SLACKJAW by JIM KNIPFEL
March 9, 2014

Something Else I Won’t Count On

 

Looking back on my files I see it’s been almost two years now since I first reached out in pathetic desperation to the state’s assorted blindo associations to see if any one of them might have some helpful advice to offer in terms of finding any kind of gainful employment. Over the subsequent months (after I finally got someone to respond to my queries) I’ve been sent to an awful lot of meetings with assorted supposed “case workers” from at least three different agencies. I’ve seen cane trainers, home survival genies, failed eye doctors, job placement counselors, and three different all-purpose case workers. A great many things are said in these meetings, but little of it seems to have any connection with anything, y’know, real. Along the way I was informed I was too blind and not retarded enough to work at the mop factory, and sent to a job interview at a sweatshop that lasted all of five minutes before the interviewer changed the subject. Then I was sent to more meetings. The meetings crop up several months apart, and it’s clear none of these case workers has shared any of her files with any of the others. So now, I’m guessing, I have six completely different files detailing my situation floating around the state system. That’s okay. Keeps them on their toes.

            In the meantime I’ve found and lost a couple of jobs on my own, taxes are coming up and I’m fucked (despite living far below what is considered the poverty line), and the fine folks at these agencies seem to have forgotten all about that “finding employment” business. I guess after the mop factory and the sweatshop they’ve plumb run out of ideas.

            Well, in late January I received a call from a woman with a heavy Hispanic accent. I wasn’t sure if I’d met with her before or not. They all kind of blur together after a bit. In any case let’s call her Ms. Gonzalez, which is close enough. I didn’t bother to pick up the phone, but from what I could decipher from her message, she wanted me to come in for yet another meeting. Something, if I was hearing correctly, about finding work, which was a surprise. So what the hell, right?

            The following day I started to call her back. The trouble was, listening to her message I couldn’t figure out the phone number. She’d left it twice, but mumbled her way through the seventh digit both times. No fucking clue what number her “unhh” was supposed to represent. So I sighed, picked up the phone, and started hitting those numbers I could understand. When I got to the seventh, I just chose a number at random. Five, maybe. That didn’t work. So I tried again with another number.

            It took me five tries before finally hitting on something that was not only a working number, but one that took me to the voicemail of someone named Gonzalez. I wasn’t absolutely sure it was the right Gonzalez, but I left a message anyway, figuring I’d done my part.

            She called back a week later (long after I’d forgotten about her), asking if I could come in on Wednesday the eleventh. I told her that was fine. Then she explained this would be in another building somewhere in Lower Manhattan. It was a building I’d never visited before, and I always get lost in Lower Manhattan. Well screw it. I’d give it a shot. And if I couldn’t find the place, well, no big loss. I’d take a cab home and send them the bill for wasting my time.

            Listening to her, it struck me she was speaking in a rapid-fire monotone, as if she was some kind of animatronic device working from a pre-programmed script. That wouldn’t surprise me much at this point. Maybe all the federal money these agencies got went straight to Disney to pay for robotic case workers. Saves money down the line on salaries, insurance, and paid vacations. Maybe I’d bring a big magnet with me to the meeting, just to see what happened.

            Before hanging up, she asked that I call her a day beforehand to remind her of our meeting.

            “So you want me to call you on Tuesday the tenth, right?”

            “Yes, that’s right.”

            Only after hanging up did I realize Wednesday was the twelfth, not the eleventh. So was the meeting on the eleventh or twelfth? Figuring she must have meant Wednesday, I put it out of my head. People get dates screwed up all the time.

            The Friday after the phone call, I received a letter from the state Blindo Commission. This is a question I’ve asked myself before, but why in the fuck would a blindo agency send one of their supposed clients a fucking letter?

            When I asked Morgan to read it to me a couple of days later, it turned out to be an invitation to take part in a teleconference concerning how the commission might better serve the blindo population when it came to employment services.

            Yes, well. I laughed really hard for a while, then asked Morgan to place the letter on the stack of documents waiting to be shredded. Maybe I’d call in anyway, suggesting they stop sending goddamn letters to the blind.

            On Monday the tenth, Ms. Gonzalez called again. In that same heavily-accented staccato monotone she told me (as I struggled with my running translation) that someone (I’m not sure who) cancelled something (I’m not sure what) on Tuesday. My first thought was she was going to ask me to come in a day earlier. No, that wasn’t it. Because this other person had cancelled something, she was turning around and cancelling our meeting as well. The reasoning was a little fuzzy, but in the process I gleaned our meeting was supposed to be on Tuesday, not Wednesday. She really did need a new calendar.

            “Okay,” I said, trying to keep my relief under wraps.

            “So maybe I will call you next week to set up another appointment?”

            “All right. So I guess I’ll speak to you next week then.”

            “Well, we’ll see.”

            I wasn’t exactly sure what to make of that “we’ll see” crack. I mean, she’s the one who said she’d call. Maybe it was just a small glitch in her programming. She didn’t seem terribly anxious to see me, which put us in the same position I guess. But I was really starting to wonder how comfortable I was with the idea of this woman finding me a job.

            She called again at the end of the week to reschedule three weeks down the line.

            “Okay,” I said. “That’s fine.” (In retrospect I should’ve said, “we’ll see.”)

            She gave me a day and date, and this time they actually coincided. Imagine that. Maybe one of the higher-ups finally got around to siphoning off some of that Disney robot money to replace her 1986 calendar. It was a start, anyway.

            Two years in now, and the only thing I’ve taken away from all my dealings with all these agencies is a pair of spatula tongs. And you know if they just left it at that, at those swell tongs, I’d be completely satisfied.

 

You can contact Jim Knipfel at this address:

With occasional exceptions Slackjaw generally appears weekly. For email notification of other Jim Knipfel publications (books, etc.) and events please join the Slackjaw email list here.