Hire this: Exploring the USA's real job economy

By Maralyn Lois Polak

How about the blatant chutzpah of a certain presidential candidate who reportedly claimed, during a Dumb-O-Crap MeTube debate, "Sure, I'd work for minimum wage." 

That, according to the Associated Press, was McHillary's reply "when a voter asked whether the candidates would serve four years at $5.85 an hour rather than the president's annual $400,000 salary." 

What a joke. 

"She wouldn't last 15 minutes in a minimum wage job, and probably has never had one in her life," says the politically savvy Washington, D.C., magazine editor let's call "Ediston Cranley," not his real name. 

Since McHillary will be 60 this coming Oct. 26, she qualifies as an "older worker." As anyone with even half a functional brain knows, job-hunting at that juncture in life surely sucks.

What's it really like for older Americans seeking work? No Labor Day picnic, that's for sure. 

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Case in point: 

A fella let's call "Livingstone Smythe," not his real name, unsuccessfully ran through a surrealistic skein of job possibilities. Although possessing a decent résumé, pleasant appearance and delightful disposition, he was, to put it bluntly, "over 45" and barely making it. Despite his diversified past career in public and private sectors of the economy on both ends of the company totem pole no one seemed willing to hire him anymore, because, well, overnight he'd become... an older worker

Crawling on his belly through the minefields of the USA's gritty job market, he encountered the real and depressing picture that contradicts continued glowing official encomiums about the economy. 

"You walk into a factory to fill out an application," "Smythe" noted with growing frustration, "and three husky strong guys in their 20s are ahead of you. Who would you hire?" 

The witty, literate college graduate was desperate. His money was running out, he had a stubborn case of the flu and he'd take almost any kind of work. 

Briefly, he got a grueling assembly-line position as a sandblaster in a badly ventilated machine shop. Workers, neither trained to operate the dangerous equipment nor given environmental masks to wear, were over-exposed to noxious chemicals, causing "Smythe" to temporarily fall ill. Alas, no one called OSHA. No, he didn't last there very long. 

Still hopeful, he applied to a global corporation for a technical writing position with their rescue-wear factory located not far from his modest apartment. Though the interview went well, and his experience included creating industrial videos, he didn't get the job. 

Undaunted, he next tried a corporate psychological assessment company bosom buddy to unimaginative employment directors everywhere. Their "product": Ridiculously rigorous tests to pigeonhole and standardize human beings into a bland bot-like stew. "Three errors! You failed!" he was told by some oxymoronic human resources clone long on charm and short on compassion. 

Next, he answered an advertisement for "artisan" in a small-town pottery company. Having painted and sculpted his way through several past lives, he was thrilled at the prospect ... until he got there. Basically, this was a tiny two-person shop operated out of the second-floor of someone's impossible-to-find apartment. Pay for the part-time position was pathetic: Subminimum wage to start. His two inquisitors seemed to view him with a sharp mixture of dismay and disdain: "Are you sure you can take standing up all day?" 

Certainly. But he didn't get that job, either. 

Devastated and destitute, "Smythe" didn't know where else to turn. Once again, he was unemployed, in humiliating straits, with few options. The situation was dire. His car insurance was due. His vehicle needed inspection. He'd have to put off his landlord for the next month's rent. As a last-ditch stopgap measure, he was forced to get financial assistance from a relative until cash started coming in again. 

But "Smythe" persevered, and fortunately, on the strength of some minor, nearly forgotten volunteer work ages ago, he was hired by a social services agency one of those "happy accidents." You never know. 

Somehow I just can't imagine McHillary functioning effectively in such a scenario, can you? Don't get me wrong. Actually, I'm neither a Repug-Nican nor a Dumb-O-Crap. I'm just not sure what's the party of the people anymore. 

I think of "Livingstone Smythe" and his long, heartbreakingly difficult search for paying work. Perhaps the best thing anyone can do for someone else in such financially and emotionally precarious situations besides hiring them, or, outright philanthropy is be present for their pain: They're really suffering.

Well, gang, that's what it's like for some folks out here in the real world. 

Maralyn Lois Polak is a Philadelphia-based journalist.