Friday, April 17, 2009

Scenes From a Down - a poem

He was laid off last year from his job 
used to install and repair windows and doors, 
earning $11.50 an hour with health insurance.
The supervisor called him into a wood panelled 
office to explain they were downsizing and 
his services were no longer needed, he started 
looking for a job.the very next day.
In December, he went to the state fairgrounds
(he had seen a back page advertisement about an
impending job fair in the Columbia Star)
knowing that he would feel secure amongst 
the hundreds of other people also out of work.
He and an acquaintance applied for a few 
openings and shared a beer afterward. 
The most promising job was a position as a 
technician at an air-conditioning company. 
It paid $8.50 an hour. He never got that. 
He applied for more than 50 jobs since, 
welder, an auto mechanic and a painter.
“Anything,” he says. “I’ve been applying for anything.”
In February, he was finally granted an interview 
at a plant that made industrial adhesives.
They liked him, they liked his experience
They smiled, shook hands. It felt too easy.
The company ran a credit check and turned 
him down. All the deals that had gone awry, 
all those transactions he barely understood, 
all those strange assurances he accepted 
and advance purchases made on credit 
somehow wound itself into his credit story.
He suddenly remembered that one time when
he had walked away from a mortgage after
the large Wall Street firm told him that the 
terms had changed; in a terse letter 
with the relevant fine print underlined.
Of course, he was convinced the bank had 
cheated him. The bank countered in court 
documents that they had ‘explained and 
quantified the immediate identifiable risks'.

A few months back he got an e-mail from a 
college called the U.S. Career Institute. 
They were based in Colorado. They offered 
online training for “an exciting, professional 
career” in medical billing. It was $69 a month. 
His fiancé grudgingly agreed. He says that 
he was happy that someone decided to 
send him an email promising a future made 
out and waiting for someone just like him.

He now takes his classes online, making 
slow but steady progress. Staring at the 
computer for long hurts his eyes but he 
goes on through the day while his fiancé 
works at the nearby hospital. She is a 
secretary. She makes $7.70 an hour. When 
she gets home, they sit together and pass 
evening hours on a sagging couch, a pack 
of Newport cigarettes on the coffee table, 
and the television remote in hand, surveying 
a world mired in distress. They flip between the 
action movies and news channels, absorbing 
the shifting patterns of reality and make believe.
Sometimes they microwave the packaged dinner
while on other nights, they share leftovers.
Sometimes he falls asleep, one beer too many
and no dinner. They keep each other warm
as he dreams of completing his online course and 
then starting to bill for insurance companies who 
were bailed out by the folks in Washington. 
He dreams of making $30 an hour, like they said 
in the advertisements. The wind blows steadily 
against their mobile home as he hears the rains 
come down; slowly at first and then with an 
incessant frequency that seemed to crowd out 
the disposable income calculations that was 
just forming in Raymond Vaughn’s mind.

Note: This poem was adapted and modified from a story I read about a jobless individual trying to make ends meet in the Times. 

1 comment:

Sindhu Gangadharan said...

Hmmm....mirroring the reality in lots of peoples lifes these days...