I Know Where All The Retired KGB Guys Went to Work

Hi, I’m a thirty-six year-old, unemployed, newly divorced mother of three who just had a breast cancer scare, and it took some clerk in the Employee Development Department to completely rattle me.

A notice in the mail said that someone would call to interview me on Thursday between ten and twelve to discuss the circumstances of my termination and determine my eligibility for unemployment. I had plans to be in the Sierras with family that day, and would certainly not be home to take that call.

No worries, I thought, I’ll just ask them to call me at another number. After waiting eons to get an operator, I started to feel uneasy. “You don’t want to reschedule,” she sighed, “You’ll only get scheduled way out. I’ll see if I can get someone to change the contact number, but if I get another call, I’ll have to jump off.” Okay. Hang up whenever. That’s why we pay taxes.

I was napping (of course) when the call came. I sprang alive, limbic system fully engaged, sat bolt upright, and chirped “Hello!”

What followed was an interrogation not unlike the one I received from Sister Mary Wojnicki when I was caught smoking in the sixth grade. I answered more detailed and invasive questions about my whereabouts and ability to report for work than I answered with a wooden ruler poised over my knuckles. I was in trouble with the principal on a semi-regular basis, but I’ve only been unemployed for 22 days and already I was sweating it.

“So. About this interview. You asked that we contact you at a different number?”


“Where are you?”

“Uh, in the mountains, at Lake Tahoe.”

“When did you go there?”

My palms were sweating. “I drove up Tuesday night.”

“When you say ‘night,’ what time do you mean?”

“Um, around 4 o’clock.”

“And your normal working hours are nine to five?”

“Well, I held an executive level position—there are no set working hours, but four is not out of the question for end of day.”

“I see. And how long will you be there?”

“We’ll leave early tomorrow morning.”

“At what time?”

“I don’t know,” I answered. “Six? Seven?”

“Uhuh. And how long does it take you to drive there?”

Great googly moogly, she was a tough crowd. “Four hours.” In Bizarro World. It takes at least five or six, depending on potty stops and spills and fighting and crying and eating and anything else that could happen with three children under seven in the back seat.

“Four hours. So, you could be ready and available to work tomorrow if called?”

“Look, this is not a temp job where I would waltz in the same day. I’m positive I’m not missing an opportunity to work by spending a few hours on the road. I have my cell phone at all times, and internet access here. If someone were to call me, it wouldn’t be for same day employment.”

There was a long silence while she typed and typed and typed. What was she typing? Was she playing Tetris?

“So, about your termination.” She asked a long series of questions and then dropped the bomb.

“Did you ever receive any warnings or write ups?”

“Uh, listen: I’m really not at liberty to discuss any of this.”

“That’s what they said, too. I had to ask because it’s part of the interview. They’re not contesting your claim, by the way.”

And with that, it ended.

I’m thinking of calling her back and asking if she has anyone inside Customs Criminal Service. I have a shipment of Sobranie Black Russian cigarettes going to Lithuania via the Sudargas customs road post.

0 Responses to I Know Where All The Retired KGB Guys Went to Work

  1. Ozarkyn June 24, 2005 at 4:14 pm #

    Holy cow… my word is “live”. I don’t mean to laugh at the interview tension… ok, I do. But, I lived next door to a welfare family that was squeezing out pups as fast as they could. I can’t imagine them having a conversation with the government like you described. One time the father asked me to take him to the post office to get his welfare check, which I did. I won’t go into depth, but I was very irritated with the conversation on the way. There is something very wrong with this system. Yes, I’m a conservative. I find it very funny when people tell me they are “socially liberal” and “fiscally conservative” in the same sentence. With that preface, I think the whole welfare system is jacked. They work for the government, they know your financial history, and yet they pose a question that makes it sound like you are being negligent: You could be at work tomorrow if someone called? Your response could easily have been, “with my skill set, I could be working in ten minutes – can you say the same?”
    I’ll stop now, as I feel a rant coming on…

  2. JMom June 24, 2005 at 4:54 pm #

    Reminds me about the hell I’ve gone through with the birth of my son—he’s fine. My HR, hospital’s business office, and SDDI conspired to keep me from getting my proper payments, coverage for my son under my health plan, and then had the gall to tell me I could be lying about having a c-section and that I owed money to my employer because my timecard was incorrectly coded (even though HR’s instructions for coding were followed to the letter).

