Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Rich/Poor Gap and the Unemployment Benefits Are Cancelled

Back in my dark past, when I was a starving artist, I was a temp through a staffing agency. I got a long-term position with a company in Dallas, doing data entry, light administrative stuff, reading contracts, and all that mind-numbing business. There's a moral to the story, and it's relevant to the politics of the moment.

I used to park my car at the far edge of the parking lot, so I could get just a little more walking in my day. The local head of the office, a vice-president in something-or-other, had a reserved parking spot right up as close to the door as one could get. Her spot was better than the handicapped parking. I walked past her very fancy Jaguar every day and wondered why anyone would pay so much money for such a silly thing as a car.

I still drive the same car. 2002 Hyundai Accent, my dad bought for me new in 2002 for about twelve grand (thanks, dad! It's been running like a champ!). I went in to be a long-term temporary employee. I was taunted with the specter of permanent employment, but this was all a tease. For whatever reason, the months ground on, and I was locked in a permanent temporary position.

I remember the day there was a fire in the office. A very small electrical fire, immediately caught by the fire alarm system and easily doused by the fire department once they arrived, caused all of us in the office to herd out of our little offices, into the street. Once there, we waited, cheerfully, for the fire department to arrive and put out the tiny fire long before it grew in size and danger into something real.

During the few minutes between the moment we fled the burning building and  the fire department arrived, this same vice president of something-or-other said, and I quote, "What if the building explodes?" Her car is right there, where the shattered glass and mangled iron beams and reinforced concrete from the tiny electrical fire, might brace for impact.

Thus, while we were all standing there in the parking lot, about thirty of us in this small, one-story office, she got in her car, and pulled out of her special spot in her fancy car. She drove to the exact other side of the parking lot, and pulled in behind my car. My little car was all by itself, in an open space in the parking lot, where I could walk a little before my sedentary day. She thought it was appropriate to use my car as a blast shield in case the building exploded. Right in front of everyone.

I watched her do it, and thought about how I had been a perma-temp in limbo between employment and unemployment, with no benefits, moving paper from one side of the desk to the other, for months and months.

In a completely related note, she often called me "Jeff", if she spoke to me at all. This is not my name.

Needless to say, I am not employed there anymore.

There's a moral in there for the Rich/Poor Gap and the cancellation of Unemployment Benefits during this time of crisis. See if you can find it.

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