Redneck Review

Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Unemployment Office

No, don't worry about me. I haven't been fired. Redneck Diva left
a comment yesterday to leave my work at work. Bossy little vixen,
isn't she? Anyone who has ever been a teacher knows that is impossible.
It is kind of a stressful job. In fact, I got fed up with it one time, paid
off my car and my house (hey, it was a $17, 900 house) and quit.
That's right. I couldn't take the heat, so I jumped out of the kitchen
and into the fire. That's the kind of thing my Hillbilly Mama would say.
She kind of mixes things up. Like that movie, Death Becomes Her,
was referred to as She Looks Good Dead. But I digress.

I quit. We didn't have the two boy young 'uns yet, just my Hillbilly
Husband's boys on the weekends. I figured I could find any old kind
of job that was better than driving 60 miles one-way to work, and
bringing home stuff that kept me up until 11:30-12:00. I landed a
job at Casey's General Store for 6 weeks, but that's another story.

I took some state merit tests, and was called for an interview with
the Missouri Division of Employment Security. It is really the
unemployment office, but we weren't allowed to call it that. They
hired me, and guess what! It was in St. Louis. A 60 mile drive one-
way. I started thinking this was not such a good idea, since I was
making about $2000 a year less.

Once I got to working, I loved it. THE WORK DID NOT COME
HOME WITH ME! When work was over, I didn't think about it
until 8:00 the next morning. Not even 7:59. I didn't mind the drive.
HH and I rode together and he would drop me off. He worked a
few miles away. When he took a job closer to home, I found a work
buddy to ride with.

I should not have liked this job. It was back in the day when Old
Bush ruled the land. Since so many people were out of work, with
not many good jobs to be had, Old Bush gave the masses extended
unemployment. That meant they got another 13 weeks of benefits
after their original 26. Those union guys were in deadbeat heaven.
They had to make ONE contact per week looking for work--their
union hall. The others knew how to play the game, which was plain
to see when their job search was in alphabetical order. They just
looked in the yellow pages and wrote down employers and phone
numbers. Remember George Costanza and Vandelay Industries?
It was like that, without the private office for that woman worker.
Out attitudes were pretty much like hers, though.

My job was to take PIs or to take new claims. We alternated by
how the supervisor assigned us. Usually 3 deputies (my title, not
law enforcement) and 2 temps would take the PIs, or personal
interviews. To do this, we'd take a work search log out of the
basket at the reception desk, call the person's name, and take
them to our cubicle. There we would punch in the SS# on a CRT,
review the work search log, update the file, and send them on
their way for another 4 weeks. The key was to listen and see if
they'd disqualify themselves by admitting to working for cash one
day, or being home sick. The sure way to start a riot was to pull
the PIs from the top of the rack, not the bottom. People had to
wait over an hour, sometimes two, thanks to Old Bush. We could
do a PI in about 5 minutes.

Taking new claims required calling a number, like waiting in a
bakery. Some people came in for a number, went to the bar
across the street, and called in every so often to see what number
we were on. New claims could suck the life right out of you,
especially an interstate claim. They were not on computer. You
had to use at least 4 forms, sometimes more, depending on the
state. Each one was different. We had a file of all 49 other states.
The Illinois claims were breaking our backs. We were on South
Broadway, a hop skip and a jump from Illinois. People had the
right to file in any office, though the claim was based on the state
where wages were paid. They liked ours, because they said we
were nicer than the downtown office on Washington Ave. We
had a worker, Alice, who would tell the Illinois people: "If you
were smart, you would go file this in Illinois. They can do it on
their computer and it will be faster." She was right. It could be
2-3 weeks faster. Of course they did not want to say: "I'm not
smart, so I want you to do it." Alice held the record for getting
rid of Illinois claims.

We had a temp, Cliff, who was ex-Army. He was very professional
and very thorough. One day Cliff called a number, and the guy
jumped up and begged to trade with anyone. A guy 20 numbers
behind traded, and the original guy still got out ahead of Cliff's
claimant. Cliff liked to take a nap on his 15 minute break. Under
the table in the break room. He would lie down, set his watch
alarm, and cross his hands over his chest like a corpse. It was
quite unnerving if you didn't know Cliff had gone into the break
room ahead of you. Our supervisor, Bob, was the closest thing
to a friend that Cliff had. Bob was ex-Air Force, and admired
Cliff's work. Paul, my ride, was also ex-Air Force and told Bob:
"I'd do great work too, if I only talked to 7 claimants a day."

