16 May 2021
I wanted to start this, the “Unemployment Diaries,” before I actually became unemployed because I know how I am, or how I’ve been over this past year and a half during the pandemic. It’s always, “Oh, I’ll start tomorrow,” or, “That’s a dumb idea you should just forget about it.” And then I sink into myself, open a jar of Frito Lay’s cheese dip, and half-watch something on television while I doom scroll through the latest tragedies.
Even if it is a dumb idea, it’s an idea. And in terms of writing, it’s one of the only ideas I’ve had in a long time. So I figured if I started now, I might get into a “groove,” or whatever, and it would be easier to keep going.
I also don’t know, realistically, how long I will be unemployed. I’m worried about getting denied, or of getting approved and being completely unproductive. All of us essential workers have pressed on through it all, and there’s this nicely crafted narrative that everything is okay. The signs all over the stores, they say we’re heroes.
Unsurprisingly, I do not feel okay. These days, I feel a bit more like an anti-hero. Good-intentioned but salty as hell.
I know I’m lucky to have been employed during the pandemic when so many were not, but I can also recognize that there were a lot of unemployed workers who did a fair bit better financially than I was while working overtime to cover absences. Despite my greatest anxiety of getting sick and passing it on to my immunocompromised mother, a fear that grew when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in November of 2020, I continued to show up to work, masked in her presence, breathing as quietly as possible while taking her to and from chemotherapy.
My friend got laid off very early on and continued to make her salary, which was a living wage to begin with, plus the additional amount offered in pandemic unemployment assistance. The additional money alone amounted to just a little bit, a tiny, tiny bit under what I was making an entire month, and it afforded her the opportunity to hire a career coach and book editor, expenses I could never dream of. It also provided her with the means to stay safe and out of the public during a global pandemic, and that’s worth a hell of a lot. Her and everyone else in this situation deserved every dime they got. Though I’ve seen plenty of essential workers complain about the “unfairness of it all,” I’m not on that wagon and never will be.
Don’t get me wrong. Company Name took great care of its employees who put themselves at risk every day. There was a one time, taxed bonus of $300 for full-time employees, and just last week the district manager dropped off one of three tax write-off approved $225 Visa gift cards for the store. All three gift cards, divided by the number of employees in the store, amounts to around $30 per person. When the dead in the eyes district manager presented the shiny piece of plastic, I did my very best to show gratitude, a feat made easier by mandatory face coverings.
It’s gestures like these that piss me off, because even though it’s something, it’s not really anything at all, is it? It’s the expectation that I am supposed to double over in appreciation, like I am stupid.
I am so fucking tired of being treated like I’m stupid.
When the pharmacies were overwhelmed with vaccines because a “glitch in the system” kept double and triple booking appointments and there weren’t enough hours or people to manage it all without chaos, corporate responded in some areas by allowing employees to wear jeans for AN ENTIRE WEEK. They essentially wear pajamas already, maybe not the most comfortable scrubs of all time, but still fucking pajamas, and someone actually thought a jeans’ week was a good enough response to the teams of employees doing their best to run a pharmacy on bare bones while vaccinating the masses.
They think we are stupid, and it seems to me that every time they pull some shit like this and get a negative response, they realize a little bit more that maybe we are not as dumb as they thought.
It turns out they’re having a hard time filling positions after announcing the role restructure. If you can believe it, there are not enough people willing to do the same job for significantly less pay. There are not enough people satisfied with the table scraps to stick around for the next round. There are not enough people who want to see the next way the company will fuck over the human beings performing the most crucial role of running the stores that make the money.
It’s like we’re not stupid or something. Imagine that.