An Employers' Market 

STAR Tannery, Virginia - At last, the public humiliation is over.

Many of you know what I am talking about: the agony caused by having to look for a job in what is clinically referred to as an "employers' job market;" meaning, there are fewer jobs than there are poor slobs like me to fill them, resulting in what I clinically refer to as "applicant abuse."

There are the usual degradations of job hunting at the age of 52: being the only one in the interview queue being courted by mail from AARP or assuring "personnel supervisors" only a few years older than my son that technology does not "scare" me. And, of course, there are the round-about ways of asking questions that are illegal to ask; surreptitious ways of asking if I am ill or, if the interviewer is truly biologically clueless, pregnant.

One application came right out and asked the date of my "last period." I answered, "I use periods constantly in my writing, so I guess the answer would be 'today.'" I was never called back.

To my credit, it was the only time I resorted to sarcasm during the entire year and a half of job hunting - though it took all my strength to hold my tongue sometimes.

Interviewer: So, if your husband's soil business picks back up, will you quit to help him, or continue to work at this crappy minimum wage job requiring back breaking labor and being treated with contempt and distrust?

Me: Oh, I plan to stay here forever and work tirelessly to convince the American public that we truly are rolling back prices with no sacrifice to social conscience or environmental concerns. Can I wear that smiley-face sticker home?

Okay, I never really applied to that place - not only because I hold it in contempt, but also because I would actually lose money working there. In fact, that was the case with most of the easier jobs to get, thanks to gas prices. I say this because I know there are those among my acquaintances for whom hearing me utter the words, "Would you like fries with that," would make their day.

True applicant abuse, though, are the countless applications I sent to phantom e-mail addresses, never to receive a confirmation of receipt or a response informing me a position had been filled; it's not calling to cancel an interview when a position has been filled, requiring me to drive an hour and a half to be told "never mind;" it's putting out all the effort required to fill out a civil service application only to find they had filled the position from within long ago and only posted it publicly because of legal requirements.

I boldly point these things out now that I have a job - with an employer who engaged in none of that nonsense. Our interview was straightforward and honest. He told me my salary and admitted it wasn't enough. I warned him about what he would find when he had my credit investigated and confessed I was from New Jersey.

I walked out of the interview with a job. I don't think the New Jersey thing was much of a surprise.

My employer runs a group of farms that raise fresh food to augment the canned and prepared foods offered by food pantries. One of the farms is on his own land, the bulk of which he has turned over to fields of vegetables to feed the hungry.

My job is to recruit and organize the volunteers that make the harvest possible, a task that required me to take a giant step out of my comfort zone, pick up a phone and actually talk to people. . . on the phone. . . in person. At one point I had to talk on the radio in person, which cost me a week of sleep and, almost, a marriage (had I been married to anyone other than Dirtman, who views my insecurities as "cute" rather than the raging self-centered, self-absorbing vanity that they really are).

But here is the even more-amazing part that occurred to me only after I'd been working at the farm for a few weeks: My boss started this foundation at the beginning of the housing boom - meaning he could have sold his land for millions and retired to Florida. Instead, the only remuneration he receives is a tax break and a handful of staff that stopped counting their hours long ago.

Oh - and there's that alleviating hunger thing. We try not to be too heavy-handed about pointing that part out, though. It makes people uncomfortable.

I'm new there, though, and I still can't help swaggering about it. Mostly because I'm working for the polar opposite of everything that smiley-face represents.

Copyright (c) 2007, SteelWill, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Spot On is a trademark of SteelWill, Inc.

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