He quietly just moved them into the cellar. He knew that the fact that they were sitting there, untouched, meant I just didn’t want to deal with it.
I filed for unemployment today. They had me write my Social Security number on a Post-It so I wouldn’t have to say it out loud, then sent me to an area full of tables, chairs and self-help books to wait. “The Job Search Solution!” one jacket read. “A Great Resume, Your Ticket to an Interview!” another proclaimed.
I’ve been working since I was 16, 13 if you count all those years of babysitting. My first job was at McDonald’s making french fries. I never actually lost that job; they just stopped giving me shifts and never bothered to ask for the polyester uniform back. But the jobs kept coming: I spent senior year at a sub shop, freshman year at BU filing cards in the library’s card catalog (foreshadowing: I returned the next year to discover all my hard work with paper had been replaced by a computer), sophomore year juggling the school paper with a job at an upscale toy store. I’ve sold clothes to mothers and drag queens, filled bags with ball bearings, stuffed envelopes, done the temp thing and worked in offices all over Boston.
I’ve never filed for unemployment. Never had to. People liked when I worked for them — I had proof of it in my temp agency call backs, in the regret in editors’ eyes when I announced I was moving on to another paper.
Until, of course, the last editor. I saw regret there, too.
The boxes aren’t that heavy. I took two of them out of the office myself and thrust the heavier one at one of the reporters. They don’t hold much — I was only in that particular newsroom for a year, with the chain for 13 — and only a few things in them are really important. The flattened red and yellow “planet” my daughter made me in 2004. The pink coffee mug with the legend “Whatever a woman does, she must do twice as well as a man to be considered half as good (luckily, this is not difficult).” The picture of my husband with our new puppy, sharing a stick, the summer after we were married. And the ugly plastic black square, rising ominously on a stand — that’s a Borg, the Star Trek interplanetary species that thought with one mind.
“You will be assimilated,” my friend said playfully when he gave it to me, the birthday after our small daily newpaper was bought by a large chain 13 years ago. “We are Borg, we are Borg.”
The man who takes my claim at unemployment doesn’t look at me as he takes my Post-It, takes down my information. He rattles off what I need to know — here’s how to check in on the website, benefits will take five to six weeks to process and kick in after my severance pay have run out. I try to be cheerful and upbeat. His voice doesn’t change. I don’t know if his facial expression did.
I’ve shed no tears over the loss of my job. I’ve been angry, but I’ve mostly been numb. I’ve longed for 11 years for Saturdays off, but it’s worst on Saturdays — my family has routines without me, my body insists on maintaining itself on Sunday edition time. What do people DO on Saturdays? Am I ever going to feel sleepy before 1 a.m. again?
Someday, maybe, I’ll get to those boxes. There’s probably nothing in there that I need, anyway.
I have been unassimilated. No longer Borg, no longer employed.