Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Everybody wants to Work (nah, nah, not me!)

OK, so I haven’t been unemployed for that long. But so far, I absolutely love it.

Actually, as BtT points out, I’m technically ‘on leave’, having Long Service paid out until August when my resignation becomes official, but let’s face facts here. I left work and I’m not going back. I don’t work now. I’m without job. I’m UN-EM-PLOYED.

It’s such a dirty word isn’t it?
“And what do you do dear?”
“Oh, moi? I’m unemployed.”

It’s like saying you’ve got Small Pox. Except worse, because you can’t catch unemployment. You choose it. Or it chooses you. I personally like being unemployed, possibly because I’ve never tried it before. I’ve worked non-stop since the age of fifteen (actually, fourteen and nine months I believe). Since that first application form to work at Woolies after school and on Saturdays, it’s been one job after another. Worked through school. Worked school holidays. Worked through uni. Worked after graduating uni in what they call ‘a career’. In my twenties I even worked another job each day after coming home from my career. Then in my early thirties I worked whilst studying even more uni, in order to progress my career (and therefore work even harder). When I look back, I can say… Yes, I bloody well worked. And now I don’t want to.

What I’m finding interesting is the cultural stigma and roles that come with unemployment.

I was discussing this with an actual unemployed person, one who would like to have a day job (unlike myself). He had gone for a job interview the day we spoke and was discussing the efficacy of unemployment benefits after the age of fifty (apparently you don’t need to check off as many job interviews or applications or something... ) Also, we questioned whether we unemployed folk can be classified as students if we only enrol in an evening course on llama farming.

OOO!!! I suddenly thought. I wonder if there’s a country somewhere, like… umm… Brunei possibly, that rewards people like me who work their guts out for many years, say, with a little ‘benefits’ package that I can call upon if I suddenly feel like ‘not working’ for a bit. I don’t particularly want to trudge around to job interviews, or fill in forms, or justify to the government the reasons for my temporary lack of interest in the workforce. I just want to swipe my fingerprint and COLLECT. I’ll take my benefits in Target giftcards and Qantas vouchers thanks.

I, of course, am ‘on leave’ so no Dole for this little ex-checkout chickie just yet. But what if I want to get some later on? From what I gather the way it works is that for twenty-three years, part of my tax has been going to support a welfare system for those who don’t work. Other people. Ok, granted, some of these recipients are old, some are raising sprogs, some are disabled… but there really are some people who just don’t bloody well work. So I’ve decided that I don’t want my taxes (what’s left of them) to pay for their lifestyle anymore. I want to cash in MY twenty-three years for a benefits package for ME. To fund a lifestyle by the beach that involves lots of … doing whatever I want, for as long as I want.

Since ‘The Move’ BtT and I don’t have a mortgage now so I just simply don’t have to work (because BtT, bless him, actually wants to), so any choice I make to re-enter the workforce will be by choice. Will there be pressure? Guilt? Will I get bored? Who knows?

I blame the feminist movement a little.

Yeah OK, so we, as a gender, made progress in whether or not to do some of life’s very important things. I can vote, wear uncomfortable underwear and have less than nine children if I wish. But I think women got it slightly wrong when wanting to equalise the workforce, because then, as a gender, we simply had to do MORE. Because then there came that nasty but entirely necessary ‘male housework training’ program that is STILL having to be taught as a mandatory pre-cohabitation subject, and c’mon… how many long-term ‘Mr Home Duties’ do you REALLY know? Hmm?? I could count on one hand the amount of guys in this country who know how to use a steam-mop.

I know that in the early 80’s my mum went ‘back to work’ in order to bring more money into the family home. To afford life’s little extras, like Timtams, a 120Y Datsun and the luxury of being able to afford to stay in a two-star motel rather than a tent during the annual Port Macquarie family holiday. I totally agree that more income is an excellent idea. But TWO people working? Nope. MY plan is simply just to get BtT to earn MORE to compensate for MY dwindling contribution. Perfect.

In return, I just whip up an edible dinner, put the dishwasher on, crack open a can o’ Jim after he showers off the tradie dust each day and VOILA! Oh Ok, it does sound a little 50’s housewife, but I really don’t intent to do it Stepford-style in a scanty apron blinking ‘Yes Master!’ like on 'I Dream of Jeannie'. I was thinking more… leggings and ugg boots:
“Hi honey… I’m home!”
“Yeah, here’s ya grog. Did ya make some dough today? Good. Get in the shower. I’ll slap dinner in the microwave before Survivor starts.”
“Thank you, love of my life. And might I say, you look beeeyyyoutifool today.”
“All for you, my hunk of paypacket!”

