Saturday, April 25, 2009

Good Unemployment Fairy

One of my high school sorority sisters just came for a visit. I haven't seen her in a few years and the economy has certainly changed everything. Last I saw her, she was wearing designer clothes and driving a fancy car, obviously pulling in pretty good money. Now she's on unemployment, renting out a room in her house and housecleaning whenever she can find a client. She grows her own food, bikes everywhere and was in town for a marathon. She's always been resilient and together; now she's the Bionic Woman.

We traded unemployment stories in my messy house over my noisy children and I was feeling a little jealous of her accomplishments, which I will pettily attribute to her not having children (at least partially). I would say that the grass is always greener, except I'm not sure how inviting my life was looking as my children were giving her a complete tour of their worst behavior.

As we were talking, I realized I had completely forgotten about the good unemployment fairy who I encountered at the EDD. She was the opposite of a heartless bureaucrat. I couldn't believe how lucky I was to come across this particular person as the chances must be less than 1%.

I didn't realize that I qualified for unemployment for the first six months after I left my job. A friend told me that I might qualify as my official reason for leaving was to care for my sick child. I looked at the EDD website and sure enough, he was right. However, I got some of the details all wrong. It was a case of me being unnecessarily stubborn because someone did try to warn me.

Anyone who knows anything about unemployment knows that you only qualify for it if you are looking for work. I didn't understand that and was only focusing on my original reason for leaving. I filled out the paperwork in such a way as to disqualify myself. Then the nicest woman ever to work for the EDD called for the follow-up interview.

She interviewed me for a few minutes before telling me I was disqualified. Now she had information that I couldn't rescind without proving myself a liar. My response was to totally lose it on the phone. I became an emotional mess, ranting about my personal situation: "I'VE BEEN WORKING - AND CONTRIBUTING TO THE SYSTEM - SINCE I WAS 16. I HAVE TWO KIDS AND I NEED THE MONEY. JUST TELL ME WHAT I'M SUPPOSED TO DO AND I'LL DO IT."

There was a long pause on the other end of the phone. Then she said, "OK, I'm going to explain a few things to you and I want you to listen carefully. When I'm done, I'm going to ask you some questions." She went on to explain what a person in my situation would need to say in order to qualify. She asked me the questions and I answered as instructed. Then, "Well, look at that. You have qualified." A couple minutes after I hung up, the phone rang and it was the good fairy again, "Next time, call first and ask, OK?" Sure.


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