The penalty for being good at your job was that you got stuck
doing PIs on Mondays and Tuesdays. The people who had
worked there longer took to dragging their feet, so they got
to do new claims. Our best team was Paul, Shirley, me, and
our temp Lynnette. We usually got stuck with Cliff, but we
worked around him. Throw anyone else into our mix, and
it was ON! Oh, you want to be slow? I'll be slower. You've
only called 3 people? I'll wait until you catch up. Pity the poor
unemployed fool who came in on a day someone wasn't
pulling their weight. Good ol' Bob came to help us sometimes.
He was that kind of guy. He was also kind of albino, but that
was beside the point. He was from Minnesota, for crying out
loud. He didn't need melanin.

We lived for break time, when the smokers would light up
outside on the picnic table in the parking lot, and the non-
smokers would walk a block to the 7-11, being careful to
avoid the guy who pushed a lamp up and down the sidewalk
in a grocery cart. 7-11 had coffee, and Big Gulps, and banana
Slurpees. Not to mention Little Debbie cakes sold individually
for $.25. Our drawers were full of snacks. We were pretty
good about it, though Shirley swore that when she worked
downtown, a woman opened her drawer one day and took
out a slice of watermelon and started eating it.

We did not have any security guards at our office, but they did
downtown. We had a guy who worked for Probation and Parole,
and you could tell some of his clients. He had to get stern with
them. "Look, Buddy, it's 98 degrees outside and you have on
a jacket. Unless you just dislocated your shoulder, I'd say you
have a gun in there. You ever bring that back in my office, I will
report you." Because he was that kind of guy. He gave them a
chance. We never had any claimants go ballistic.

Tomorrow: office politics at the unemployment office. Please
come back and read it. I'm like Sominex. Read Hillbilly Mom


  • At 9:15 PM, Blogger deadpanann said…

    "He was from Minnesota, for crying out loud. He didn't need melanin."

    That one tickled me. You're hilarious, HBMom!

  • At 11:06 PM, Blogger Hillbilly Mom said…

    Miss Ann,
    Let me enlighten you further while you are still enamored with the glory of albinism.

    Bob had crusty, flaky skin. His fingers cracked in the winter. He had thick glasses and thin hair, cut like Jim Carrey's in Dumb and Dumber. He was a strict Lutheran, and prayed with his hands held like the praying hands (duh!) over his lunch and Little Debbie snack cakes.

    Bob's family consisted of his 3 cats. They must have been overweight, because he was always calling his vet about the Cycle Diet. His voice was like Dave Foley, from Celebrity Poker Showdown, or those old shows Kids in the Hall and NewsRadio. The same rhythm and phrasing, like, "!" when things shocked him. Which we liked to do, because it is fun to see an albino blush.

    Bob's wardrobe looked like he shopped at Sears for Garanimals. His palette was brown and tan. He had a permanent wedgie from wearing his belt up around his armpits. And he always tucked in his shirt.

    We liked him. We wanted to set him up with a mail-order bride, but he was having none of it. This now concludes the Bob-a-thon.

  • At 1:40 AM, Blogger Rebecca said…

    Hi Hillbilly Mom,
    Thanks for the idea, I might go and blog about an old job of mine.

  • At 9:59 AM, Blogger Alexandrialeigh said…

    Can I just say? Hillbilly Mom, you need to write a book of essays or short stories. I am not kidding. Do it. Make it your goal for next summer or something. But please, do not waste your story-telling talent. You ought to get paid.

    (This post brought to you by the incredible snort I unleashed when reading that your mom referred to "Death Becomes Her" as "She Looks Good Dead." I think we must be related.)

  • At 2:58 PM, Blogger Hillbilly Mom said…

    I went and voted twice. Your past jobs are much more interesting than mine. Though I DO have some stories to tell about when I worked at the insurance salvage store...

    You can spin quite a tale yourself, girl, what with your landlord from hell, and the incompetant Georgia drivers trying to get there in a hurry. Thanks for the compliment!


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