Because of the sheer number of the unemployed it’s impossible to get through to the unemployment office by phone; the line is busy from 8 am to closing. I know, I call all day. The monotone auto-reply voice encourages me to apply on-line, tells me that “all operators are busy,” then continues to tell me when is the best time to call. She lies. There is no best time. When I try to apply on-line the web page gets to a certain point and the directs me to call. I’m as frustrated as a woodpecker in a petrified forest.
Friday I walk into the unemployment office and am directed to a bank of phones in the corner. The phones are occupied by two men. One black, one white. The black man is finishing his call and asks the customer service agent he is speaking with if she will take another call, motioning for the woman in line in front of me to come forward. The gesture is sweet. She won’t have to sit and dial for 15 minutes trying to get through.
His name is Tony and I take in the brawn of him, he is like some dark angel while he counsels me to do the same for anyone sitting in line when I’m done. “It’s just a nice thing to do, and we need to be nice to each other to get through this.” I nod in agreement. A black Oakley baseball cap fits snugly on his head. “I used to not to like to accept help, thought I was Superman, but this right here, this knocked that from right under me.”
“That’s how it happens,” I reply.
“And be nice to the person that answers the phone, they irritated as all get out with all of this. They are going to be sharp with you.” Tony takes a step back and places his and on his chest, “You are going to want to give it all back to them, but listen, hold all that stuff in, and just talk back to them with a smile.”
The woman who was in front of me in line chimed in, holding the phone between her chin and chest. “That’s true! I got into with one of them and now my check is delayed. Don’t you know I’m going to be as sweet as pie this time.” Tony nods as if he has just delivered and affirmed the gospel.
It is finally my turn. I get through to a customer service representative and “ma’am” her in all of the appropriate places; only to be told that I’m not eligible for anything because I worked for a non-profit. She mentions public assistance. I am not totally left out in the cold. There are benefits through the non-profit I worked and I will take advantage of those.
Tony has taken off on his bike, the other woman smiles and waves good-bye as she leaves.
I head back home with a couple of hours to job (dream) hunt before I pick my daughter up from school.
It was a good day.