I have spent the last 2 weeks calling 404-679-5200 to find out what’s been going on with my money. Some of you may know this number well. It’s the number to the North Fulton Unemployment Office..err…Career Center. No matter what time of day it is, the line is always busy. Now that we’re in our third week without a check, Marshall gently but urgently insisted that I go down there to find out what’s going on. I live in Roswell. The Career Center is in North Druid Hills. The last thing I was in the mood to do was drive 40 minutes with a fidgety 6 month old and a fidgetier 3 year to sit in a depressing office with depressed adults. But what was I to do? My family needed me to go get that money. Christmas is coming!
I could have combed my hair, but I chose not to. I could have thrown on some lip gloss, but I chose not to. I could have even thrown on a decent pair of jeans, but I chose not to do that either. I could have even lotioned my face, but what’s a little ash on a Black woman to the public? What I DID do, was tie my flat afro puff with some dirty ribbon, throw on some sweat pants and polish the look of with an even sweatier jacket and hit the door. When we arrived at the unemployment office, the scene was everything I thought it would be: depressing. Only now the staff had “livened” the office up with a Christmas tree.
An hour and a half into my wait, Justin Farmer from WSB TV walks into the door with a camera woman. “Oh crap”, I thought. “He’s here to do a human interest story on how the recession is impacting the Atlanta populace.” I watched with amusement as the staff of the Career Center plastered smiles on their faces, got even more professional, and sang out “Happy Holidays!” to despondent job seekers. After taking a few shots of the crowd, Justin began to hunt for people to interview. The first couple, who looked like they had crawled out from under the trailer, turned him down. He had better luck with the old White guy donning a pea green cap and square bandage on his face. They shook hands after the interview was done, and Justin continued to search for more interviews. Several other people and I averted our eyes. Some moved clear across the room. I began to fiddle with Stone’s blanket, Aya’s coat, anything within my reach so as to look to busy to be approached. I made the mistake of glancing upwards and caught Justin’s eye. His camera woman whispered something and he marched straight towards me. He had the look of a man who had struck gold in a barren land. I can only imagine what she said to him.
“Hey! There’s a crazy looking unkempt darkie with two kids! Go talk to her! You know how Negroes just love to talk about their woes.”
Now mind you, there were a slew of other Black women he could have approached. In fact, right next to me was a very mature lady in pumps and a suit jacket. For some reason every Black woman in that office today was dressed to the nine’s…Every Black woman but ME.
“Hi. My name is Justin Farmer with WSB news. How are you today?”
“Fine thank you,” I replied.
“Would you mind if I interviewed you?” he asked. “I understand if you don’t!”
I felt my mouth go dry, and my lips go drier.
“Well, as you can see, I’ve got my two kids here…and they may prove somewhat of a distraction.”
I was sure that would deter him. Who wants screaming kids on their news cast? As I uttered the words, I watched in horror as Aya’s previously pressed hair magically curled up and transformed into a nappy mess; as if on cue. We were SUCH a cliche.
“No, no! They’d be no distraction at all!”
He motioned for the camera woman to come over to us.
“Tell me, where did you work before losing your job?”
I factually told him about my job in HR advertising, that it’s been a year since I was laid off, and that we were coping.
“A year?” he asked incredulously. “Man, that must be tough.”
Whatever, Justin. You know I’m not the only person in Atlanta that’s been laid off for a year. Why all the false shock?
“Yes, it’s been tough.”
“So, you’ve had to scale back quite a bit huh?”
“Yes. We’ve cut things down to the bare bones. We haven’t flown in years. We do what we can to get by.”
He asked more standard questions you would expect in this type of interview; am I training for a new line of work, going to school, how do I stay positive blah blah blah. As I balanced my drooling son on one knee and reprimanded my toddler with a stern look, I informed him that I could not go back to school at this time. When he was done, he thanked me for the interview and left without wishing me luck on my job search.
I’ve always wondered how a news outfit could go to any given location in the country, do a story, and find the most wretched looking, incoherent Black woman on the planet to give a statement. You know? The toothless one with the rollers in her hair, reeking of old bacon grease?
Now I know.
All she has to do is make the decision to walk out of her door looking a hot mess and a camera will find her!