Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Being stuck between a rock and a hard place in this rat race

When you get to be my age, there comes a point when you say to yourself “Life is short. You are just another anonymous face in the crowd, like you always were, and always will be.  It no longer matters now what other people think of  you or what you made of yourself. Everyone eventually succumbs to mortality, some sooner than others. So what to do with the life you have left?” Now, people who have been poor all their lives can do nothing but continue to work to the end of their days, and just roll with the punches that life delivers, and let the vagaries of human interaction slide off one’s shoulder. Letting things “bother” them and search for scapegoats to hate is a pointless less preoccupation. “Pride” is something that causes less pain if it is applied to how you do something, as opposed to what you are doing.  

In the meantime, I still fantasize about being a writer, but in order to continue to write, I have to continue to “live,” and in order to “live” I have to make money. How I make money has long since ceased to be a matter of “pride” to me; in fact I prefer work that is “mundane” and repetitive these days, meaning that I prefer to go home and have my mind clear of concerns and tribulations, and concentrate on the “occupation” I was “trained” to do, which doesn’t pay. Thus I have to tell myself that it doesn’t matter what work I do, as long as it does “pays.” Who cares what the social “elites” think. I know who I am, unfortunately.

This all a convoluted way of saying that a month after I decided I wasn’t a pan-washer, a look at my bank account informed me that I needed to find another source of income pronto. My preference was to find something that I could be “pro-active,” “self-motivated,” and most importantly, “independent.” Unfortunately there are not many jobs out there that encompass the latter qualification; the only occupations that I can think of that fit my current state-of-mind that I am “qualified” for is the night shift security guard and “maintenance worker.” Of the former, there was a time not that long ago when that position was held in such low esteem that anyone who walked in the door was qualified, particularly at, say, $5 an hour. But because of terrorism paranoia, security guards are not so easily dismissed as superfluous, but that comes at a “price”: to be a suitable “candidate,” you have to at least look like you could be able beat a bad guy up, or at least wrestle with and “disarm” him. I certainly don’t fit that description.

The other “independent” occupation, which I will euphemistically refer to as “maintenance” worker, continues to be held in low-esteem, even though it is work that somebody has to do. I decided to post a resume on the state employment website and not expecting anything to happen I sent my resume to a company I will call Acme Building Maintenance. A couple days later I received a phone call, and was told that my resume had been passed on to a recruiter for consideration and that I was to report for an interview at 10 AM a few days later. 

Well, fine. I showed up there 15 minutes early, only to discover that I wasn’t early enough. The tiny lobby and just outside the door was crowded with prospective job-seekers, about 30 to start and the number kept climbing by the minute. Confused, I was told to sign-in, and eventually I would be called for an interview in the order that I was positioned in on the sign-in sheet. I wasn’t the only person there wondering what was going on here, but I’ll get to that later. After three hours, someone finally called my name; the “interview” only lasted a few minutes. The interviewer seemed “impressed” by me, and told me that she would forward my application to the work scheduler. After another half hour I was called by that person, and was told in equally positive terms that she wanted to send me somewhere in Seattle, because she didn’t want to set me up to “fail,” and noted that she would have scheduled me for job that day, but there were too many people she still had to see. But she assured me that she would call me the following Monday with a job. 

That was at 1:30 PM. At a few minutes before 5 PM I received a phone call.  I was told by someone I hadn’t talked before that she had looked at my resume and had found a “mistake,” and that “they” could not “move forward” on my application. Dumbfounded, I asked “what mistake?” but received no explanation. In fact, the caller had hung-up almost immediately. Obviously I had been called at office closing time so that I would not have an opportunity to call back for “clarification.” It was both a deceitful and cowardly act.

Now, there were no “mistakes” on my application, other than neglecting to mention I had a college education, which I figured would “hurt” more than help me. But no one would have known that unless I told them, so it wasn’t a “mistake.” So what could possibly have changed my situation from being all but promised a job to suddenly being an “unsuitable” candidate within a matter of hours?

First, let me fill-in the “details” that I left out. When I arrived at the establishment, nearly all the prospective job-seekers were immigrants from Africa, mostly from places like Somalia and Ethiopia; some of the older ones required an interpreter during the interview process. There were only five or six “Americans” there, eventually to be out-numbered by something on the order of 10 to 1. I could tell by the look on the other “Americans” faces that they could not believe that they had walked into this set-up. How was it that all these other people just happened to “coincidentally” show-up in such force? Well, this can hardly be “coincidental”; I suspect that the “Americans” there were the only people who actually applied on their own, while some state agency had pooled the rest and directed them to Acme. Not only that, but Acme was likely “persuaded,’ probably with a significant financial incentive, to take on as many of the immigrants as they could.

Now, I have no doubt that Acme would have preferred to take on more “Americans,” but they had a financial “arrangement” that favored the African immigrants over the native-born citizens. I don’t know the exact nature of this arrangement is, but it may be similar to the one in operation at the airport, where one company that supplied airplane “cleaners”  who were entirely immigrant (mainly eastern European and African) workers, received money to “subsidize” these workers’ pay, again giving them an advantage over “native” labor. We will naturally assume that the companies who benefit from such arrangements “justify” their hiring practices by stating that they are merely being “progressive” and performing a needed public service. Perhaps there is some “justification” for them to believe that, in order to avoid charges of hiring discrimination.

What happened to me? Was it because there were so many of these immigrants present and there were not enough positions available to employ a high enough percentage of them to profit from, Acme decided that they needed to jettison a person or persons who did not fall within these hiring parameters. But this wasn’t my “fault.” It was unfair and discriminatory to first tell me that I had a job, and then somebody arbitrarily rescinded the offer by making up a phony story about a “mistake.” What I didn’t understand is that if being a native-born citizen was a job disqualification why did Acme even bother to call people who were clearly “American”? Because they didn’t want to be accused of “discrimination,” the opposite of calling in a few minorities just to make things look “correct” when they only intended to hire whites? 

Life continues, and I will press on. But it is tough to be “stuck” between conflicting worlds: One between “real” Americans (meaning between blacks and whites), between what one expects and what one sees, and between your reality and someone else’s.

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