Monday, October 03, 2005

Flight plan: Discovering that Social Security isn't the parachute I thought it was

"I've retired!" I beamed. "Now I will have lots of time to do all the things I always wanted to do!" Boy, was I wrong.

"When I retired," said my friend John, "We bought an RV and followed the trail of Lewis and Clark -- all the way from Washington DC to the Pacific. It was the dream trip of a lifetime. Then we bought a boat and sailed around the Caribbean." Drool. I wanted to do that sort of stuff too.

Then reality struck. "Your Social Security allotment will be $249 a month," the nice lady at the end of the Social Security 800-number phone line informed me. Hey, that's okay. I still got my pension.

"Your pension plan does not go into effect for three more years," the nice lady at the end of the pension plan 800-number phone line informed me. "And if you take it out early you will lose two-thirds of it." Hey, that was okay. After a week of being retired I was getting totally bored anyway. Sitting around the house all day doing nothing after being an active professional for so long sucked eggs.

I got a temp job in my field. It paid well. My hot-spit job was in a luxury suite on the 45th floor of some building in the San Francisco financial district. They made me wear nylons and heels. They paid me well. I couldn't travel but I could pay the rent, go to the movies, keep Ashley, Jordan, Nathan and our new foster child clothed and fed. And I LOVED my new job. "It's all good," I said.

Then the temp job came to an end. Great. I could hardly wait to see where they would send me next! I called the temp agency's 800-number. "I'm here. I'm back. What else do you have for me?"

"Nothing." Nothing? "We have nothing." Oh.

Hey, no problem. I waited a couple of days before calling them back. "Got any legal assistant jobs lined up for me yet?" Nothing.

I waited a few more days. "Do you have ANY kind of job," I asked, swallowing my pride. "Anything?"

"We have nothing."

By this time a house full of teenagers -- who naturally assumed that, since I wasn't working, I would have more time to cook, do dishes and drive them places -- was starting to drive me nuts! I checked Craig's List. I sent out resumes. I got a couple of interviews. I waited to hear back. Nothing.

Now I started to panic. "With Social Security and any kind of job we'll be just fine," I told the kids. "Just fine." The bakery down the street had an opening for a dishwasher. I applied. Nothing. Now I was seriously worried. Seriously worried. My mood changed. I paced. The kids gave me hugs and told me not to worry, something would show up. Nathan even promised to hook me up with his buddies at the flea market and Jordan told me that he would search for an after-school job -- but even the thought of him toiling away on behalf of our family made me want to cry.

The foster child even offered to give up her cell phone and my daughter offered to buy us all pizza with her after-school job money too (she was realistic enough not to offer to give up her cell phone however.)

So. I'm still looking for work. And I have NO idea how to find a job. I have never had to go look for one before. Today I humbled myself and bravely went off to every shop in the neighborhood. Nothing. What will I do? What will become of me?

Will we all be eating canned cat food soon?

Well, at least I know that I'm not alone. I Googled "Unemployment" and found out that, in my county alone, there are 40,100 other people who are out of a job as well.

"I went out and applied for a job today," said Jordan, all proud of himself.

"We have seen steady job gains for each of the last 26 months and more Americans are working than ever before," said George Bush. But what does he care if this is the actual truth or just supposed to sound good or whether or not people are actually employed or have just fallen into the ranks of the -- shudder -- permanently unemployed? The ones who are no longer counted in the Department of Labor surveys....

Why should Bush worry about whether or not us Americans are actually employed or only representing doctored statistics that make him look good on paper -- as long as his own job is safe. HIS job comes with fabulous heath care, a pension plan like you wouldn't believe, a multi-billion-dollar stock option from Halliburton and a 12-month paid vacation -- no nightmares of having to live off of canned cat food for him!

I am certain that Mr. Bush will totally agree with what they say at my local bakery. "Let them eat cake!"