I overheard this conversation on the D.C. metro about two weeks ago, and scribbled it down at the time, because it struck me as both an instructive anecdote about the state of the American economy, and a simple reminder that I am extremely blessed to not only have a job in these times, but to be leaving it voluntarily for an even better one. My new year’s resolution is to take nothing for granted.
A large, middle-aged woman boards the metro in Northwest DC. She spots the 50-something man sitting in the row behind me, his hair carefully combed but in need of a trim.
“Oh, hello there,”she says, in a tone of voice that suggests hesitant acquaintance.
“Hello,” he replies. “Found anything yet?”
“No. You? What about that thing in California?”
“No.” He sounds tired and slightly ashamed. “They actually hired a friend of mine.”
“Oh. Well, that’s a slap.”
“Yeah…I mean, it’s hard to know what to feel. I guess it should give me hope that it can happen…but on the other hand, I’m still here.”
“I bet I know where you’re going,” she says.
“I’ve got three today, and nothing tomorrow. A lot of days I have nothing. It’s like, come on, can’t they spread these things out?”
“At the last one, I talked to someone who said they thought I was a good fit for their company, and that they were going to hand-spread my resume around the office.”
“Wow, that’s great! If—“
He cuts her off. “It didn’t work out. I got an email last week saying I wasn’t a top candidate.”
She sighs. “After today, I’m taking the rest of the year off.”
He gives a sad, ironic chuckle: “Nice.”
“No, I mean, really—it’s exhausting. I need a break.”
“Well, yes. You need to push yourself, but I guess you can’t push
yourself too hard,” he says. “Otherwise you might push yourself right
over the edge.”
They stand up and shoulder their soft-sided briefcases. They are both
tall, and have to stoop to fit through the doorway. I watch their
sturdy black sneakers, carefully ironed slacks; and slightly drooping
heads pause for just a moment on the platform, as if they have to
remember how to stand up straight again.
“I hope not,” she says, as they disappear.