    By conspire, I mean that these folks all seemed to be a mixture of supremely untrained, slow on the uptake, and totally unconcerned about anything except their peculiar protocols. This has been going on since November of last year and I still haven’t got it resolved past: hmmm, my work actually owes me money, and maybe the state, too.

    And we haven’t even mentioned that I was the sole breadwinner for our little family of 4 during this time because my husband got laid off from his job 3 weeks after my son was born … Oh, to be a painting: E. Munch’s “The Scream” springs nicely to mind … Remember to use us all for references!

    My word is “paid,” as if!

  3. mindy June 24, 2005 at 5:19 pm #


    I feel your pain. When Dylan was born and then went into heart failure eight days later, it was still within the thirty day period when a newborn has to be covered by the mother’s medical group. The pediatrician, however, was in another medical group. Both groups seized on the loophole and neither wanted to assume responsibility.

    Yeah, that was exactly what I wanted to be doing while hovering bedside in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit: sit in that tiny phone booth just outside the NICU begging the insurance company to cover the bill.

    Read more here and here and here and here.

  4. Lizzy'sMom June 24, 2005 at 8:05 pm #

    Hi Mindy, I defended you in the “State Hopping” but after comments, even though I defended you, I’m afraid of SPAM.  I’m a lowly, mildly computer illeterate (can’t spell, cheap wine drinking) accounting type person.
    Anyway, I feel your pain.  My unemployment fiasco happened in the early 1980’s when I was about 8 or 9, (or not) maybe 28 or 29, anyway, back in those olden days, we had to report directly to the EDD in person.
    Okay, anyone got their hand up yet????  I arrived at my set appointed time, dressed (and showered, etc) to go directly to a job.  I stood in line with people (term used lightly) that looked (not to mention the smell) as if they had not seen a shower in a month.  I’ll cut to the chase…
    I got to the window of the ‘lovely interview person’ and was given the DIRTIEST LOOKS, KGB QUESTIONS, ‘WHY ARE YOU EVEN LOOKING FOR WORK’ ….I was dumbfounded….Here I was, ready to go to work at THAT MOMENT, standing in line with skid row bums that were there just to collect a check, yet they questioned me…..?????  It has scarred me for life.  Standing with people I knew were working the system, collecting their checks without question, (or guilt), while I, ready & willing to accept responsibility, got shunned.  Woe is me.  If I’d gone in dirty jeans, unkempt, do you think they would have handed me my check without question?
    At any rate, I love your blog.  Wish I had the guts to even start a blog.  In admiration here….:))) 
    I don’t know about all that you’ve been through during the past year or two,  some of your archives are ‘blurry’? , but during my past 20 or so years, I feel your pain.  Hang in there, you have lots of people that love you.  You will get through this. 
    Okay, I haven’t played THIS game before, but I’ll try; my secret word is “real”, I wish I knew you in real life…..chin up girl….
    p.s. my daughter would so love to be Daphne’s big sister!

  5. Michele June 24, 2005 at 8:58 pm #

    good heavens, that’s red tape like nothing I’ve seen before.

  6. Running2Ks June 25, 2005 at 3:25 am #

    From a socially liberal AND fiscally conservative person (yes, you can be both), I have to tell you that it is so sad that the government can’t seem to hire enough people with the intelligence to know the difference between people who need to have those calls and honest folks who don’t need the interrogation.  I’d have been rattled, too, and I hope you enjoyed Tahoe despite that setback :)

  7. Gail June 26, 2005 at 6:41 am #

    Nerve wracking and annoying all in one.  Amazing.  I hope I never have to experience that.

    I can’t beleive it.  My word is “fiscal”.

  8. jenny June 26, 2005 at 7:07 pm #

    Holy cow! *chin on floor*

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