Which brings me to the ‘hair issue’.

Unemployment is full of little paradoxes. Although I now have more time in which to schedule hair maintenance and general grooming, I really have very little reason to do so. A wash and a brush and we’re done. I really don’t want to talk to a hairdresser unless I absolutely HAVE to and no one's removing stubble without a darn good reason. I hate it when service industry people want to interact with you.
“Sooo…. How’re things with Youuuuuuuuu?”
“I love movies. Have you seen any latelyyyyyy?”
“Really??? OMG. I just LOVE your top. Very noice. Where’s it frommmmmm?”
“Oh, loike the other day, I was in Target and it was loike… SO good! I LOVE it. ”
“Uhuh.” (Just cut the damn hair and LET ME GO!)

I slapped a home dye in the ‘mop’ to cover the grey, in preparation for my new driver’s license photo this week, but that’s pretty much it for this month. Maybe I’ll do something about when we go to Phuket. Surely they won’t want to talk to me there. Or I can ignore them, claiming ‘language barrier’ as an excuse. Maybe I can just pay extra for the stylist to shut up.
“You want head rub tooooo?”
“No, just make me look amazing and keep your talking to yourself. Ta. Oh, and can I have a wine?”

One thing I LOVE about unemployment is that I can go shopping on Monday mornings.

I’d never actually thought about it, but I was, for many years, a ‘peak hour’ shopper. But Monday mornings… oooooo….ahhhhh…. you know there’s NO ONE else there (except shift workers, sprogs in strollers and their legging and sneaker-clad mothers, old people and my unemployed ‘colleagues’)? You can GET A PARK! I KNOW!!! Amazing! Also, you can go to the Post Office and NOT LINE UP! I went into a jewellery store to get something for BHG a few weeks back and the sales assistant practically bought me a cappuccino she was so keen to meet my needs. Normally I would’ve gone with any old pussycat charm I could find, but NOW… well, I felt quite within my rights to ask her to get them ALL out. Every. Single. One. The only real ‘push n shove’ on that Monday morning was at the K-Mart clearance racks (the grey army… gotta watch ‘em). After that I went to the coffee shop and got an extra-hot-skim-chai-latte without lining up. I was able to really emphasise the ‘extra-hot’ and mention (without hesitation) that she’d be making it again if it were not perfectly hot. I discussed my eco-cup and there were no eye rolls. I didn’t even have to give my name for her to call out six times when my bevvie was ready because my e-h-skim chai latte was her only order for a good couple of minutes. I then sat, read the complimentary paper (we unemployed folk don’t BUY papers), sipped, sipped some more, ignored the odd gurgle and mother’s group banter, then left.

The thing I’ve noticed is that you really just have TIME when you’re unemployed.

I have time to read the checkout chick’s nametag and compliment her on the new nose piercing (briefly of course, I don’t want to actually get to know her…). I have time to scrapbook the weekly junk mail specials and write a detailed nightly menu for the fridge (excellent idea BTW, saves all manner of “what’s for dinner” conversations!) I even had time this week to interrogate One-eyed Wayne the Cement Guy who’s putting a new footpath in out the front. All this and I’m still tucked up on the lounge ready for The View by one o’clock. I’ve pre-ordered my mum’s Mother’s Day present online (early!!) and participated in several surveys and studies. I was paid to road-test the new Chokito Bar before its release in order to rate the crunchy choc-ball to caramel ratio (which is damn near perfect by the way). I have had time to determine whether I need to stock my home with Enjo or Danoz Direct products (I don’t think I do actually, but it’s good to work these things out). I’ve earned a Coles voucher for giving my opinions on mattresses in an online forum and I’m off to the pub this Thursday evening to give $60 worth of my thoughts about the local electricity company (hope there’s free drinks...) Sometimes, in the afternoons, I chop fruit into little, even-sized pieces. I’ve developed a myriad of things to do with pumpkin (father-in-law had excellent crop this year) as well as persimmons and lillypillies. I've even read a couple of books for no apparent reason! Is there NO END to the things one can do when one doesn’t have to waste ten or twelve hours working??

However, even though I personally don’t want to work, I am pleased that others are still out there slaving away. I do need the nation to churn along to fix the Gross Domestic Product or whatever it is. I need someone out there to be ‘checking’. I used to constantly check the finance report, check whether interest rates are rising, check the Aussie dollar, check the weather to see what to wear to work tomorrow… so please, in the best interests of the nation, I urge some of you to keep checking everything in my absence. Oh, and those of you edumacating Australia’s youth, please continue to do so. They sure as hell need it.

