Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Do you know anyone at all right now who has no money concerns? I do not. From a wealthy acquaintance who confided his portfolio is down 60 percent, to workaday friends who live paycheck to paycheck, (and some who no longer have a paycheck), we’re in the thick of something most of us have never experienced. Lingering somewhere between recession and depression, last week the government revealed the national unemployment hit 8.9 percent, four-tenths of a percent higher than last quarter. I’ve been doing a little digging, because digging is what I do – turns out the unemployment rate in this country for most of the 1930s, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics – was 8.9%. In 2009, that translates to 13.7 million people out of work, and of course those are only the ones we know about. Seems like what we need about now is a good laugh.

So with all of that doom and gloom, you have to hand it to the American people, who routinely find humor in the most dire situations. And you have to wonder, where is all of this creativity when we’re not in a crisis? Well, that’s fodder for another day. Today I just wanted to show you a few highly imaginative unemployment undertakings on the web. One of my favorites is the “Stuff Unemployed People Like” blog. This guy (or not guy, I’m not sure, since the blogger is anonymous) writes about the endless possibilities for filling up your time, such as getting annoyed about having to get dressed, or buying Perrier with food stamps. Oh, and then there’s my favorite: “Having octuplets.” And listen, the comments readers write in response to the posts are as funny as the blog material.

Then there is “Unemploymentality,” a blog that bills itself as “The Definitive Unemployment Blog,” with special appeal for “Lifestyles of the Penniless and Downtrodden.” I especially like the “Resources for the Screwed” section. Here you can watch a video titled “Bernie Madoff’s ponzi scheme explained by Sesame Street economic analysts,” or update yourself on “Swine Flu and the Unemployed.” While “Stuff Unemployed People Like” is for dedicated slackers, “Unemploymentality” is more geared toward formerly upwardly mobile types.

As Milton Berle used to say, “I’ve got a million of ‘em.” He was referring to his really bad jokes, but the fact is there are countless unemployment blogs, and some of them are hysterically funny. And others are insightful, poignant and extremely well-written. It’s not an original thought, but when the economy tanks, art rises. What’s up with that?

Meanwhile, there are the predictable networking sites, and some of them are truly creative. The “405 Club” is a site for entrepreneurs and job hunters to find each other. This site is really well done, and apparently with some side benefits. It’s based out of New York. I talked to Renee Salinger, an unemployed architectural interior specialist who had originally gone to the site out of curiosity. “I didn’t really find much help in the career department, but I did meet Jon, and for my money, or lack of it, Jon is way better than a job.” Jon Barnard, as it turns out, was an unemployed security consultant who ended up being Renee’s new main squeeze. Ain’t love grand?

I was most surprised to find out about “Pink Slip Parties.” These are gatherings of jobless people, job recruiters, employment agents – anybody who needs to mix with others for a common cause – employment. Watch this:

The most cynical among us would see in this video desperate yuppies with cocktails and slight chips on their shoulders. But if you stop and think about it, it’s about collaboration and really putting yourself out there to jump start your stalled occupational life. And hey, who doesn’t need a stiff cocktail right now, right? I mean nobody knows it, but at home you’ve downsized from Stoli to Taaka, and you’re cocktailing out of leftover plastic Mardi Gras cups. At least at the Pink Slip Party you can have a decent drink out of real stemware. Sometimes there is even free food, so ladies bring one of your big Fendi bags you bought before the crash, and discreetly load it up with those tiny sandwiches, cheese cubes and crudite.

Look, unemployment is a bitch. No matter how you slice it. I’ve been there more than once in my life. My God, one time I went to an agency that sent me out on an interview to manage a lumber store. I tried to tell the guy Jews don’t know lumber, but was he listening? No. So I get it. But it doesn’t hurt to find levity in near tragedy. If Wanda Sykes can make 9/11 jokes at the White House Correspondents Association Dinner, we can laugh about being destitute, right? And yes, I am going to end this because I know you unemployed types need to get to your TVs now to watch “Ellen” and “The Young and the Restless.” Go for it.


Nicole and Mon Voyage said...

I really enjoyed reading this one as well as your other post today about "news" priorities. When our local newscast starts with something that would be more appropriate for TMZ, you know the 'cast is probably just gonna go downhill from there. Living in Dallas, I can't begin to tell you how often some yawn-inducing Dallas Cowboys stupidity is at the top of the news. Last week it was basketball player Dirk Nowitzki and his ten-aliased, wanted-by-cops, pregnant girlfriend. Now that the Mavs have been bounced from the playoffs, this "story" may rear its ugly head again.

I'm going to check out some of the unemployment websites you mention. By all accounts I would probably be considered "underemployed", trying to cultivate my travel planning business and doing other odd jobs as well. But that allows me to do more volunteer work for my favorite nonprofits. They truly appreciate the extra time I can offer them, and I know I am contributing to something greater than myself. It also takes your mind off your own lack of income when you are helping people with just about nothing in this world, and come to know, for example, that the food pantry needs donations of toiletries and personal care items, because guess what? You can't get soap or toilet paper or toothpaste, etc, with food stamps.

Paul A. Greenberg said...

Nicole, you should check out Bette Midler's column on Huffington Post about planning events for non-profits during the recession (She served chicken pot pie at her Hulaween gala last year!). Very funny and very insightful. Paul G.