(90) Days of Unemployment


It has been approximately 90 days since I was laid off.  It’s 3:30 am.  I can’t sleep.  It’s hard to imagine now, but the day after I got laid off, I went to Vegas for three days.  Yep, that’s right, Vegas.  Granted, I was already planning to go to Vegas before I got laid off — bought my ticket during my lunch break the very day I got laid off, but really? I did that? Reckless? Irresponsible? Stupid? Or best decision of my life?  I vacillate between the last two.  I think it was simultaneously both.  Foolish perhaps, but at the time, I think it was what I needed to get my mojo flowing. Sometimes, you gotta do stupid things to get your groove back.

Since being laid off, I’ve temped part-time at a non-profit that organizes continuing education opportunities for Seniors;  I’ve worked (well, work, present tense) at a restaurant.  I’ve met dozens of new people — some I’ve been apathetic about, some I’ve disliked; many I’ve liked, and some I’ve really liked.  Some, I’ve regrettably fallen out of contact with because I’m bad at staying in contact with people (if you’re one of those people, and you’re reading this, hey, let’s hang out by the way?).  I’ve Networked with countless people to no avail; sent out billions more cover letters and resumes, and heard back from few.  Then, in the month of July, I all but gave up.  I knew that I needed to keep trying, but it just got to be so damn dispiriting.  This, was no funemployment.

Day 86: Having fallen into a routine the past month, where I’d lounge around my apartment all day, then go to work at the restaurant in the evening, I was bumming myself out.  For all I knew, the sun had taken a summer hiatus, because I never ever saw it cooped up in my apartment all day.  I came up with a plan to get myself out of the house before 3pm: treat myself to a movie.  But what movie? Up!? 3-D movies are fun, maybe that would perk me up.  Yes, that’s what I would do.  I would go to the movies.  Tomorrow.  Having decided that, I settled comfortably back on the couch and continued watching Golden Girls on Lifetime.

Day 87: On a whim, I decide to treat myself to (500) Days of Summer instead of Up!. (500) Days of Summer is only playing at two theaters in San Francisco, and I decided upon The Metreon, because something about The Kabuki Theater annoys me.  The Metreon: gawdy, loud, smack dab in the middle of the touristy section by Union Square, 20+ theaters (including IMAX) — The Metreon is the anti “Sundance Film Festival” Kabuki Theater. Commercial, garish, grotesque — in a way, The Metreon is the anti-self-smug-alternative-independent-spirit-San Francisco.  The McDonald’s of movie theaters. Good. That’s the way I wanted it.

I settled upon the 1pm showing, mostly because that was the earliest I could drag myself out of the apartment.  Feeling kind of lazy (who needs to dress up for the movies?) I threw on an old striped Lacoste polo I got at a thrift store in high school, my tattered skinny jeans with the hole in the knee and broken belt loop, a yellow hoody, and my topsiders.  To make myself feel extra comfy, I threw on my winter coat.  That’s the good thing about summers in San Francisco — it’s always acceptable to wear a winter coat in the middle of the day.  And, so, I was off.  My sunglasses covering my face, my ipod streaming electronic synthesizer beats into my ear drums, I had not a care in the world other than making the bus.  Which, I almost didn’t do…

Halfway down my block, I saw the 30-Stockton bus barreling down the street.  I began to jog to keep up with it, then quickly broke into a flat-out sprint in order to beat it to the next bus stop.  I zig-zagged between people, knocked over a few — I was a human version of Frogger, taring down the streets of North Beach.  Around block three, the bus broke ahead of me, and I hanged my head in defeat.  But then, as luck would have it, the light turned red, and the bus puttered to a stop only a block ahead of me.  Sucking air into my out of shape lungs, I sprinted up the block, banged on the door, and nearly had a heart attack as the metal doors swung open to greet me.  I was too tired to even smile at my victory.  Just give me a goddamn seat, I (probably should have) muttered to myself.

“Oh, look at her!” A voice laughed from the back of the bus.

“She got the old-school penny loafers on an’ everything!” The voice grew louder as I trudged towards the back of the bus, which had begun moving again.  Other voices cackled in laughter.

“An’ them skinny jeans. Oh! And the sunglasses!”

“And an alligator polo!” Another voice roared.  The voices in the back of the bus burst into laughter.  I knew my outfit wasn’t exactly Joan Rivers praiseworthy, but I didn’t think it was heckle status awful either.  Deflated, I slunk into a seat next to a dozing old black man, and turned my ipod up even louder.  If I ignored The Back of the Bus Boys, maybe they would stop.  Well, they didn’t stop.  They continued to heckle everybody who got on the bus.  They mocked the Chinese language by making ching-chong noises.  Made fun kids sitting in their mother’s laps.  They even made fun of people not even on the bus.  They basically, were what would happen if a group of people were suddenly stripped of their inner monologues.  Like that Jim Carrey movie Liar, Liar, except instead of not being able to lie, these clowns weren’t able to have a single silent thought.  Every thought must be shouted for the entire bus to hear.  What did people do without ipods? Seriously?

***

I thought that it would be weird to order a ticket for myself, sit in a theater waiting for the previews by myself, smile at the movie by myself; but actually, it wasn’t.  It was oddly empowering. And when the movie was all over, I felt free.  Like a weight had been lifted off of my shoulders.  As I walked down Mission St., I had the feeling that life was going to be okay.  That there was promise out there, just waiting to be discovered.  That I was going to discover it.  I smiled at crazy homeless people, chuckled with tourists…I felt free.  Nothing was worrying me.

Day 90: It’s 4am.  Yeah, we’ll see.

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