(Cont’d.)

What I learned in those 32 years will never go on my resume. Tell the real truth and old friends step away as the pastoral counsellor asks — as he did a friend of mine — if he can video your story. Shrinks cry and tell you their problems. You are radioactive, baby. Welcome to the underclass.

Freelancing, for example, for the great civil rights think tank, one learns that freelancers are responsible for three things. Cooking statistics, which can later be denied as the work product of a freelancer; fielding gross sexual harassment as freelancers are eponymously without protectors; and being told after the fact that the number one job requirement is contacting one’s friends, and former colleagues, at the great metropolitan daily newspaper and asking them to come to the think tank annual dinner. Dear reader, I declined.

Stokely Carmichael: The only position for a woman in the movement is prone.

The Women’s Business Center class of the Small Business Administration taught accounting by inviting an accounting firm to come in and give us their pitch, as well as the tip to buy $500 worth of accounting software. This was the correct advice for two of the 15 women in the class. The rest of us had worked high-expense account jobs, elaborate divorce settlements, investments, household finances and honest tax returns with a pencil, a shoebox full of receipts, and a calculator if we were numerate.  Though I can spot a cooked statistic at 5,000 paces, I can neither add or subtract. They taught us how to write a business plan by inviting a banker in to give us her pitch, never explaining that a business plan is the document banks require to give you a loan to start a business. If you’re not applying for a loan, you don’t need to do this. Finally, after eight weeks of sales pitches from Beltway bandits, we were awarded pink certificates with AVON emblazoned on them as if we’d just learned to become door-to-door cosmetics saleswomen. At no time during the previous eight weeks had we seen or heard of any Avon connection or interest in our micro-finance businesses.

Show me your business plan, bitch.

The continuing education department at the university offered a $2000 course in paralegalling, connected, as many second career continuing education systems are with the state vocational rehabilitation system. Professor X calls it America’s biggest Ponzi scheme.

A community college professor reveals the connections between “job readiness” scams and institutions of continuing education.

Asked what the hourly wage for paralegals was, the retired and widowered lawyer teaching the course would reply only that one of her former students made $18 an hour. The gravy started to get wavy with that answer and I checked her out on one of the rate-my-professor websites. Previous students in Colorado noticed she knew nothing about Constitutional law. And so it proved; she had a retired Tea Party cop come in and teach us Con law. Such as it is here in the land of enchantment.

Having paid the $2000 class fee and the $1000-plus internship fee, one graduate — a former teacher terribly injured in an automobile accident — told me the only jobs she was being offered paid $10 an hour. I can’t make it on $10 an hour, she said. Me, I don’t need to, because I paid out of my own pocket, worked like an animal, and flunked the class with a C. It’s not your niche, the non-practicing lawyer told me. I could see her point.

The Hispano Chamber of Commerce here in Macondo was offering computer literacy and resume writing classes, funded by a big fat grant. We all trooped over to get brushed up on the latest Microsoft permutations. The resume class was taught by a former special education teacher and cage fighting champion, a charming young person apparently hired for an ability to persuade felons and computer-truculent old black and brown ladies to apply for work online. We all sat there as he took us to the resume template website, and then through the long aptitude and morals test that is part of the Walmart job application. He never said we were applying for jobs at Walmart,even though the HCC has long been funded by Walmart. I personally helped my podmate on the left, the felon, get through the morals part. He bought me coffee. The podmate on my right was a black woman nearly 80 years old, who kept sharp believing that computers were part of The Plan.

You will apply for a $7-an-hour, non-union job at Walmart. Viva la raza.

We all applied for jobs at Walmart, me with a fake address. Every three weeks for the next six months, the cage fighter would call and ask me if I found work. Once he called me in for some kind of medical guinea pig job. I arrived and enraged the director by ascertaining that in fact they did not have my resume on file, and that I was not qualified for the guinea pig work. I stared him down, in the vida loca style I learned hanging out with Cambodian gangsters in Long Beach, and he apologized.

Three extended volunteer gigs with civic groups taught me a whole ‘nother boondoggle.

To be continued.

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