Taking My Turn At Collecting Unemployment Or How To Drive Bureaucrats Batty

Haresh Shah

 

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I am sitting in the front of the IDES (Illinois Department of Employment Security) officer Mr. David M. at their downtown Evanston branch. I have him  absolutely and positively flustered. He is almost on the verge of pulling his hair off his head – that is what is left of it. The few locks of  curls hanging around his neck from his otherwise bald as a water melon crown. He is a gaunt looking skinny man in his middle age. His eyes squinting behind his dense Coke bottle glasses. The shriveled frown on his face fits perfectly that of an accountant – overworked, underpaid and underappreciated, all of which he probably is. The more I answer his questions to clarify, the more confused and frustrated he looks. At some point he just smacks my paperwork down on his desk, kicks his chair back, jumps up like a Jack in the Box from a suddenly unlatched top and begins to walk to the back.

‘You’re driving me crazy!’

Nothing is amiss with my application. My paperwork is well organized and is in order. I am entitled to receive the unemployment benefits that I am applying for. Though I read a question mark on his face as to why it took me more than a whole year to get around to it. But that doesn’t disqualify me. No particular reason. I guess I wasn’t exactly hurting for the money and also because I had landed a week a month assignment in Florida. Procrastination? A bit of a discomfort and the false pride? I don’t think so. This after all is my second bout at collecting unemployment. But finally  my girlfriend Susan (Serpe) nudges me into it. You have paid into the system all your life. You’re entitled to it. Would you not claim what’s due you from an insurance company? Right! So a couple of days later I pick up the application forms, gather all the back-up paperwork and present myself in front of David M.

He looks at my application and studies it meticulously and checks off an item after another. Gives closer look to my work and the salary history. I can see him raising his eyebrows as he checks off my six figure salary, and lets out an exclamatory soft grunt followed by an intermittent comment.

‘Whenever possible, we try to help people find jobs in addition to what we post on the bulletin board. But in your case, I’m afraid, you’re on your own.’

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