I still can't believe I am unemployed. It was almost ten years ago that a woman in charge of an employment agency took a look at the math scores I posted on a test she gave me and suggested I try for the price reporter position at the Chicago Board Options Exchange. The jobs I had before then were not fun and not very good. A day labor stint, a week at a cafe (ironically a block from the CBOE, but at the time I knew nothing about it), a couple of months at a Woolworth's...not good times, not good times. So I didn't honestly expect to get the CBOE job when I applied, especially after the math test I had to take for the position. Difficult? No, not at all, simple addition and subtraction of fractions. So what was the problem? I didn't finish the test in the alloted 20-minute time limit because I spent the night before with my girlfriend. Hey, it was the first night I ever spent with a woman, and I wasn't going to miss it for anything.
Despite the incomplete test, I was hired anyway. I held on to that job for my life, especially after moving out on my own a couple of years after starting there. I really needed the job then, because I wasn't about to move back with my uncle and his family. Too crowded. But my mistake was not attending school while working, and now that I have been laid off, I'm basically in the same situation that I was in when I first got the job in February 1995: An uneducated black man looking for work that won't require me to do any actual labor, because I'm so out of shape that physical work isn't an option. The only difference is, I have some work experience for my resume. Big whoop.
But it's a strange feeling, being jobless. I'm thinking in my mind what's going to happen when my rent comes around at the end of the month. I will be ok this first time, but what if I'm out of work for a significant amount of time? This was part of the bad feeling I was trying to avoid last year when I asked first "Karen," then "Sarah" if I could move in with them when I lost my job. At least if I had those plans, I could concentrate on the move and knowing that I had someone that was going to be there for me and help me find work in that town, plus I would be splitting bills and rent. Now? Well, I went to the unemployment office Monday; that went smoothly, took about an hour. I'll find out what my benefits will be through the mail. I looked on some online sites for work, but there's always something just not right about the data entry positions I'm focusing on finding. One job seemed perfect but was too far out of the city, and I don't drive, so the job has to be within public transportation limits. Another job required a degree to apply even though it sounded like something I could do with ease. Another had hours that would just barely overlap with the evening classes I'm already committed to for the next semester. Another was a desk job at a university in the city, which certainly sounded like something I could do...but it was third shift, 11P to 7A. Yikes! There's no way I could get my body used to working at 2A and not sleeping.
In other words, it ain't going good so far.
Last Friday was my last day. It was very weird knowing that a lot of people that I said goodbye to and shook hands and exchanged phone numbers and e-mail addresses with were folks that I would never see again. It was more significant than leaving grade school or high school because of the time frame. Ten years at this place. Some people were there when I started and are still there now. Some people I saw every single day, and now they are totally out of my life. Some people I saw every single day, and never said a word to them, yet I will miss them anyway. It's something that probably hasn't even hit me yet, what with all the uncertainty about my next step. But after a few weeks I expect the withdrawal from the routine I went through for so long to really hit me. Right now it just feels like I'm on vacation, because I didn't leave the house then either. But I'm never returning to 400 S. LaSalle, not in a week or two weeks, not ever. And it's not sad, it's not making me angry, it's just...very weird. I'm ready to win Powerball right now, so that I won't have to worry about my future anymore. Boy, what perfect timing that would be.
Oh, and I'm not bashful about begging...if anyone has a job for an uneducated black man, hit me up.