I’m sixty years old now, and it’s begun to happen to me.
Oh, I don’t have it as bad as some of you, yet. I’m in good enough health to go shoot baskets for an hour or carry a golf bag on my back around nine cheap holes, or walk past the handicap parking, for that matter. We’ve been careful, or fortunate, to have some equity and a little cash lying around.
But I have no job. The expiring family construction business I worked in for twenty-five years spit me out two years ago.
I always knew it could happen. I tried retraining myself in advance. In 2004, I got an MCSE, a fairly valuable certification in network administration. I made up a resume and sent it out, and sent it out. They had electronic forms that asked me when I went to college. Grand Funk Railroad’s “I’m Your Captain” and Elton John’s “Take Me to the Pilot” were the big hits on the jukebox(!) at NIU that year.
I never heard back, ever.
Another sales job? At sixty? In this culture? In this healthcare environment? I’ve done a lot of sales, and that is just not gonna sell.
Still optimistic, I lowered my sights again. From dragging the aforementioned company into the electronic age, I knew a lot about MS Office, desktop publishing, and PC stuff. I can crank out pretty paper and web thingies with the best of them. I looked into it, and discovered the Wisconsin state job board. This could work, I thought. We’ve always wanted to move to Madison, anyway.
I tested very well. My resume hit the right buttons. I got a lot of interviews. Still do.
I’m sixty years old, and a man. Sometimes they react visibly. Others are better prepared. I’m very well prepared. I have outlined answers to all their questions before they ask them. I have a resolving-a-difference-with-a-co-worker story that brings the house down every time. Sometimes I dress to the nines, sometimes more casually. Sometimes I’m to the point and impersonal, and sometimes I’m looser and friendlier. Occasionally, I walk away thinking that things went very well, indeed.
It doesn’t matter. I’ve reached the second round three times. Each of those was after a phone interview. That seems to help—they don’t always add it all up until I walk in the door.
I like to fancy myself a bit of a writer. I’ve been going over similes—trying to pin down the feeling of all this. The first that seemed to hit the spot was that it is like a Jack Londonish cold setting in, and all I have is this one, damp match.
It’s not so bad yet, not as bad as with many. My wife is drying her hair now, getting ready to go to work. She has insurance for us. She also has health problems piling up. This month, we had another scare. She’s had a macular hole in one eye, and the attempts to treat that have resulted in a couple of retinal detachments. Now, the other eye has some blurring. Not another hole yet, thank goodness. That would leave her seeing only vague shapes on her periphery. What that would mean to her, and to us, I don’t want to think about. It’s bad enough to know that she would not be officially disabled, while leaving us with no income and shelling out Cobra payments.
I know what to do next. Hit the big boxes. It’s all that left. It’s also a long line to stand in, but then, I’d better get used to standing.
It’s been almost two years, now. They don’t like that, as if I needed another strike against me. Here’s another simile: It’s already strike three, but I’m running to first ‘cuz my only chance is that the catcher dropped the ball.
My unemployment compensation ended last week, and we will begin to slide. I’ll make it to sixty-two, and then be eligible for a reduced SS payment (assuming no changes), but Medicare is five years off (assuming no changes). I have no pension, and the cash that begins draining away now was supposed to supplement us in the future. That’s not going to happen. One more blow to the Little Hun, and anything that’s left of a damaged plan will be blown to smithereens, whatever those are.
A better simile: I’m caught in a rip tide. I can hear the merriment on the beach, but in that merriment, no one will hear me.
Despite the common “wisdom,” I haven’t spent these two years sitting in my robe, howling at Jerry Springer reruns while tossing down taxpayer-bought snacks and beer. I’ve studied Excel, Access and Outlook. I’ve doubled my keyboarding speed. I’ve lost sixty pounds. I’ve learned to cook, and to eat healthy. I’ve reacquainted myself with my guitars.
And I’ve written a novel. I can hear your groans, and I hesitate to do this for several reasons. First, I know DKos isn’t about self-promotion. I know exactly why I’ve come here for the last seven years. To me, progressivism is where people who care about the human condition are. It’s just that simple. I don’t come here with the expectation you will care about me—I come here to find other people who care about other people. I need most of all to know you are out there. It’s important.
Secondly, I’m not all that keen about connecting my real name to about a gazillion comments that can be ex-contexted into lord-knows-what.
And, most of all, a real effort to acquire a platform can ensure a realization of failure. I’ve done the best I could, considering that I had to stop somewhere. I haven’t followed the rules. I use too many commas and em dashes (Alt+0151) for the impatient to appreciate. Yes, Sensible Shoes, I head-hop unashamedly. If you can’t be omniscient, where’s the fun in it? And, as I said, my UC ran out and I really can’t afford an editor.
Still, I think at least some of you might like it. It’s about being American, and being more than that. It’s about being a Democrat, and a progressive, but not oppressively so. It’s about the American Dream and the American Reich. It’s more or less a thriller, but I've made no attempt to shoehorn it into one genre or another. There are no dragons or mystic mountains (though the Mystic River Bridge may have gotten into there, somewhere). It’s about real places and real (?) imaginary people. Primarily, it’s a love story, set in a snapshot of 2008, running full force into a dark reflection. Some nice things happen. Some nice people get hurt.
I’ve made a Prezi about it (yes, interviewer, even sixty-year-old people with construction backgrounds can learn to Web 2.0 up a Prezi in a couple of hours). In case you don’t know what a Prezi is, it’s like scattering a PowerPoint presentation across the floor and playing hopscotch on it. They’re having a hard time matching up servers to popularity right now, so things can be a little balky in Preziland. There are links to the usual ebook outlets there.
The book is called Slojo’s Reality (eventually, the name is explained). Some outlets might not show a reduced price yet—Kindle and Smashwords will. I won’t link directly here because I’m pretty sure that would set off an alarm on Kos’s nightstand. You all are clever enough to find your way.
Well, I’ve gone and broke the rules, and I’m not proud of myself. I promise, if I am ever in the position, to pop the seven grand for an ad.
It’s just that it breaks my heart to see her worry so.
I have to prepare for a phone interview, now—those are the best ones. After that, I think I’ll crank up my virtual Falcon and fly away for a little while. Somewhere, anywhere.
Or maybe, I’ll pick up the guitar and channel a little of Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic.”