My Week in Joblessness (8): A Letter from the Jobless Trenches [GoThinkBig column]

Published 19/07/2013 on GoThinkBig

My Week in Joblessness sticky-2

Dear Family,

It’s my 159th day in the jobless trenches. Sorry I haven’t written in a while. I’ve been a bit busy in my cycle of applying for jobs and listening to crickets. Please don’t send a scolding letter saying you thought I was dead in a ditch. You know perfectly well I’m in a trench. Plus you’ve been retweeting me, so you know I’m alive.

Thanks for the socks and biscuits. I’ve eaten them.

Also, sorry my first letter was so self-pitying. I admit a funeral playlist was a tad dramatic, and the Coldplay closer unforgivable. The jobless trenches are rough. Maybe I’m being punished for the times I over-pronounced French words.

Still, don’t despair for me, family, it’s comfy enough – the jobless trenches are built out of pillows and blankets. So we don’t get trenchfoot. We get application-arse.

This is how we live, hidden from sight. The jobless million wallow in the troughs of unemployment, our self-esteem so low we address our covering letters, “To whom it probably doesn’t concern”. We’ve almost grown accustomed to the searching, the waiting, the watching of the inbox (yes, we have wifi down here, it’s all very modern).

Each of us has a smart “interview suit”, tucked away, waiting its turn. But our regular uniform is a pair of pyjamas – we like to think of ourselves as a pyjama-army. Hence our nickname, “The Pyjarmy”, which we holler like a battle-cry when we need to feel that binding, group dynamic. (We used to yell “YOLO” but someone decreed we save that for when our actions could conceivably lead to neon-coloured vomit.) Yes, the jobless trenches are rough.

The first night’s the hardest, no doubt about it. They march you in naked as the day you were born, skin burning and half blinded from that delousing shit they put on you (the last thing we need is bedbugs), and when you sit down in that trench and those job sites light up in front of you, that’s when you know it’s for real. Most newbies come close to madness that first night. Somebody always has a shit-fit. Happens every time. The question is…who’s it gonna be? It’s as good a thing to bet on as any. I had my money on Johnny.

And I won big. Johnny lost his marbles good and proper – no sooner had he sat down in front of Gorkana than they tumbled out of his ears. Then he slipped on them and hit his head again. He spent an entire week convinced he was living in a compound of shepherds, and reproached other soldiers for applying for jobs at The Mirror – “What happened to you?” he would shout, “You’re selling out, man. It used to be about the SHEEP.”

He came halfway to his senses, eventually. One day he just exploded, “RIGHT! FINE!”, and stomped himself into his interview suit. He threw away his imaginary shepherd stick, started typing at an imaginary desk, and babbled about his imaginary commute. We tried to snap him out of it. We showed him his CV. He covered his eyes and wailed, “GET IT AWAY! I don’t need that anymore!”

Sometimes we pop our heads over the top and stare over at The Other Trench – the one for The Employed. We hear things about it, from our comrades who made it over. Tales of leather chairs, fridges with labelled leftovers, and bunkers full of instant coffee are whispered amongst the jobseekers. I tell them hope is a dangerous thing. It’s got no use in the trough. But the stories go on…the fobs, the pet unicorns, the sprinkles of glitter (ruins the coffee, but makes their tongues look like disco balls, so they say).

During the day, we hear them delighting at treats sent by PRs. They use the attached press releases as paper aeroplanes to poke unsuccessful job applicants in the eye. We’ve started a small, informal clinic to treat those afflicted with Press Release Eye (PRE). Unsuccessful interviewees come staggering back to the Pyjarmy trench, hand clamped to their face, and with stoic patience they announce, “I got PRE’d, boys. PRE’d bad…”

At night come the screams…“WHY haven’t they replied? It’s been THREE MONTHS!” and “I’m PERFECT for it, you SADISTS!” Most often of all, it’s a hollow chorus of “Hello…is it me you’re looking for…?” But I’m sure horribly off-key singing is a fixture in any trench.

I feel most sorry for Tommy. Rather than reply to job ads, he speculatively pops his head over the top, and shouts to The Other Trench, “I am shouting to apply for the position of…” BANG. He gets shot with one of their “NO” bullets, every time. But he keeps trying.

Don’t worry, family, we have fun too. On Christmas Day we’re going to have a game of football with The Employers in No-One’s Land. (Well, we’ve pitched the idea to them. They haven’t responded.)

The thing is, despite being “all in this together”, the sad fact is we’re competitors, as well as comrades. We’re alone in our battle for a place in society. So far in the job crisis, no one’s tattooed “Johnny” on their butt and given the explanation, “A fellow jobseeker. We were stationed in London in 2013, and if you went through what we did, you’d understand.”

The sombre reality of the jobless trenches is what we REALLY do all day: go over the top, and slowly, we march, in our hundreds of thousands, towards the few job vacancies in The Other Trench. Left, right, left, right, most of us cannon fodder for the monsoon of “NO” bullets, of which they seem to have a limitless supply.

Saddest to know is that this, so far, is our generation’s greatest fight – wincing and marching on, hoping the bullets will miss us, hoping we’ll get through, hoping to taste that glittery instant coffee.

Must go, Johnny’s getting upset about his imaginary taxes and it’s my turn to be the accountant.




One thought on “My Week in Joblessness (8): A Letter from the Jobless Trenches [GoThinkBig column]

  1. Pingback: Today was going to be the day… | howtobejobless

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