Unemployment makes me hate babies (and probably other small, cute things)

I hate babies, and I’m a terrible person. At least that’s how I felt Friday evening on a sidewalk in midtown, when I turned down a charity collecting money for babies. The conversation didn’t progress far enough to reveal what about babies needed funding. They could have been a charity that gives tiny Rolexes and blinged-out strollers to babies of rap stars and Wall St. tycoons. It didn’t matter. I still felt less human.

Friday was a rough day of unemployment. So around dinner time, on my return from a meeting, I took a little detour through Bryant Park. The park sits between 42nd and 40th St. in Manhattan and backs up on the picturesque Humanities and Social Sciences Library. You’ve probably seen the building in calendars and postcards, if not in person. The park is beautiful, with trees and chairs and places to buy coffee. And I kill time there whenever I can. The weather was stunning – a taste of Spring – and people were out enjoying it. I grabbed a small table and took a break from life to watch it.

A young woman approached me on my way to the subway. I had seen her 20 yards down the sidewalk. With a clipboard and some kind of standard-issue polo shirt bearing a corporate logo, she was obviously asking questions or collecting donations. New Yorkers have a keen radar for anyone who might bother us. We may look like we don’t see you, but we’ve already consciously decided to avoid you. There was enough traffic ahead to let me slip by pretty easily. But then she caught my eye and mouthed the words, “yes, you,” before I could look away. I had the music on and was walking with a purpose, but she caught me. I had to stop.

As a general rule I don’t give out money in public, while employed or unemployed, not even to really heartbreaking baby charities. Maybe I’d donate to an actual baby, should the opportunity present itself. And if he asked nicely. But short of that and the rare street musician, my money stays in my pocket. I once tallied the cost to give a dollar to every person who asked me for money in a day. The total exceeded my daily take-home pay at the time. I doubled my resolve to horde the vast riches I drain from corporate troughs and, soon enough, the unemployment system. I do however give to certain worthy causes that choose to accost me via radio and internet, rather than in public.

She had a bright, pretty smile, probably a bare minimum for donation gathering during a recession in New York at rush hour. I took off my headphones, and she began her spiel… something about babies. She may have actually asked, “do you like babies?” The proper answer to this question is obviously “no,” because no one likes babies. I stopped her before she got much further and said that I am unemployed. Whereas a savvy salesman might explain that $5/month on a credit card isn’t really that much to save babies, she just stopped, wished me good luck and let me go. I appreciated that.

All the way home, I thought about the brief encounter. Why it stuck with me so long isn’t entirely clear. (Maybe unemployment has wrecked my brain and made me more stupider.) I don’t hand out money on the street, though technically I could have. There was money in my pocket, and on this occasion I wanted to give. At least I wanted to be able to give. I felt like less of a person for relying on my unemployment to get me out. There are people out there way worse off than I am, for sure. But my situation could deteriorate shortly too. Giving just didn’t feel right. And that’s a real shame.

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6 Comments

  1. unemployed wrote:

    nah im with you on this one…we see things through a different perspective. i dont know about you – but i am pretty miserable and see everything through cynical eyes…my credit is getting shoddy from not working – most employers pull credit reports so that leaves me in quit the conundrum. let me know when the suicide thoughts start – im really close. i avoid all people – its like i have some infectious disease that unless you are in the same place – you could not even begin to understand…im sick of all the “think positive” , “things will work themselves out” and all the witty remarks people make to make you feel better.

    Monday, March 9, 2009 at 6:01 pm | Permalink
  2. a Fan wrote:

    you did the right thing. self preservation kicks in during these tough times and the bright side of it is these “marketers” that roam the street have a keen eye for good people. Keep up the good work on this blog as we all relate to your situation.

    Monday, March 9, 2009 at 7:43 pm | Permalink
  3. Tina wrote:

    I agree. I have turned the tables and now for every Dr., orthodonidist or vet visit I ask if they have a discount for folks who have been laid off! The orthodondist did increase his incentive if I paid the whole thing up front. Saved another $400 on the total bill. I’m donating only to my personal wallet until I’m back in the marketing saddle again.

    Thinking of creating a Web page that offers nothing but a friendly smile and a paypal link for donations. “Do your part…help the unemployed”.

    Tuesday, March 10, 2009 at 1:51 pm | Permalink
  4. a love letter wrote:

    Dear Job:

    I miss you so much.
    I think constantly about the days we used to be together.
    I regret bitching about the holidays, weekends, nights I was forced to spend with you.
    I would do ANYTHING to have them back with you.
    You were always the most important thing to me.
    I chose you over love, kids, family…now you are not here.
    You are all I ever wanted and loved.
    I miss you everyday.
    I sit home everyday and reminisince about days long gone by…
    You made me laugh, you made me cry but most important you gave my purpose.
    There are so many times I wanted to get up and leave but didnt… because I was committed to you, and down deep inside, I KNEW I couldnt live without you.
    I NEVER thought you would be the one to up and leave me.
    Now I feel inadequate, worthless and afraid I will never find another like you ever again.
    My life is pure hell. I have nothing to talk about. It feels like I am in jail.
    Nowhere to go, nothing to do.
    My life is an empty abyss. I cry so much over you.
    I would do anything to have you back.
    I love you so much.
    I miss you so much.
    I cant stop thinking about you.
    Please come back to me.
    I cant stand to live without you no longer.

    Wednesday, March 11, 2009 at 2:35 pm | Permalink
  5. unemployed dad wrote:

    Well everyone, I too feel the same. I too do not even consider buying a MCDOUBLE for $1 since being laid off. I had a homeless guy ask me if he could wash my windows for $.25 cents and I told him, sorry bro, I am not homeless but I am UNEMPLOYED! I used to just toss people like that a $1 without thinking about it. Oh to have that damn job back again!

    Thursday, March 26, 2009 at 5:24 pm | Permalink
  6. Patte Shambaugh wrote:

    So Norm, I’ve been thinking again and I believe you feel guilty about not working and the guilt is spreading itself around in your psyche. On this day you feel guilty for not giving to baby charities. Tomorrow you’ll feel guilty about not using recycled tissues or something…Remember it’s not your fault and don’t feel guilty!

    Tuesday, April 7, 2009 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. JoblessandLess (Norm Elrod) on Monday, March 9, 2009 at 10:37 pm

    New blog post: Unemployment makes me hate babies (and probably other small, cute things) http://tinyurl.com/cbnz99

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