Journal of an Unemployed Boy, or,
Down into Sloth
A public service announcement
this topsy-turvy age of limited job security, you will almost
certainly find yourself, or a loved one, unemployed in the
near future, that is if you are not already this predicament.
The thought of unemployment often sends shafts of fear through
the average blue-blooded young American. That need not be
the case, friend. With no family to support, nor a mortgage
to pay, unemployment can be the perfect vacation from the
workaday, furious-paced consumerism in which so many of
us find ourselves inextricably ensnared. Contrary to what
your mother tells you, there is no shame in unemployment.
As a young man with immeasurable know-how in this particular
field, I find it my duty to share with you the intricate
workings of satisfactory joblessness.
If one is to be gainfully unemployed, the most important
objective is, of course, to attain unemployment. Joblessness
can be acquired by anybody across all socioeconomic lines,
unemployment is an equal opportunity employer. However,
it is truly the thoughtful soul that arranges a mutually
beneficial arrangement between the future retiree and the
Certainly anybody can quit a job, leave one's position,
tell off the boss, ask her to 'take this job and re-staff
it,' rush off in a huff, say goodbye to Cheryl in reception
and then e-mail a 'Dear John' to the entire company via
Kinko's during the lunch hour, whiling away the remains
of the day with triple Jack and Cokes at the local watering
hole. But is that truly the best way to leave, are we burning
those proverbial 'bridges' our mothers spoke so fondly of,
and more importantly, are we squandering the hard-earned
unemployment insurance to which every one of us who has
slaved away in a loveless job is entitled? Yes, I hate to
be the harbinger of truth, and to those of you who qualify
in the aforementioned category of 'quitters', you may now
avert your eyes in shame.
Of course one should leave one's place of employ as soon
as reasonably possible, and most reasonable persons would
agree that there is simply no time like the present. Yes,
the economy may not be what it once was back in the day
of our forefathers and older siblings. Never fear, that
is a simple reassurance that you need not find yourself
in the uncomfortable position of mindless stability, inane
office banter and relative yet meaningless wealth in which
you are now so desperately entrenched
or at least
not anytime in the foreseeable future.
Now before you rush in and throw a scalding cup of coffee
in the supervisor's lap, remember that, sadly, there are
certain limitations to the collection of unemployment. The
best way to attain unemployment is to get "laid off."
Getting laid off is a nice way of getting fired, just like
downsizing and job elimination. Of course in a faltering
economy, it's generally much easier to have one's job eliminated,
but in some industries one's supervisors must be gently
convinced that a lay-off is the answer.
1. Push for Functional Obsolescence
Undermine your abilities in quarterly reviews and general
staff meetings. Be sure the management is aware that you
are disappointed with your job performance and feel as though
perhaps somebody could better perform your assigned tasks.
Delegate, Delegate, Delegate: Although delegating tasks
is generally thought of as a good sign of managerial skills,
too much delegating is an even better sign of uselessness.
Be very careful, here you toe the treacherous line between
promotion and demotion. Keep your eye on the prize, you
don't want to be perceived as management material, you want
to be earmarked as dead weight.
2. Become Sickly.
There's a big difference between truancy and hypochondria.
Truancy is grounds for dismissal, sickliness is merely grounds
for undue sympathy, unfettered free days, lessening of workloads
and serious consideration for eventual elimination.
Choose your sicknesses wisely. You never want to contract
an interesting or socially acceptable malady such as Bronchitis
or chronic asthma. Pick a little known or embarrassing illness,
the mysterious Lyme's Disease or dysentery, aka uncontrollably
violent explosive diarrhea, are good alternatives. The less
the management knows about your illness, or the less desirable
it is to discuss, the less likely they are to doubt your
alleged predicament. If the question does come up during
a meeting, just reply "I take a medication that makes
makes me drowsy." Then nod off in your
comfy conference room chair. After all, you don't want to
be fired, just down-sized from time to time.
The day before the onset of sickness, it's best to mention
to Helen in the credit department that you're not feeling
well. Regardless of the symptoms, Helen's immediate response
will be: "I hear it's going around." The next
day when you fail to show up, Helen will spread word like
wildfire that you were feeling ill the day before, and each
fellow employee will in turn be obligated to reply: "Aw,
poor kid, I hear it's going around." If a colleague
or manager does in fact inquire about your health upon return
to the workplace, just say you spent the majority of the
time in the bathroom, and you "had it from both ends,"
bothersome curiosity will cease immediately.
A few months of this and management will realize that your
health is more important than your career. Six months of
state-sponsored convalescence is in order.
If you find that getting laid off is absolutely out of
the question, mandatory dismissal may be your only recourse.
Again, getting fired is nothing to be ashamed of. If done
correctly, the unemployment status is identical, the insurance
benefits are the same, and the social stigma is comparable.
The upside to firing is that it has a bit of a dramatic
flair to it.
The "Do's" and "Don'ts" of getting
1. DON'T get caught in the office drinking
a bottle of booze on the arm of a lady of questionable repute.
DO invite your boss and colleagues out for a Monday
evening drink. When they politely decline, take yourself
on a company-sponsored bender. Arrive at work Thursday morning
un-showered, unshorn and unchanged. While trying to focus
through a haze of broken blood vessels, adjusting the massively-awry
necktie and attempting to tuck the tattered remains of your
wine-stained, mud-spattered oxford into your belt-less,
unzipped trousers, remark to colleagues and management in
a loud and unbalanced fashion on what a lovely evening you
A pink slip's just around the corner. At the very least
you're guaranteed a 3-day weekend, and depending on your
company's benefits, perhaps you'll receive a 2-week stay
in a posh "hospital" for exhaustion and dehydration.
2. DON'T break dress code by refusing to
wear the mandatory suit and tie.
DO add some finesse to your work attire with a pair of
swimming goggles. Wear said goggles the entire morning,
whipping your head about periodically demanding to know
what everybody is staring at. During your lunch hour, pass
the time in the executive restroom testing your endurance
skills. Fill the middle sink with water, drape tie over
shoulder to avoid water stains, and submerge your head in
the sink. Time yourself with a digital wristwatch (which,
if worn regularly should be sufficient to get you fired)
and every time someone leaves a stall, pull your drenched
head frantically from the sink and proclaim that you've
just beat your latest breath-holding record. Repeat as necessary.
You are guaranteed to gain the awe and fear of your company's
management. Psychological evaluation is a possible unwanted
side effect to this approach.
3. DON'T abandon one's table manners at an important
DO order a brightly decorated birthday cake and
3 glasses of whole milk for yourself, regardless of the
occasion, in lieu of the traditional entrée. Don't
feel obligated to offer a slice to those unappreciative
humdrum worker drones mindlessly shoveling in their usual
super chicken fajitas with extra cheese. Such bold individuality
is often frowned upon in a "team" environment.
The management will certainly be alarmed by this unconventional
thinking and quietly ask you to leave in order to avoid
mass office anarchy.
Now that you are finally unemployed, dear reader, you've
got to make a living. In the next edition, we'll discuss
the ins and outs of being down and out.
Unemployment doesn't have to cramp your style, and you'll
see how one can enjoy an active social life and even make
a few bucks without cutting in to your 7-day weekend.
by James P. Hirsch