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Journal of an Unemployed Boy, or, Down into Sloth
A public service announcement

In 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 present employer.

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 me drowsy… 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 fired:

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 had.
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 company luncheon.

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



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Free Williamsburg© | 93 Berry Street | Brooklyn, NY 11211
[email protected] | August 2002 | Issue 29
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