we speak, Blue Gal is once again saddled up and doing battle with formidably inept staff of the Illinois health care exchange.  So far this morning she has had to repeatedly go over line-staff's heads and verbally correct their records, which they pretty thoroughly fucked up the last time we were in this place, and which they never bothered to correct because, uh, reasons.  Also Governor Hedgefund has already made it very clear that he think the poors of this state have had it far too good for far too long which is why he and his staff are working tirelessly to monkey-wrench or eradicate virtually every program for the poor, the elderly, the disabled, children and the unemployed.

Thank goodness BG is a meticulous record-keeper and has more patience on her worst day than I have on my best.

Over the years, I have gotten very philosophical about being fired.  Very good at it.  I always begin a job with enthusiasm. I always give it all that I have, cheerfully, and when I have a little down time, I check out what my colleagues are up to and usually end up helping them out as well.

But when it comes to keeping a job, in the end I know none of that will weigh in my favor in the slightest, so I have become an acute observer of the small details with which each termination is carried out, noting their similarities and differences.  A superannuated writerly habit, which would be useful if I lived in a universe where it is possible for me to make a living with my pen.

But I don't live in that universe.  

And after ten years behind this keyboard (ten years this month, actually), while many readers have been incredibly kind and supportive and generous, the one thing of which I am absolutely certain is that I will never make anything close to a "living" by doing this thing I love and and that I do exceptionally well.  However, after five layoffs in just over six years, it is equally obvious that I cannot make a living doing many of the other things that I do exceptionally well, which leaves me with...what?

Old writer's habits, mostly.  And so, as the terminators once again call me in and close the door and go through the motions, I already know many things.

I know that by the the time HR shows up, nothing is negotiable. I know that I am dealing with an errand boy sent by grocery clerks to collect a bill.  That is all.   

Every decision about the terms of my termination have already been made, far away and without me. On three occasions, the terminator has been close to tears, reassuring me that my work has been exemplary (it always is)  that if there were any way they could keep me they would.

I know that it is pointless to ask why certain paste-eaters, apple polishers and various other forms of human ballast are keeping their jobs while I am being let go.  No one sitting in that room is going to answer that question.  

I know that the terminator is doing a distasteful job.  That I'm probably the fourth of fifth on their list and that firing someone is shitty work,  But I also know that next month, and next year, the person sitting across from me will have a job, and insurance, and a roughly predictable future and I will not. So I'm polite, because what's the use of arguing with some gofer from the Shawnee Land and Cattle Company?

I know that my colleagues are going to be well and truly freaked out by my firing, because if it can happen to me, then the plague is inside the perimeter and no one is safe.  Well, no one but certain paste-eaters, apple polishers and various other forms of human ballast who will have a job, and insurance, and a roughly predictable future until the end of days.

And because not many years ago I worked every day steeped in the facts and figures of labor markets and economic development, I also know what my odds are of ever coming back from this.  I know that that just two or three layoffs in six years on a resume is nearly always a career death sentence, especially if you're over, say, 45.  Which I am.  

I know that at some point, it stops mattering how brilliant or capable you are, or how hard you try, or how many doors you knock on, or how much you could contribute.  Your time is over and if you are not part of a Club, you are on your own and out in the cold from now on.

So imagine my delight when I cracked open my digital New York Times to find the Most Unaccountable Paste Eater in American Journalism making his daily bread by once again decrying the Lack of Accountability, among the Poors:
The health of society is primarily determined by the habits and virtues of its citizens. In many parts of America there are no minimally agreed upon standards for what it means to be a father. There are no basic codes and rules woven into daily life, which people can absorb unconsciously and follow automatically.
Reintroducing norms will require, first, a moral vocabulary...
Imagine my untrammeled joy at reading the undisputed motherfucking king of Pathological Both Siderism earning that sweet, sweet New York Times dollar by lecturing everyone in Murrica on the horrors of not being judgmental:  
These norms weren’t destroyed because of people with bad values. They were destroyed by a plague of nonjudgmentalism, which refused to assert that one way of behaving was better than another. People got out of the habit of setting standards or understanding how they were set.
Imagine the heights of rapture to which I ascended when I read David Brooks -- who has never taken ownership or responsibility for a single syllable of the pro-war, hippie-punching, revisionist schlock he peddles to pay the rent -- demanding that "people" be held responsible for, uh, "stuff".
Next it will require holding people responsible. People born into the most chaotic situations can still be asked the same questions: Are you living for short-term pleasure or long-term good? Are you living for yourself or for your children? Do you have the freedom of self-control or are you in bondage to your desires?

Next it will require holding everybody responsible. America is obviously not a country in which the less educated are behaving irresponsibly and the more educated are beacons of virtue. America is a country in which privileged people suffer from their own characteristic forms of self-indulgence: the tendency to self-segregate, the comprehensive failures of leadership in government and industry. Social norms need repair up and down the scale, universally, together and all at once
One of the few upsides to ten years of futilely documenting the fictions and frauds of David Brooks in epic detail,  is that when Mr. Brooks writes -- 
People sometimes wonder why I’ve taken this column in a spiritual and moral direction of late.
-- I don't have to wonder.  Not for a minute.

Because I know that every time he has tried to sell his brand of toxic waste using facts or math or history, Mr. Brooks has gotten his ass sawed off and handed back to him on the good china.  So, in the back nine of his immensely profitable career, Mr. Brooks has taken refuge in the con man's oldest and most reliable redoubt.

The pulpit.

But of course, my opinions are just those of a recently unemployed, middle-aged liberal who has never had so much as a letter printed in the New York Times.  A tired, recently unemployed, middle-aged liberal. Very tired. with some serious thinking to do about what to do next, so you might not hear from me for a few days.

