Annals of Unemployment, Part 2

My unemployment check this week was $16. That’s right, $16. I thought surely this must be a mistake. So I called the Oregon Employment Department. I spent twenty minutes on hold, listening to the same recorded messages over and over again, mostly telling me how to notify the Department of a change in address. When I finally got through to somebody, I told her what had happened.

“The sixteen dollars was what was left in the balance on your claim,” she explained. “I’ve set up your new claim. You’ll start receiving the checks next week.”

“Can’t I start receiving the checks this week?”

“No, because the balance on your old claim has to go to zero before your new claim can begin.”

“Do you really expect me to be able to live on sixteen dollars?”


After a moment, she cheerily informed me that with my new claim I will be getting an extra $10 a week. I didn’t bother asking her why. I have given up on trying to understand the arcane and Byzantine rules that govern unemployment insurance in Oregon (although I consider myself an expert on how to notify the OED of a change in address). Last summer my unemployment insurance was taken away from me and then restored without any real explanation as to why.

In a situation like this, it’s tempting to vent one’s anger on the other person on the phone (and I must guiltily confess to having done this in the past). However this woman that I talked to was probably getting paid a shit wage. (What’s more, Oregon requires state employees to take unpaid furlough days.) This woman probably spends a good chunk of each day listening to people who are angry, frustrated or just depressed. The people on whom I should take out my anger are all inaccessible to me.

That’s capitalism.

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