Today was a challenge for me. I should say, instead, that my morning appointment was a challenging thing to get through.
I was being audited by Washington state unemployment, which is no big deal, especially since the work contacts I made during week they called me on were front and center in my gmail outbox.
The hard part was just being there.
At 9:45 this morning, when I arrived what I consider to be well shy of my 10:00 summons, the place was already packed with people who legitimately needed assistance creating a resume and, even, using the internet.
I made it a point to refrain from wearing a $200 shirt (which in my defense I only bought for $60, and at a time when I thought it was necessary to own such a thing), unlike my first trip to the unemployment office in Holyoke, MA where I had to undergo a job training session, but I still felt overdressed given my lack of a beat up old windbreaker and mud-stained sweatpants. Lacking a neck tattoo I also stood out, as I now recall.
The corner of High and Jackson in Holyoke, coincidentally, wasn't much different than the corner of Tacoma Ave. and So. 13th.
Tacoma is just a little bit busier, fitting for a city ten times the size of Holyoke.
Nevertheless it was today that I felt the helplessness of being grouped with my WorkSource colleagues. They, the limousine drivers and the security guards, the dime store mortgage brokers and the apartment cleaners.
I was no different, out of a job and looking to stay afloat.
But I know how to use a computer. Quite well.
Still, seeing the parade of neck-tattooed men in sweats, fat white women laboring to get through the door, and immigrants of either gender who struggled simply to read the directions on the form sheets, was a tough pill to swallow.
On at least three different occasions, the depression train started steaming up so hot that I almost ran straight out of the building, no longer willing to witness the plight of the unhappy, uneducated, unsophisticated lot that filled the rooms that make up the Pierce County WorkSource building.
But I stayed. I needed the money. Just like everyone else.
The parade of tired and poor made me think once more on the idea of government education. In times like these, when an overeducated sod like myself can't find a job, it is easy to shit on society's ideal that all should be educated.
But then, as you watch the line at the unemployment office wander through their morning, you see that what may be a loss on the margins for some, is a boon to society as a whole.
In the stumbles, the "habla Espanol?"s, in the shame, in the hope, you see it.
Today I saw it, and it was all that kept me from running away.