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Sadie Hawkins Makeover

by Jeremy Smith

I’m not unfamiliar with Unemployment. I met her once when I was in college and she seemed ok. Sure she looked a little ragged, like she had been around, but I didn’t mind back then. We got along and every now and again I can look back and say that I had a few good times with her. After a while though, like most things in life, our relationship got dull. Frankly Unemployment had run me out of money. I had to leave her. We split up, but after college there she was waiting for me with open arms, and I said sure, we can try it again for a little while, how bad could it be. A few months later I kicked her out of my life again in favor of Employment, a harsh mistress in her own right.

Employment didn’t ask much, just forty hours a week and undying loyalty to something that I neither cared about nor believed in. In exchange she would make sure I wouldn’t run out of food. Employment was safe, but life changes. Things pull you in other directions and you have to make choices. Employment’s safety or Unemployment’s potential?

I chose potential back in Columbus rather than safety in Iowa. And when it came time to move back to Columbus, there she was again, Unemployment was waiting with those pale boney hands, and dark circles under her eyes, tired and used, but ready to take me back. I welcomed her, though I don’t know why. There’s just something about not being asked to do anything more than chase a dream that appeals to everyone on a certain level I suppose.
Since then everyday Unemployment sits with me on the couch as I write. She looms over me as I do dishes, cook dinner, or visit the in-laws. I don’t mind her being around, really I don’t and neither does my wife, but sometimes other people look at me and say “When are you going to find a job?” Today I tried just that, I tried to dump Unemployment again.

You see a week ago I received a phone call out of the blue from a pleasant sounding woman from a financial company who I won’t name. Let’s say the company is a major financial player, one that you might bank with or have a credit card from, who’s name rhymes with bitty coupe. Yes, that description should absolve me from any legal ramifications, so we’ll go with that.

The woman recited several things from my résumé over the phone including my last employer and the position that I had held and said that her company, a subsidiary of this larger financial company would be interested in interviewing me. This was unusual seeing as I never submitted a resume to this company on the basis that I was an English major who has worked predominantly in customer service his entire life and has no finance background whatsoever and no real interest in obtaining said background. Despite how odd her invitation seemed, I couldn’t help but look at Unemployment on the other end of the couch sitting there glaring at me, and accept this woman’s interview offer.

A week later I found myself outside of a small office in a business complex behind a grocery store wearing my grey suit with no tie, I felt that the suit was a big enough lie, I shouldn’t lead the interviewer on any more than I already was. Something seemed a little off when I stood there looking at the building, it was so small compared to the building that the financial company owned just fifteen minutes downtown, but I brushed off my doubts, looked back at Unemployment who was waiting in my car, and I walked in.

Inside that little office building was an open work floor set up for a presentation with several rows of chairs and a projector on a cart in the middle. There were no offices and the posters provided by the company up on the walls had creases where they were recently unfolded and tacked up. I was given a name tag and asked to take a seat. Something was wrong.

Every person seated was unemployed, most of them just like me, mid twenties, some were older, and maybe one younger and you could tell by the way everyone was looking around that something just wasn’t right. I’ve had one-on-one interviews, panel interviews, and phone interviews. I’ve answered questions, written essays, and listed references. Never though had I been asked to sit and watch a presentation on the job position I was interviewing for. I thought of Unemployment though, waiting for me, and the way people look at me when I’m with her. I took my seat and name tag and smiled that fake ‘I know you’re watching me’ smile.

Soon a woman came to the front and introduced herself, her name I honestly can’t remember, and started a ‘brief movie about what we do at this organization’. The movie was little more than a power point slide show, something I could have put together my senior year of high school. It made me feel uneasy, and at first I couldn’t tell why as it had only given the company name, its parent company’s name (which rhymes with Bitty Coupe), and its parent company’s standing in the USA’s financial sector. All normal, nothing I couldn’t find online in ten minutes, but then the real presentation started.
“We live in a chaotic world.” The video said. Nothing that I disagree with, but it seemed unnecessary to point out. “and in 2001 that world got even more chaotic” the video said as it displayed several seconds of 9-11 footage with planes crashing into the twin towers. Now, I’m not easily shocked or appalled by anything. I like horror movies and I grew up with an internet connection. There isn’t a lot that I haven’t seen in terms of the morally questionable and depraved. This though, it left me wide eyed for a moment, wondering what I had gotten myself into.

The video went on about the debt of the nation and how credit card companies were putting people in that state of debt and banks were failing to help them save. This didn’t elicit me for sympathy as these people thought it would, instead it just made me wonder what kind of point we could be getting to, as that this organization was a subsidiary of a bank which issues credit cards.
Finally the movie ended its vague tirade on the condition of the US, and a speaker again took the floor. The stout Asian man of about forty looked out across the crowd and began his financial sermon:

“People today are in a lot of debt, and there are a lot of companies trying to help these people by refinancing their debt in with their homes, but none of these companies are offering these people financial advice after they refinance their debts. The money that these people save from refinancing they just go out and spend. We want to help them save that money for their future.”

How altruistic I thought, how noble, how much bullshit am I expected to believe.

The man went on to say “We offer them financial advice, provide them with high yield savings, and give them better life insurance coverage. I mean who doesn’t want to have their savings in an account that makes 12% interest, and to pay less for the life insurance they need?” This for me sealed the deal. There is nothing wrong with people who sell life insurance or financial advice. Neither of those statements bothered me, but twelve percent interest might as well have been a fireworks display screaming ‘FRAUD!’

Now like I said I’m no financial genius, but when he said twelve percent I knew he was full of it. I have a bank account with a fair amount of money in it, and I know exactly what the interest rate is: one point five percent. No one but a con-artist is willing to make a claim like that, and indeed someone in the audience stood up and walked out after he said it. I stayed though, not out of interest for the position, but more for my own morbid curiosity.
After a while another woman took the stage and began to tell us about her personal experience and how she made one hundred thousand dollars part time doing what they were giving us the opportunity to do right now. A few more people got up and left.

Another woman got up to explain how it wasn’t a pyramid scheme and she decided to ask me a question to make her point.

“How would you like it if I took half of your paycheck Jeremy?” she said.

“I hate you.” I replied coldly, rather than saying ‘I guess I would feel angry’. I did it intentionally, hoping that it would offset her, take her out of her little speech, and let her know how those left in the room were feeling. No, she went on not missing a beat saying how it wouldn’t be like that in their company, and all we would have to do is pay them for our licensing, just two hundred dollars each and you will be on your way to financial freedom, and helping others with their financial freedom.

If it sounds too good to be true, then it isn’t true, but I knew that long before they started to set up the one-on-one interviews so I simply walked up to the nice lady who had called me out and wasted two hours of my life and thanked her for her time.

I walked back out to my car and there was Unemployment, waiting for me. She wasn’t upset that I was looking to get rid of her, she wasn’t mad that I don’t think she’s meant for a long-term relationship with me, and she doesn’t mind when I don’t pay attention to her. It’s days like this that I appreciate Unemployment, because even if we don’t always get along, even if sometimes people look at me funny when we’re together, at least unemployment doesn’t try to tell me that I can change this terrible terrifying world if I’ll only give her two hundred dollars and sell some life insurance.