One afternoon you rock up to your hospitality job with a hangover, only to find that it’s closed its doors indefinitely and suddenly you’re unemployed again. With fuck all in your savings account, you decide to drown your sorrows in the pub across the road, but it’s closed its doors too.
The next morning you jump on Seek and the world is your oyster. You’re presented with page after page of life-changing employment. Here there are fresh opportunities and the lure of cold, hard cash that’ll elevate you from cask wine to bottled wine; from two-minute noodles to a main at Sushi Noodle Guy.
On day two, once you’ve updated your CV and written a cover letter, you start pumping out the applications. After two or three hours you actually feel like you’ve done a day’s work and sit down for a glass of cheap white and a hearty bowl of posh Mi Goreng two minute noodles to celebrate.
When you rise on day three, you eagerly scan your email account for all the replies you dreamt about during the previous night’s slumber. Yes, Seek has sent you a ‘Job Application Confirmation’ email but no, your future employers are apparently also in lockdown and oblivious to your brilliantly written cover letter and excellently formatted CV.
So, you try CareerOne, LinkedIn, Indeed, ArtsHub, something called Neuvoo, you even try Gumtree, for Christ’s sake, and suddenly you’re surrounded by a flurry of virtual paper swirling around your head, cartoon-like, with daytime television and, in particular, Ellen, sitting cross-legged and calm on her Covid-19 chair, taunting you from every corner of your mind.
Ellen stands up and begins to dance. The audience loves it. Ellen: funny, popular (was), rich, employed, Ellen. You decide that job hunting is like having your own TV show that nobody wants to watch. You dance like Ellen, but nobody wants to dance with you.
After a week of moping through multiple applications on multiple sites, you find yourself reluctantly calling Centrelink (the dole) for your Customer Reference Number and being on hold for two hours. You can smell the desperation, and, what’s worse, you’re now a part of a dreaded system where you become accountable for your every inaction. In Centrelink, no one can hear you scream. Well, they can but they just call security.
A month passes and maybe you’ve embraced unemployment and decided to use this time to write a novel or covertly photograph some street art at dawn with the help of a friend who’s always unemployed and likely to be rejoicing at having more friends around to play with. Once the project is underway you become elated and regard it as your job (and so you should). You pass off this time of unemployment as an opportunity to explore yourself and your art. Your life develops greater meaning. Until…
Just as you begin to regard yourself as a serious but potentially homeless artist, a recruitment agency call you and invites you to participate in a Zoom interview, and you’re excited but have no idea which job they’re talking about. You rake through your wardrobe for your interview clothes nonetheless (just the top half). Your suit jacket and business shirt need an iron and smell stale, so you spray them with deodorant and leave them out to air (fuck knows why).
The next day you download Zoom onto your laptop and dazzle the recruitment people with your experience and devastating repartee. They like your jacket and shirt and have no idea you’re wearing only stained underwear down below. They smile at you with twenty-first century teeth and promise you the employment equivalent of a rose garden. You quit Zoom, pour yourself a cheap white and a week later you walk into an appropriately socially distanced call centre to start your new job. A team leader greets you wearing the new K-mart range of office wear, and you join five others in a training room to watch a video about telecommunications etiquette.
For three months you endure minimum wage and enthusiastic team leaders who speak in jargon and say, ‘does that make sense’ fifty times a day. You don’t smoke but get in with the smokers because they’re more fun and hate the job as much as you do. You go home each night and drink a couple of bottles of Bowlers Run Chardonnay because it’s less than five dollars a bottle.
One morning you wake up to a call from the recruitment agency advising you that the call centre no longer wants you, muttering something about ‘attitude’. You quickly decide self-isolation and being on Centrelink is better than listening to corporate bullshit all day and selling your soul to a two-dollar shop version of the devil anyway. You roll over and go back to sleep.
A few days later you jump on Seek again, but deep down you know you’ll be dragging out that arts project in less than a month. You get up, use your Covid-19 exercise time to walk to the bottle-o and buy a four litre cask of Golden Oak medium dry white, before heading quickly home, and turning on the television.