So I got this notice in the mail two weeks ago telling me that I had to show up at some office for an interview related to getting unemployment. They sent a form that I needed to fill out showing what jobs I had applied for, how, and then what the results were. This was simple enough. I filled in all the blanks (and then some) and took myself to the Canoga Park address given for my 10:45 appointment - for which I was to be prompt.
It was an odd little meeting. I walked in and it looked like something between the office layout on "Mad Men"and the DMV. Sort of halfway depressing. I walked up to the very long registration desk and checked in with my form and my driver's license and my passport (they required 2 pieces of identification) and the lady behind the desk was very kind and helpful. She explained that I was selected randomly and that the interview would take only about 10 minutes and then she asked me to take a seat. Upon hearing my name a few minutes later, I was called back to the registration desk - but to the far end of it this time, only to learn that my interview would take place there. In other words, I would stand for it. No office, no chair, no privacy. Like at the DMV.
So this very nice man named Ron asked me some basic questions and informed me that they were there to help me find a job - which is very kind, but I don't have a great deal of faith in them because I am in, after all, a government office. And with all due respect, they are not known for their efficiency. He recommended that I take a number of seminars they offer to help me write a cover letter, make a better resume, translate some of my skills into another line of work - all stuff I have been through before. Ad naseum. I was polite and I will follow up because you never know. But then he asked me where I had been looking and what I had been doing and here is where the story goes surreal.
I begin telling him what I am doing with the online job search. How typically, when I am well suited for something, I submit and then I get some email back asking for more information and that once they get the information they need to figure out how old I am, the process abruptly stops. And are you ready for this? In spite of a calm delivery by me and the fact that I'm feeling fairly unemotional in the reporting of this age discrimination phenomenon, tears start spilling from my eyes. And I'm like: "I'm so sorry for the tears! I don't know why this is happening", and he says: "It's okay. This happens all the time". And I'm thinking: Really? The water starts running all by itself? All the time? And then I realize that most people are probably feeling the emotion behind the tears. And I know it isn't the meds because I'm not taking them right now. And I am not experiencing any eye irritations. And my mind goes to "Star Trek" and I wonder if somehow I might be part Vulcan.
So all I can figure is that this business of being unemployed and over 50 in a terrible economy is not a cakewalk. In fact it is pretty brutal. And a long time ago I must have built up a wall of cement to protect me from feeling horrible about my predicament. Because when you think about it, being alerted to the fact that you are not wanted - in spite of how hard you have worked and what you have accomplished - is really tough. But if that wasn't bad enough, in this age electronic job searching, it is painful to realize that you can be rejected anonymously via the Internet. No one even wants to shake your hand. You learn via a computer that you are officially irrelevant. Except how can that be - because you really once were. Not very long ago.
Anyway, Ron responds, well, appropriately. He tells me that while the law says that a company cannot discriminate because of age, we know it happens all the time. (I note that he does NOT try to say anything like "you're too young to be worrying about age discrimination" and for the first time I do feel emotional about it. I hate that no one ever puts up an argument to any comment I may make about me and "age" anymore.) His answer to my discrimination issue though is to suggest that I apply for a government job where, he assures me, they do NOT discriminate - even for age. As if this was my only real hope. (Now this is when I should have cried.) He gives me the websites and tells me it can take 6 months to a year to get a government job. I mention that I hear the benefits are good. He does not disagree. (But I know the pay stinks.) And I'm trying to see myself in a government job and I just cannot wrap my head around it. Not that there is anything wrong with a government job - but my mother had a government job - and I never wanted one myself.
So anyway, I am sitting here pondering an unwelcome shift in career opportunity and the fact that my tear ducts have apparently gone rogue and started performing independently. All I can say is no one had better look at me cross-eyed because at some point I guess I'm gonna explode.
And people may drown.