Getting Through My Discontent

This morning I got up early. It was 4:30 when I awoke. I finished reading John Steinbeck’s the Winter Of Our Discontent. The introduction says”…this book is about a large part of America today.”, keep in mind that it was written in 1960. Normally I don’t mark up books, but this one has a few marked pages. One statement by Ethan is: “…we’ve got so many laws you can’t breathe without breaking something.” which brings me to this mornings rant.

My restless longing for better circumstances, goes back a long time. The most recent period I can date back to February 14, 2004. It was a day that I got drunk and folded into my eight year old’s insistence to go to the shop. Do I need to say that I got stopped that day? I have not driven for four and a half years, after serving about twenty one nights in jail on a work release program. In September of 2004 I broke both bones in my left foot just above the ankle. This was a period of strong discontent.

With my income tied to the auto industry things were disintegrating all around me. Yet more was to come. One afternoon my son got upset and ran out the door. A do good neighbor called the police when she saw him on the corner. Now I had to deal with the courts and my ex wife. She got custody. And the auto companies started backing out of contracts.

I was not comfortable with him being in her care and he came to that same conclusion. About two years ago he went to live with a friend of hers. I was hoping that things would get better, that it would be easier to see and communicate with him. Since I have had a steadily decreasing income the past five years it would have been difficult in any situation to support him. In many ways his situation is good, in some ways it adds to my discontent. In a large way not knowing what is going on has kept me from looking for work in other areas.

The last chapter of the Winter Of Our Discontent has a quote (man is) “…a mere speck upon the surface of the universe.” In 1960 world population was 3 billion, today it is 6.75 billion. How do we keep up with these quickly expanding specks? One proposal I read the other day was to require everyone to have a cell phone so we could track everyone. With GPS we might be able to get more people into the court system or discourage anyone from breaking any law. And keep in mind that we have a lot more laws today than we did in 1960.

I have been searching for a job and/or a means to make money since the summer of 2005. It has not been easy. I’ve tried selling on eBay, I’ve sent out hundreds of resumes and I’ve talked to people that I’ve not seen in years. Along the way I’ve run into a lot of suspected circumstances that are used to create perceived better conditions. Most of them can be defined as “laws”. Some are made by organizations, some by public perception, some by companies and a lot more by governments.

Sorting out the human specs is easier in 2010 than in 1960. Only three percent of medical records may be digitalized and available online, but you can’t be born in the United States without getting a Social Security number. (Other 3% figures: only 3% of U.S. companies employ more than 20 people. About 3% of the people that see an ad or marketing campaign will respond to it.) Getting back to sorting out with “laws” and rules. Many jobs require one to agree to background checks and substance testing. In the U.S. with 4.5% of the worlds population we have about 25% of the worlds prisoners. Some seem to say it is better that they are not out and about. They are often supervised by private agencies that have their own sets of “laws” and rules, that they have devised to stay compliant with the “laws” of the government and employment agencies that they represent.

I recently submitted an application with Lowe’s. Over two thirds of the application concerned the fact that they would be performing a background check and questions to determine ones responses to working in a retail environment. I have often wondered, when filling out job applications if what shows up on credit and background checks made a difference whether or not I was called for a job. Yesterday I received the background check from Meijer’s after going in for an interview. I had pestered them to get the interview and was asked to sign for the background check. They said if they did not call back that I could assume that I was denied because of the check. Do I need to say I was not called back. The only thing that showed up was the 30 day sentence.

It would be nice to say that it’s only the big companies that are doing this, but I have been up front with several smaller ones and also informed that they would not consider me. A recent article in the Ann Arbor Observer reported that only about 12% of companies will consider someone with a sentence that involves jail time. I can be thankful that I was able to employ a decent attorney and received only a misdemeanor. The part time job I had in a cabinet shop the past few years was only available because the employee that was not there, was serving two years for a similar offense.

This brings me around to our “laws” and the social views that have a great deal of effect on them. In the April 26, 2009 edition of Parade there is an article on Fewer Lawyers For The Poor. In our lands of the free, it is common knowledge that laws may exist but it is the ones with the most money for lawyers that have the best chance in courts. In my own most recent court cases I can attest to that, both good and bad. Often our laws, the public that is to pay for them and our representatives ability see the consequences in a variety of situations, create more expense and broader civil discourse than what was anticipated.

This post started with the activities of yesterday. First stop was the Secretary of State office. People have been telling me to file for disability for years because of my ankle. When I called the first time I was asked if I could do phone work. Of course. “Well you will have a hard time getting disability.” Two months ago when I submitted an application online I did not include, nor understand the medical records part. A few weeks latter I received a package from SS. In it was a medical release form and request for more information. By the time I got to my records the 30 days from when I filed was up. I called. They said to come on in. I went and it took three hours there to sign the release form and for them to tell me that the system would not allow them to start a new claim. “We can schedule a phone appointment at 9:05 am in two weeks where you can present the information for a new claim.” Great.

Next stop was the Michigan Works program to see about funds for college. After I had registered with that office (even though I’m registered with them at another one) I had to update my resume before they told me they were presenting one hour classes where they would explain the tuition funds available. After that it was on to the Department Of Human Services to turn in a form they had sent updating my housing costs. These places just love shuffling paperwork.

And I did these errands because a family member did not want me to go down town detroit and file paperwork to see a judge concerning visitation of my son. (cool off – how can you do it without a lawyer?) OK it would make more sense to have an income when I go to court.

When I got home I had the notices from Meijer’s. (I thought it odd but within the realms of our “laws” that Meijer’s provides gift certificates to those coming out of jail that complete certain programs, but will not give someone with jail time a job.) Let it go. Can I really see myself going into a big store at 4 am to remark prices? Not really.

Along the lines of something going well was an email from a furniture design firm in Philadelphia accepting my offer to go there and work a week to see if there is a fit. I can’t see it as any more strenuous than the Meijer job and it pays a bit more. Then there is the fact that it is something that I have unique skills in.

That’s my long post for this morning. (Not anything like a 20 minute post.) In the mean time I plan on working this week in my dad’s greenhouse to make the funds to get to Philly. I’ll let you know how it goes in a few weeks.

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