So let me leave you with a sampling from all the prominent people on Twitter who, if they knew I existed, would think I am out of my mind:

*The Alexandria Safe Zone from The Walking Dead:
The Alexandria Safe-Zone, or just Alexandria, is a few blocks of cleared streets in Alexandria, Virginia, about six miles from Washington, D.C. When Rick Grimes' survivor group arrived, Douglas Monroe stated that the community had existed for less than a year. To date, this is the longest lasting location the survivors have lived in, with a lifespan of almost three years.


Green Eagle said...

I know it doesn't pay the bills, but I just want to say that I read a lot of blogs every day, and I believe you are in the very top rank in terms of what you have to say. Thanks for taking the time to do it.

Anonymous said...

Crap driftglass, that's lousy news. Just want to re-iterate my support and please keep the blog going. Your commentary is the smartest, best stuff around.

Ormond Otvos said...

Move to California. Apparently everyone else is.

We're done with winters and floods.

See ya. I'm serious.

Kathleen O'Neill said...

"Advice" is probably the last thing you want to hear. But as I read your post I wondered if you've ever considered starting your own freelance writing business. I've heard it can be lucrative. You've got the smarts, the experience, the class, the chops - though I can understand why you probably just need to be still for a minute or so. I know you would succeed, if that is something that interests you.

You are the best on the blogs, Mr. DG, and I think BG is just a sweetheart. Prayers for you and your family (I'm taking this comment to a spiritual and moral direction), and please, do not drink the conventional wisdom kool aid about prospects for success after a certain age. Those rules are written by the bastards you expose every day. It's what the bastards want you to think. Don't let them win.

That is all.

pdore said...

Many good wishes you you and your family. You do great work and hopefully the crap times will come to an end soon.

Alex Malecki said...

I appreciate all the work you do on this webpage each week, and have sent a much deserved donation. I'm lucky enough to have parents who can help support me, allowing me to pass a little of that on. Good luck.

Frank Shannon said...

I'll pray for you. I wish I could send money, but my situation is precarious as well.

Anonymous said...

It sucks stepping out of a shell and liking people. When they hurt you hurt, I wish you all well.

The tweets read like begged empty Ebay reviews.

Cliff said...

I was just listening to an economist talk today about how the neoliberal economy is moving into an eliminationist phase - that is, getting rid of the schmucks like you and me and my parents, who have the bad manners not to be born with stock options.

I'm sending you some money, because I still have a job but I know the knives are out for me as well.

blackdaug said...

Most of all I hate that Bobo and his ilk constantly put me in the position of wishing ill on others, but is it really schadenfreude to want to see them laid as low as they have driven so many of us?
I am the same age as you, with roughly the same skill set and am now moving into the liquidation stage of sustenance before I will apparently be forced to assume my final position as greeter at Walmart or some such shit.
Reading and hearing life long members of the club blaming the least powerful members of society for the chaos they themselves have wrought over decades, from atop their apparently inexhaustible piles of money has made me at times physically ill.
Fist they came for the pensions, but I was young, wasn't union, and still had my starter home value and 401k so...
Then they came for the home equity, but I was too broke for any kind of decent mortgage was driven to rely on my 401k so...
Then they short sold the market, crashed it, and burned both my equity and my 401k to the ground while they collected their barely taxed hedge fund bonuses and collapsed the whole shit house down escaping on parachutes made of our middle class jobs..
The day St. Ronnie was elected was the worst day this country ever experienced outside of war time, and his rat fucking scion have been stealing us blind as fast as they can ever since.
....but then to have them blame it on us?! Every fucking day! and get paid to do it...
If Sherman would have burned every city to the ground, made their flag illegal and codified their forever status as traitors....Bobo wouldn't be collecting a paycheck today.
The right is the fatal cancer of this democracy. They wont be happy until we are every one their slaves, and then until we just die off I guess.
Hang in there brother, they may be approaching a critical mass of treason and stupidity that even their mindless followers might not be able to stomach.
Here is something for the jar.
It's not much, but I know you guys have kids.

Kevin Holsinger said...

Good morning, Mr. Glass.

"A superannuated writerly habit, which would be useful if I lived in a universe where it is possible for me to make a living with my pen.

But I don't live in that universe.

And after ten years behind this keyboard (ten years this month, actually), while many readers have been incredibly kind and supportive and generous, the one thing of which I am absolutely certain is that I will never make anything close to a "living" by doing this thing I love and and that I do exceptionally well."

And you're certain of this how? What, specifically, is it about your writing that makes it impossible to live off of?

If it's that your preferred nail to pull on is David Brooks, and if he truly is beyond removal, then choose between that nail and a profitable career tugging on looser nails.

Enjoy your day.

Mister Roboto said...

I have a very good friend who also has twenty-plus years of experience with the world of "real jobs", and the more she and other sources tell me about it, the more I can only see a fundamentally doomed society. If that makes me a bad or inadequate person in some way, well then, I guess I'm just going to have to live with that.

MedicineMan55 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MedicineMan55 said...

DG: Fuck... and now I've actually read your post. Very sorry to hear about this latest round of employment difficulties. I wish there was something I could do for you, but other than the occasional contribution I am only a spectator. Hang in there Driftglass.

--Nonny Mouse

Mister Roboto said...

Though on a more practical note, my friend who I mentioned is now parlaying her substantial skills into an Internet freelancing gig of which she has managed to make a fairly good go. I'm guessing your skills are even more substantial than hers, so that may be something for you to at least consider. And regarding health insurance, I sincerely hope that Obamacare turns out to be more useful and helpful to people such as you and your family than my initial evaluation suspected it might be.