Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Something Sad

I won't specify the building or time of day to protect the innocent, but I recently had a sad human encounter that I can't quite get out of my head...

I was alone, riding an elevator down, when it stopped at a lower floor and a clearly distraught woman got on board. These elevators are grossly slow, so we were together for a few seconds when she suddenly said she'd just been fired. She started crying. She was probably in her forties and said she'd never been fired before. Evidently "people" had come in from out of town and told her to leave. Immediately. And from her reaction, it sounded like there had been no warning.

She didn't know who to call first and was considering going to a nearby bar and getting drunk (I counseled against it, though in her shoes, it probably would have been my first stop). Anyhow, we rode down that elevator, then another one to the garage, and I could see she was struggling not to lose it completely. I had no platitudes to offer except to wish her the best, and the last time I saw her she was crying on her way toward her car.

There has been a lot of political grandstanding about "lazy people" on unemployment and why they don't get a job, etc. I've also been gob-smacked by the cajones of a candidate like Mitt Romney vowing to create jobs, the same Mitt who made his fortune at Bain Capital. A financial firm that generated considerable cash by destroying companies and jobs.

I have no idea why my elevator friend was fired just before Christmas, but there is a genuine human toll in all the abstract blather that often seems forgotten. And maybe that's why the encounter is sticking with me. That, and the "there but for the grace of God go I" reality, something else our political leaders with their millions and cranky ideologues seem to have forgotten...


Blogger Muldfeld said...

Well said. I'm also very lucky to have a family that supports me. I've never known that kind of fear.

I wish there were more Democrats like Marcy Kaptur really fighting for the weak and not so many "tepid liberals" (as President LBJ's detractors called him, but who, now, looks like the kind of hero of whom we can only dream) who KNOW what the right thing to do is but refuse to do it because they know they can make millions in the private sector afterward -- scum like former Democratic speaker of the House Dick Gephardt:

I think Chris Hedges captures what's going on in our society with frightening, but honest, accuracy. I'm reading his book "The Death of the Liberal Class" now and I'm the laziest reader alive. I saw him at a couple of talks when he visited Toronto and he really walks the walk, willing to get arrested protesting what's going on (I don't have the guts to risk that) and, when he's not teaching at Princeton, going to the local prison in Camden, NJ to teach inmates.

3:35 PM  
Blogger Muldfeld said...

This kind of thing happens in Canada, too, where the corporate culture of screwing over people for marginal profit is acceptable now. The board in my condo in 2007 decided to cut the front desk staff's salaries and eliminate their benefits to supposedly lower condo fees without any warning; they only found out in their next paycheck. Some resigned in disgust, but one of the kindest had worked the night shift since 2000 and was grateful his salary had been raised 25 cents a year from $10.50 (the legal minimum wage in Ontario) to, in 2007, $12:25. Now, he was cut back to $10.50 again and was depressed. The poor guy had always begged to get a day shift probably so he could share the day with his wife and not be groggy. She had just had major surgery and he was worried about her. Then this happened to him and he seemed really depressed. I tried to get people in the building to ask the board to reverse its decision, but no one did anything and, when I objected, I was accused of being a socialist. One former high level hockey management guy lauded the board for "looking after my money!"; this same guy lives half the year in Florida but returns to Canada long enough to keep his health care benefits. When I told another how wrong this was and how he wouldn't have been tired if he'd gotten a day shift, he said he was too ugly and fat. I replied that one of the board members was obese, too -- as am I -- but the well-off always hypocritically set standards, apparently.

Eventually, someone ratted on him for simply falling asleep during his night shift (He'd always wake up if one of us opened the door!) and he was fired and, last I heard, had to move back in with his mother.

3:52 PM  

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