This particular column isn’t really about the joys of being an older father with a younger child. It’s still closely linked to that theme, but it’s more about the serious implications that can occur and cast a shadow over that relationship.
One day last summer, I was on my way to a job interview in downtown Philadelphia, feeling rather pleased with myself. I’d defied the odds normally faced by an unemployed liberal arts professional in his mid 50s. I was only a few months out of work, still stretching my severance pay and collecting unemployment, and here I was with another dynamite interview with a high-octane company.
This wasn’t so hard, I thought to myself. I didn’t grasp the hardships faced by people in my position, and the grim statistics of finding a new job in the same profession. I was getting interviews, which meant I was already out-performing the bulk of my peers.
That day, I coughed up $28 for parking (not to mention the cost of driving into Philadelphia). I reconciled the expenses to a running log I’d kept cataloguing the efforts and costs of my job search. Handy for income tax time, I figured.
I can’t tell you where I went to interview that day. It wasn’t the only time I’d end up in downtown Philly for a promising appointment. We’d even come up with a homefront strategy for handling the daily trip — driving to a nearby train station and commuting to Center City like so many other people.
There is one thing that has stood out in my memory, starting as an insignificant bit of oddness, but growing in my memory as each day passed.
Standing on a corner in the middle of Philly’s professional district one day was a man in spiffy suit, with two white signs, each about 2 feet by 3 feet, leaning up against the Walk/Don’t Walk light pole. The signs were oversized JOB NEEDED notices.
Bland office drones hustled by with their heads down, many of them drawing hard on cigarettes forbidden not only inside their building, but now outside the doors as well. It was a moving smoking court.
I was intrigued and stopped to chat with the man. He’d been out of work for two years, and run out of options (and optimism). This was his next best idea — hitting the streets, literally. Turns out he had a regular rotation of locations. His tactic had initiated a few conversations, but nothing that led to employment.
I couldn’t imagine myself ever being in those shoes, and congratulated myself on the success I’d soon find on the job market.
Fast forward to today.
I now understand that man’s frustration and desperation. I understand the thinking that led him to these tactics.
“Did you get a job?” my daughter optimistically asks when I’d come home from what I thought was a good interview.
“Did you get a job?”
It occurred to me this week that she is moving into the time when her memories stick with her.
Right now, she has no memory of her father working, save a few short-term placements.
I understand what can lead someone to extreme measures.
This week, I began pounding the pavement — walking into businesses and asking to apply for non-existent jobs. It’s an incredibly humbling experience.
Kind of like standing on a street corner with signs.
Very shortly after this blog entry appeared, Arthur Delaney of the Huffington Post wrote an article about the problem of long-term unemployment:
This article was the follow-up to a comprehensive story Arthur wrote that appeared in the Huffington Post in December: