Sunday, April 5, 2009

8.5% is a big, big number.

I haven’t lost interest in blogging, I’ve been visiting the land of What’s Next again. I brought a present that is still being wrapped, in the meantime here is a melancholy, depressing opening because the news these days is just too damn cheerful.

Yesterday, I listened to two people having a conversation in a supermarket (where else?). They knew each other from someplace long ago. Maybe college, maybe a bar, I couldn’t make it out. They established in the first two minutes that ThisEconomy sucks. One’s spouse was laid off. The other lost his job in November. For the next four or five minutes, and I know this because I had reason to be in earshot (I did, Courtney, I did) it was an ailment contest: “I had the hip finally done in January…” “I know, I had my second knee replacement in three years…” and so on until they went one way to the deli and I went the other to Soft Drinks and Seasonal Decorations. Behind me I heard, "So who did your hand?"

I went out of my way to smile at one of the people when I saw him later until he shrugged and smiled back. I wanted to say, “Don’t pick up,” because we crossed each other in the wine aisle, but I didn’t.
8.5% unemployment will make a lot of people idle who don’t wish to be. It will draw a wandering eye to things that usually go unnoticed; the way the house has settled, the way the sky looks at four o’clock, the dog. It will create hypochondriacs who work at small problems until they are big enough to capture the stress that has no place else to go.

It will do other things. It will change outlooks as self-elevated, intolerant people lose a job and understand how they intersect with others. Except for a certain sulky, spoiled someone who works at a certain sports store near me and needs to be pushed off her chair by my brother Tom, it will make grateful, appreciative workers out of the disinterested, unmotivated ones.

8.5% unemployment will change attitudes. Some of them will be worth passing on.

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