Everything You Wanted to Know About Unemployment But Were Too Smart to Ask

So, as I mentioned previously, for a while, something had gone wrong with my unemployment claim and because the office refused to speak to me on the phone, I had no way of fixing it. My roommate suggested I call the Public Advocate’s office, and they promised they’d handle things. When I called back a month later, the public advocate case worker I’d been assigned said that she was “very busy” and might be able to get to my claim in a few weeks. I thanked her and said goodbye.

One second later, my phone rang. It was my case worker. “Hey!” she yelled into the phone. “You hung up on me!”
I thought maybe this was a dream but I stammered, “Um, sorry. I thought you were done.”
“I wasn’t done,” she snapped.
“Oh, but I mean, I said ‘Thanks’ and ‘Goodbye.'” Was my mother masquerading as my case worker?
“Yeah. But I was still talking! I was explaining to you why your case will be delayed.”
“Yeah. Well, we’re very busy. We have a lot of unemployment cases. There’s just not enough time.”
“Oh. Well. Thanks for calling me back! Thanks! Bye!”

Clearly, phone calls like the one transcribed above are the reason why she doesn’t have time to solve people’s real problems. But who am I to criticize someone for wanting to have a human interaction?

Still, I was getting pretty annoyed. I decided to try calling unemployment again. This time, I pressed the right combination of random choices such that they said I could talk to someone, if I just waited 20 minutes. What with the whole, “unemployed” thing, I definitely had 20 minutes. One venti iced coffee later, I made contact with the enemy.

I decided to be as specific as possible, as quickly as possible. “Hi. I’m calling because my unemployment claim is somehow lost in space!”
The woman on the other side sighed, said, “Ok,” and proceeded to collect my information.
“Ok, your claim is not lost in space–” she began.
“Yes it is!” (That time, I fully admit to interrupting.)
“No. Listen, do you use the Web?”
Resisting the urge to yelp, “Of course I use the Web, how do you think I ended up unemployed in the first place??” I instead blathered, “Yes, I use the Web! But you don’t understand! On the Web it says call a phone number, the phone number says call another phone number, and the last phone number says use the Web. As I said, ‘lost in space.'”
“Ok,” she sighed. “You claim is not lost in space. I’m staring right at it. The reason that I asked if you used the Web is because there’s this funny thing on our Web site–well, do you use your mouse to scroll down?”
“I don’t have a mouse!” I shouted. “I have a laptop!” Obviously, she was just buying time and hoping the aliens returned my claim before she got caught lying about my its location in the solar system.
“Ok,” she repeated, not betraying a twinge of anything but total boredom. “I asked if you scroll down because if you scroll down instead of using the side bar, the Web site will just switch all your answers to the opposite of what you put. And it won’t show you. Small glitch. You just have to be careful.”
“Oh my god..yeah…I scrolled down.” I had vagued memories of switching my Mac settings so I could easily tap my fingers on the mouse pad and glide through the page. I also had vague memories of some postmodern novelists that would just love to eat sh*t like this for breakfast. I mean, a “glitch” in the Web site that just changes all your answers?? Call me a semantic haggler, but “glitch” seemed like a gross understatement.
“Yeah,” she continued. “So if you answered that you didn’t work, the system entered that you did work, so you became inelligible.”
“Uh…so can I switch it?”
“Oh..yeah..I’m fixing everything for you right now. Everything will be set by next week.”
Web site FAIL be damned, I was ecstatic. “I don’t know how many people tell you they appreciate you, Andrea, Andrea–that was your name, right?”
“Ok, Andrea, I just want you to know that I really reallly really appreciate you. Thanks so much!”
“No problem,” she answered smoothly, still sounding bored.

So my love for Andrea proved to be unrequited and the Unemployment Office proved to be just like love: totally irrational, ripe material for farce and fiction, and all the more enthralling when the person won’t return your affection. Love pays less, though…and that’s why I’m on umemployment.


6 thoughts on “Everything You Wanted to Know About Unemployment But Were Too Smart to Ask

  1. Fantastic post, RB. One that made me laugh heartily. It wasn't so long ago that I too, was a mere plaything of the system.

    Its one big nasty governmental game of cat and mouse as far as I can see. Good to know everything on the other side of the world is eerily similar!

    Even though I was unemployed for three months, I ended up getting about a month's worth of benefits. And that was after jumping through many a hoop and sitting on the phone for hours.

    All for a fortnightly benefit payment that was well… a pittance.

    Now that I have a job again, it seems just as impossible to escape their endless requests for paperwork. Argh!

    Oh and perhaps the next time you're talking to someone from their office, mention that the 'glitch' (ahem, cough) they have on their site could be easily fixed.

    Might even give some out of work developer a job! 😉


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