Beside the Asser Levy Pool

I lost my last job in October 2008. I worked since that time, but that was the job I consider my last one, since it lasted longer than just a few weeks. I had a job in January 2009, another in February 2009, then another in October 2009. After that I didn’t work again until March 2010, when I worked one month for the Census Bureau, as a Questionnaire Assistance Center (QAC) representative. My job was to answer questions people had about the census, or to help them fill out their form. It lasted one month. In May I did a week of training to be an enumerator, the person who goes from door to door asking the census questions of people who didn’t send in their forms. I was told then that completing the training was not a guarantee of future work, and they were right.

Just after the training ended I received a letter from the Department of Labor that my unemployment claim had come under review and that it had been determined that my base pay now needed to be recalculated. I ignored the letter, sure that it had to be a mistake that would rectify itself in time, but it didn’t. The next time I logged onto the DOL web site to claim my weekly benefits I received a message that I needed to complete a new claim.

I was afraid that if I did this online, and it was a mistake to do so, it would mess up my current claim and take months to remedy, so I waited until Thursday and called their toll-free number to find out what sort of mishap had occurred in their system and try to get them to fix it while I was on the phone with them. Six months ago I had to refile my claim too, and they tried to enter it as a new claim and not as an extension of the emergency benefits I had been receiving. When I called, the guy I spoke to said “Oh yes, you’re right” and put me back onto emergency benefits (more money than the new claim would have been). So I was expecting that to happen again.

This time, however, I was on the phone with a woman who was relentless in her refusal to extend my emergency benefits (a teabagger, no doubt, infiltrating the bureaucracy in order to wreak mayhem). I too was relentless in my insistence to have my emergency benefits extended, since she was telling me that the new claim would yield me $171/week less.

Finally, I asked to speak to her supervisor. Her supervisor got on the phone and explained to me that the reason my base was revised was that I had worked two quarters in the past six and made over the threshold, so they could no longer use the previous base to extend the emergency benefits. I thanked her for her time and hung up.

Anyway… none of this has anything to do with the photograph above. The reason I mentioned all of this is that shortly after losing my emergency benefits and struggling to get by on my reduced benefits I got a call from a place I had sent a resume to. I was taking Owen from school to his karate class when I got the call. I took a pencil out of his bag and wrote down the information and set up the interview for the next day.

I went to the interview but it wasn’t so much an interview as a confirmation of having the job and a tour of the company. When he asked when I could start I told him that normally I would tell him that I could start the next day, but Owen still had two more days of school, and Monday was a half-day, so could I start Tuesday? He said yes and that was that. A year and eight months of unemployment ended as abruptly as it had begun.

So now I work on East 45th Street between Second and Third Avenues. I walk every morning up Avenue C to 25th Street, across 25th Street to First Avenue, up to 45th Street, then over. Along the way I pass many mundane areas that I will highlight in the coming days. The Asser Levy pool is just above 23rd Street. Last Summer, I came with Owen to this pool often. It’s a little further from our apartment than the Pitt Street pool, but it’s much nicer. This photo is of the sidewalk outside the pool, on the FDR 23rd Street exit.

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