Counting the Unemployed

Wed Aug. 24, 2005 5:06 PM EDT

I came across this op/ed from the Boston Globe and I have to confess it made me ill:

Most of us fear joblessness — but if you make the best of it, it can be a time for rejuvenation, self-improvement, and even a little fun. I don't think I'm alone. I've heard it confided in whispers that unemployment — despite the obvious downside — can carry unforeseen joys...Even if you're lucky enough to get interviews, even if you're spending a good portion of your week on rewriting and printing your resume, you have lots more time at home than ever before. I read books on developing a positive outlook and generally succeeding in life. I actually cleaned my stove as soon as something spilled on it. Cleaned the rest of my apartment, too.

Read the rest if you can handle it.

Apparently this woman has never been to Chicago's South Side. I would venture to guess that the unemployed and underemployed would not agree with her fanciful and fun-filled characterization.

Just to give some examples:

Today while I was having lunch at one of the nearby fast food chains I saw a woman going through the parking lot trying to sell people her shoes. She was walking up to people sitting in parked cars or people coming in and out of the restaurant. I saw her take off the dirty low-heeled lavender dress shoes and hold them up for several people to look at. No one took her up on her offer.

Then there is the gas station by my house. I can go there at any time of the day and men ranging from 14 and 15 all the way up to 50 will be standing there offering to pump your gas for you.

Then there is the park across from my street. When I walk through there at night or early in the morning almost every bench has someone sleeping on it. Most of them have a few bags rolled up next to them, but some have nothing but a coat covering them up.

At my local video rental store there are always one or two people standing out front asking for change as you go in and leave. Sometimes I wonder if they "work" in shifts since it seems like a different person every time I go.

I doubt very much that these fine folks would consider unemployment "a time for rejuvenation." Of course, I also doubt very much that they figure in the country's unemployment statistics. They are the forgotten ones – those who gave up looking for jobs long ago in a city that couldn't find a place for them and didn't want to.