ewhightower

Edward and the EDD Monster

In Employment on December 11, 2013 at 9:00 pm

In order for any of the following to make sense to you, I need to make something clear: job happiness is very important to me. When I am unhappy in my job, I get deeply despondent. Being underpaid, undervalued or anything along those lines causes a sadness so deep in my soul that I can barely function. This would be why I can never work for, say, Restoration Hardware, ever again. Deep, deep sadness. I’m talking two martinis with a club sandwich on my half-hour “lunch” in order to numb my soul. That kind of sadness.

Where I currently stand: I’ve been unemployed since May.  Last time I was unemployed (2008 / 2009), it was more Funemployment, because I’d been working more regularly, and the labyrinthine calculations EDD uses to figure out how little they can get away with giving us worked more in my favor. This time, however, I’d been working at Solano College off and on, sometimes well-paid, sometimes not. If what I have been told is true, then EDD calculated my checks based on what I’d made 18 month before I applied.

A little clarity: if one is teaching a single class that meets twice a week for two hours, that’s only going to pay so much. To be honest, it’s barely enough to make my rent; gas and food are not part of the equation. So, driving from Livermore to Fairfield twice a week for a two-hour class? Not really worth the gas expense.

When I was teaching Musical Theatre Audition Technique as part of SCC’s now defunct Actor Training Program, I was also either directing something or preparing to direct something there at the school. In one case, I was playing Daddy Warbucks in the adult cast of Annie while simultaneously directing the Vallejo Youth Cast of the same production, using the Lead Director’s staging. This was under an ambitious — but ultimately WAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYY too expensive — project heading called a Hybrid Musical. I believe the original notion was that adults would play the leads with a rotating cast of children in supporting roles. This idea was unpopular, so the team in charge of these projects decided to have one Adult Cast and two Youth Casts. Same set, same props, similar costumes (though it was clear, upon watching a Youth Cast of Bye, Bye, Birdie, that they first tried to get some, if not all, of the actors — youth and adult — into the same costumes. Oh my God, what were they thinking?!), same music, staging and choreography.

A McDonald’s of Musical Theatre.

The conceit being that their Youth Actors were just so darn good that, with the excellent guidance of the various teaching artists they’d hired, no audience would be able to tell the difference. Because it’s a good idea to assume that your audience is stupid, and to try to fool them into being happy watching Youth Theatre when they thought they were paying to see Grown-Ups. So many disastrous decisions were made during the planning process of these shows that I am amazed we got them on their feet and they did well. In some cases, we had multiple sold-out shows. Which is what happens when there are two Youth Casts and one Adult Cast, and both of the Youth Casts go to see each other and the Adult Cast, bringing their entire families, for multiple performances.

But I digress. Let it be sufficient to say that feast and famine were occurring within months of one another during my time at Solano College, and that the gas expense traveling to and from those jobs was ridiculous. (There are buses during the day, but no way home at night.) So it appears to me that EDD has calculated my checks based on the times when I was teaching one class, directing nothing, and barely surviving on what I earned.

There was one other snag: the first day I was in front of students at Solano was in late February of 2010. But the College had been calculating my pay as having started on February 1, 2010. This I did not know. And for those first few weeks, I was still collecting unemployment. Oddly, Solano doesn’t pay a dime until, like, your second month of employment. So you can work all of February and they won’t pay until March 1, and that first check is tiny. So if I had known in advance and cut off my unemployment benefits on February 1, there was no way I could have bought the gas to get to and from the production meetings, etc., that happened all month prior to my first day directing. (To say nothing of auditions and callbacks, for which I was not paid.)

The instant I realized what was going on, I called EDD.

They were not nice at all. Confusing and unhelpful. It seemed that the people to whom I spoke were deliberately unkind and trying to provoke a verbal altercation. I had to then schedule an interview for several weeks later. In the interview, the woman I spoke to was even worse. It was baffling.

The result was that because I didn’t know I was being paid before I began actually working, I had to pay a rather large fine. Even though I called them voluntarily. So I started paying it off a little at a time. And then I forgot about it for a long time. And then I wasn’t working at Solano College any more, and I applied for unemployment (June, 2013), and I suspect that perhaps the final unpaid $57.00 of that fine was haunting me. Because I get a miniscule amount of money, particularly compared to what I was making during my last employment at Solano College: directing an incredibly successful production of Charles Morey‘s The Three Musketeers.

Yes, I should have paid that $57.00 sooner. But I’ll be honest: I’m absent-minded. Driving back and forth every day, 120 miles round-trip, my focus was on the show and applying for the Full-Time Theatre Faculty position at the college. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while or paying attention to this installment, you know I didn’t get that job. In the back of my mind, I was thinking that once I got that job, I could start to pay off all of the debt (medical and otherwise) that’s looming over me like some mythic biblical sword.

Which brings me to my current plan. EDD sent me a notice in early November or late October saying my benefits were about to run out. So I stopped looking at their website (the creaky, clunky CalJobs), which I may have already been avoiding for weeks due to the almost complete absence of theatrical work listed therein, and focused entirely on jobs listed elsewhere. It was at this point that I paid that $57.00, embarrassed that I hadn’t done so yet, and figuring that my time with them was done and I’d better crank out my NaNoWriMo project super-fast, get it edited and published so’s I can get some money asap.

Out of the blue a notice arrived from them that my benefits had been extended. I was about to mail it back with all the appropriate boxes checked, when I saw that they wanted proof that I’ve been applying for jobs.

Back into my e-mails I dove, scrambling for information until I could get the form filled out.

Back into CalJobs I dove, adding resumes and skills and eagerly searching the job openings that CalJobs sees as a likely fit for me.

None of them are likely fits. Well, maybe one or two. I’ve applied. I’ve heard nothing.

Then it hit me: in order to get EDD to keep sending checks, I need to apply for jobs. They think I’m a potential Warehouse Foreman because I worked in Shipping & Receiving for Staples #84 in Boston in 1999. I would rather be writing than working as a Warehouse Foreman, but in order to keep getting checks, I should apply for every single job they send me.

And … wait for it … at every job interview for employment in which I would be utterly miserable … wait for it … I will pretend to be categorically insane. Boom. If it’s a big corporate job, I’ll go Sadistic Sociopath. If it’s a warehouse job, I’ll go Fancy Evil Mastermind.

I will record every interview and transcribe them herein.

If I get hired for some big corporate management job, I will maintain my persona the entire time, blogging furiously until I am discovered and my employment is terminated. Step One: Make sure that severance package is cush! Or at least make sure it’s Nimrod, son of Cush.

What do you think of this brilliant plan, O Avid Readers? I’ll be honest: I haven’t gotten a single non-theatrical job interview at all, in years. So we’ll see. This plan may not work. But tell me: are you interested in reading about my exploits in the Land of the Terminally Unemployable? Would you want to hear the recordings?  Are you a Rhinoceros? Why? If not a Rhinoceros, why not? Have you considered alternatives? Please explain.

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