The knowledge that I'm not alone in this crowded island of the unemployed is extremely cold comfort. As cold as the air conditioning in the McDonald's I've taken refuge in for the next 45 minutes until my next public aid appointment.
Even though I've read about and spoken to people who have been long suffering on this island, there's nothing like the first person view from its coastline. I guess I would be considered one of those 99% Occupiers who have made the socially accepted "right choices": no kids, no live in unmarried partner, college and advanced degree holder. Yet still, I find myself riding from unemployment office appointment to food stamp office appointment chasing down information while throwing cautious glances at my gas gauge just like the other countless folks I've met while on this island. By the way, I've noticed that the higher income the area, the less public transportation services are available. There are no services in my town and the closest public aid office is approximately 10 miles away. My depleting gas tank does not appreciate that.
I suppose you can say I hit rock bottom when I found myself following up on an application I put in at the gas station around the corner from my house in my manicured middle upper income neighborhood. After all, I didn't go to college for a total of 10 years to work at a gas station! At least that's how I'm supposed to think. The reality is that a paying job is better than no job. Kind of like rationalizing that being a phone sex operator is an adventure and not really sex work, per se. Yeah, in my grad school days I came very close to that occupation.
Now, in the midst of applying for 5-15 jobs a day online, I've resigned myself to being in that not-so-new class of highly educated, socially conscious, but still shell shocked unemployed people. But because I look the part, I can stay in the air conditioned confines of any place without buying much or anything at all and will never be shooed away. I can hop in my car and drive home without delay if I can't get an appointment as fast as I'd like. I can verbally assert myself to the manager of an office public service worker calmly, displaying my education level, and will likely receive immediate service without getting escorted out by security for making a scene. So, not everyone on this island is equal...some wait in the shade drinking coconut milk while others roast in the sun fighting the urge to drink the salt water. And here is where the Occupiers failed, I think. They didn't see themselves as the same as the others in the island. There was a sense that they felt they deserved the dream while others didn't, so their suffering was a priority. Maybe that's why they were such easy targets...so marginalized...their reach and scope so short. They didn't make themselves relevant to a potential base of thousands by seeing their lot as the same.
So, because I'm conscious of these things, should I deny my own privilege on this island? Reject the same day appointment I got at the food stamp office when others have to wait days? And if not, am I just another opportunist on the island? This is what's running through my mind as I sit staring out the window, checking the status of my pay day loan store application.