American Idle

Ampla Yuba City

Clicking around online, I recently saw a comment calling out the unemployed for sloth and lethargy.  What on earth do these slugs do all day?  Sit in front of the TV?  If they’re not contributing to the economy, then surely they can’t be doing anything useful.

This made me think.  What do I do all day anyway?

After talking this out with my wife, I realized that my waking hours are roughly divided into four categories these days:

Errands and Doctor Appointments

Some of you who are reading this have multiple health issues and know what I am talking about here.  Take today, for example.

Excursion #1:  I drove over to the next town to pick up drought relief food boxes from the Catholic church.  Turned out they weren’t distributing today.  On the way home, I stopped at the post office to pick up mail from our box and at a taqueria to pick up a meatless burrito for lunch.

Excursion #2:  I had an appointment with a specialist at a clinic two towns up the freeway.  This involved 35 minutes of driving (round trip) and an hour in two different waiting rooms (this clinic has one in the lobby and one upstairs — in the above photo, you can see part of the eleven patient service windows in the lobby) for a ten minute appointment.  By the way, only four of the 11 windows were staffed; the line extended all the way to the door on the other side of the lobby.  Go figure.

While at the clinic, I checked on whether there was any chance a doctor could see my wife today, as she has been suffering from a horrible case of bronchitis and our own doctor is booked solid.  As it turned out, they had no vacant appointment slots left, but they would take her as a walk-in.  I drove back home, stopping at the health food store on the way.

Excursion #3:  My wife was almost ready, so it was back in the car to head to the clinic two towns away.  This involved another 35 minutes of driving and two hours in the waiting room for a 15-minute appointment.  My poor wife had a fever, so we stopped to get her a drink before heading to the pharmacy to pick up her prescription.  It wasn’t ready yet, so we waited another 15 minutes.

Tomorrow won’t be a whole lot different.  It’s the eighth of the month, which is always a good day because it is when our monthly Food Stamp allotment is added to our EBT card.  This means grocery shopping.  And we’ll be back in the waiting room at the clinic again because my wife has an appointment with another doctor to read test results.  That’ll kill another hour and a half for sure.  Then there will be stops at the post office and to gas up the car and who knows what else.

Applying for Jobs

I won’t belabor this point here, as I’ve already gone into it in detail in numerous past posts.  Suffice it to say that applying for a single management position takes an average of two hours (and can take an entire day at times, depending upon how many essays I have to write).  There will be turning PDFs into Word documents and turning Word documents into PDFs.  There will be cover letters to write, forms to fill out by hand or online, documents to edit and print and envelopes to prepare.  There will be adjustments to my résumé and list of references to emphasize the type of work done by the particular employer to which I am applying.  But the truly time consuming part of the process is finding jobs to apply for in the first place.  Hours of combing the web may net just one or two positions that I can reasonably apply for.

Ghost Writing

That’s right, I have become a part-time ghost writer.  Thanks to the website, I have been able to earn little scraps of cash by writing web pages and blog posts for others to publish under their own names.  I try to do at least one of these each day, for the princely payment of four to seven dollars.  One time I stayed up all night until dawn writing a lengthy article that netted me 40 dollars.  But those opportunities are rare indeed.  At any rate, ghost writing five to seven pieces per week buys us a tank of gas.


If I have any time left, I tend to this humble blog.  As my faithful readers know, I no longer post daily.  I aim for three posts per week, and I usually spend at least two hours writing each post (longer if I’m uploading photos or if I have to mess with HTML).  Then there are the usual housekeeping chores such as moderating and responding to comments, checking up on the blogs of my followers and conducting research for my next post.

As you may imagine, all of this may go straight out the window on days when my wife and I are babysitting for our little grandniece or driving to out-of-state job interviews.  And yes, I do waste more time than I should on playing in my online Scrabble tournaments (I’ve been doing this for 15 years now) and Words With Friends on the cell phone and texting my nephews and niece.  I try to take time to switch the laundry, prepare healthful meals and have meaningful conversations with my wife.  And occasionally, I’ll even indulge in the luxury of parking myself on one of the old outdoor church pews with a book.

So, yes, we long-term unemployed people may not be producing widgets or providing quality customer service all day, but this does not mean that we are lazy slobs.  We have plenty to keep ourselves busy.

And maybe, with a little luck, one day we will once again become productive contributors to the American economy.


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