February 13, 2009

Signs of the Times

UnemploymentlineI remember the day well, despite it being 18 years ago. I was in New York City to help my sister celebrate a birthday. I received a page to call the office. My friend and co-worker Rich was on the other line letting me know that the nationally syndicated show we worked for in Miami was going to be cancelled.
When I returned to Florida, the show canceled, on schedule. And we all scattered across the nation looking for work. Some had an easier time finding work than others.
The economy was soft, there was no freelance work and the other stations/shows were not hiring so I downsized, rented an un-air conditioned room in Little Havana from a good friend and collected unemployment.   This four month menagerie occurred during the months of July, August, September and October. During those months, the only thing higher than the temperature is the humidity.
One of my many memories from that time was from my time in the unemployment line. My occupation placed me into a unique top category, alongside unemployed physicians (is there any such thing?). That unique status in life provided me $250 a week in unemployment – based of course on my completion and submission of a card documenting my employment search.
There were so many things I remember from that time. The drunk who needed help filling out his unemployment card, the Spanish speaking mom who needed some help translating a box on a form while her kids were screaming (yes, living in Miami automatically makes you multi-lingual), the people staring off into nowhere and the government worker who seemed the least bit enthused about the job she had. It was a community as diverse as any political campaign and ignored just the same. It was surreal and very real.
Today, I am hearing from friends who are “displaced” by the economy. One is a former assignment manager for a network news operation who is looking at a job as a production assistant for a local affiliate. Another was laid off and is enjoying her time as a mom. Some are looking at additional schooling and one wants to start their own business. 
Despite discouragement, they are all pressing forward in their own way.
They don’t want me to fix their problems; they just want a sympathetic ear and an occasional suggestion on how to stay encouraged during a difficult time.
Been there, done that.
I can see that one of the benefits of starting in the unemployment line many years ago is serving as a resource to those who are walking in it today.

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