Monday, September 4, 2006

Back to Work on Tuesday

Well, God blessed me with a new job. I'd been on "vacation" for six months after a departmental lay off. We were told that our division would be sold on March 3, 2006 -- and we were laid off on March 6, 2006. I copied aaaall of my music to CD's and walked out the door a happy camper.

I chilled as hard as possible during my lay off. I spent many lazy mornings at the park, working on my stage play. I traveled. I talked to friends that I never seemed to have time for. I stayed awake until the sun came up, and stayed asleep until afternoon. I stopped being embarrassed at being seen in non-work attire at 10:00 in the morning. I started to understand how people can get lazy.

Then, I looked up and seven year's worth of severance was gone. The 401(k) had dried up, and Unemployment for the the unemployed. The maximum you can receive is $700 every two weeks in the state of Texas. So there I was: nearly broke and spending every dime on bills. I even thought about selling cocaine out the back of the ride.

Damn, why did I race through that money??

Then, my aunt recommended I get FOOD STAMPS. I thought about it and shuffled my way to the food stamp office. I considered wearing slippers to look the part; then I reached in my pocket and pulled out 15 cents and realized I already fit the part.

Until my lay off, I'd somewhat looked down on welfare recipients and unemployed people. I didn't want to be this way, but I couldn't help it. "Just get a job!" was my response to the despondent. I couldn't understand how people could accept handouts instead of working. I thought people should settle for any job until they found the right job. But, here I was: tired, on food stamps, and hesitant to give up my free days. Free days, dammit!

The welfare office jarred me back to reality. Stepping inside that place was worse than stepping in a gay bar. I didn't want to run into ANY body I knew. But, of course I did. The first person I saw was the brother of a good friend. He greeted me like we were in Hawaii on vacation. "Heeey Smokie! So good to see you! What have you been up to?" Inside I screamed, "Where is this grown man's SHAME???" Mine was smake dab across my forehead in blinking red letters: "ON WELFARE -- CRACK IS NEXT".

I ran into a girl I knew and her 4 kids. Yes, her man was in tow, freshly braided, and probably waiting on that steak dinner they'd have later. I tried to hide from Shamika, but she spotted me and raced over, "Hey girl....these fools up here keep you waiting. But I need my benefits. When do you get your benefits?"

I don't remember what I said outloud, but I could only think, "Bitch, move around with all that welfare office banter."

I listened to the mindless chatter among the regulars, and knew this was like jail: some place you wind up in, but never want to return. It wasn't the needing help that bothered me. Anyone can need help. But, it was the defeat hanging in the air. From the girls with all the weave and kids -- to the low wage beasts behind the desk. I sat there and absorbed it all while I waited 7 hours for my $279/month food stamp card. Success and defeat in the same moment.

I went online job hunting after I left the foodstamp office. I won't lie and say that I sent resumes to 50 companies a day because I didn't. I did pray for a well paying job that I'd enjoy. Something not too hard, so that I could focus on my own projects.

When my aunt started throwing around "Section 8" hints, I signed up with a temporary agency. I was even reduced to receptionist work for one day. I swallowed my pride and walked into a beautiful office in the richest neighborhood in Houston just to answer the phones. Oh well.

I'm a Proposal Writer (not a Grant Writer) by profession, so I'd never answered phones before, but I did an excellent job. I didn't enjoy taking packages at the front desk, but the work was mindless and there was no overtime. It was actually kind of fun talking to different people all day. I started thinking of the pros of being a receptionist, and I'd convinced myself that it had benefits. As a Proposal Writer, I sometimes worked until midnight if a deadline loomed. However, the girl at the front desk leaves at 5:00 pm, sharp.

So, I patiently looked for jobs. And, I put the word out that I wanted to do some light editing or word processing. I knew my pay would be reduced, but I figured that I'd look for a better paying job after getting fully re-acclimated into Corporate America. I dreaded the daily grind and wanted to ease back into it.

Then, the company I'd done the receptionist work for called me to interview for a permanent position with them. As a receptionist? Hell no. I'll be working as a Personal Writer for a very wealthy family in the Houston area. The gorgeous office holds only SIX employees and parking is right our front. All I have to do is handle correspondence for this family. I'll be making MORE than I made at my previous job to compensate for the "boredom". Ha haaa, little do they know how much time we spend on the Internet.

This lay off taught me about humility. Taught me to do the best job possible, in whatever situation. Taught me that anyone can get down on their luck at anytime. It also taught me to lean heavily on God because he ALWAYS has a plan.


  1. Congrats on the new gig. Getting laid off can be very humbling. After 9/11 I was laid off, and just new bigger and better things were in store and coming to me quick...Well quick turned into about 7 months. Bigger and better things did come, but not quickly. I did look for jobs daily online, sent resumes daily... spent at least 3 hrs a day looking... It can be very humbling indeed.

  2. girl you are crazy. this is Princeton from Houston. insightful as always. sta tru


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