However, if you need me, I’ll be in the hammock out the back with a glass of Fruit Lexia ($4 a litre…bargain!), letting out a loooonnnnng sigh of unemployed relief.

Taking life one bad hair day at a time.


Everybody Wants to Work (nah, nah, not me!), The Uncanny X-Men, 1984.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Money Changes Everything

I love lists.

Brad the Tradie and I are both list-makers. We LOVE lists. Making lists that is. Things to do. Things to buy. Things to find. Things to throw out. People to call. Now that we both have the ultimate Bogan tech-tool (ie, the iPhone) we can make all sorts of lists. We can even send them to each other across the room if we want to. I can’t imagine ever being list-less. There’s always SOMETHING I can put on a list.

However, actually doing the things on the lists has been a different story at times.

But of late, BtT and I have had a little time up our sleeves to ‘get things done’. Those THINGS that need doing. ‘The Move’ has certainly forced us to pick up the pace in terms of seriously doing the stuff that we write on lists. We set reminders on our iPhones now. That's a pretty serious commitment. I even had a reminder ding up on my phone on the day we humanely euthanised the cat. Hmmm… Things to do today: pick up cheese for dinner, have coffee with Smurfette, have cat put down. Tick, tick and tick (oh, actually, on the iPhone it’s more like ‘blop’ ‘blop’ and …. ‘blop’).

We’re ploughing through our lists at a rate of knots, delighting in such jobs as transferring driver’s licenses and figuring out Internet Banking. So we were graciously appreciative when BtT recently was offered the opportunity to be bumped up the list to have his problematic wisdom teeth removed. These damn teeth have been playing up off and on for years and it got to the stage recently that the Boganvillea dentist growled a little and said harsh words like, “continued pain”, “nerves around the jaw” and “possible sinus cavity damage”.

Yeah, righto. We get it.
It was put on the bloody ‘list’. After The Move, before Phuket. On the list. Take out rancid wisdom teeth. We filled in some paperwork for the recommended surgeon etc, etc, in the West and left it at that. Worry about it later.

Being bumped up the list soon gets your arse into gear though doesn’t it? ‘T’ day came around quickly and amid sighs of sympathy and recommendations for Arnica pistules we typed the address of the hospital into the GPS.

And now, let’s pause for a moment to remember a recent Blossy Post regarding experiences with the public health system.

You remember, right? Me being scantily clad and left in a CT scan machine to ‘show myself out’. BtT left wailing for fried chicken in a Emergency Room hallway? Well. That’s NOT how ‘T’ day went. Ohhhh no. Because wisdom teeth are ‘private’. Money changes EVERYTHING.

Neither BtT or I have private health insurance so we don't know much about private hospitals. Yes, yes, I know. We probably should have it. We did indulge at one point, but were suddenly poor and decided to ditch the MBF in favour of keeping Foxtel. And private health insurance is bloody expensive! BtT gets free back care for life anyway (being an injured veteran and all) and I, frankly, (without bragging), just don’t really use it. Yeah, I could get a free pair of goggles and flippers and probably claim for a broken fingernail, but mostly when I get sick it’s just a big case of being a sook and I’m pretty sure that private health insurance doesn’t cover Lindt chocolate and wine. I’ve actually calculated that I can just about purchase my own hospital and doctor for the money we’ve saved in the last ten years. So every now and then we knew we’d be expected to fork out for elective medical procedures. We’ve done pretty well for this to be our first one I reckon.

Private’s a bit different to Public.

I kinda knew this already after visiting friends in ‘birthing suites’ versus ‘shoved in the corner’ maternity wards. But really, it was still a bit of a shock when we were greeted at the hospital desk by the bursar. Honestly. We were shuffled into a room, our account checked to see if we’d finished pre-paying (yes, we had… fortunately the house sold or we’d be shuffling right back out again…), then ‘Jacqui’ kindly took some credit card details for any ‘other’ expenses. Other expenses? Like BLOODY WHAT?

Seriously. You’d think for three grand they’d throw in a few extras. We were taken through a list of stuff that the dudes doing the operation might feel ‘are necessary for optimal oral care’. Like $18 worth of bone wax (ew), and an icepack to take home (bloody hell, should've packed our own...) So we pretty much had to authorise Jacqui to deduct any amount of extra ‘stuff’ deemed necessary to optimise BtT’s experience. Sure, why not Jacqui? Take the bloody lot! Sorry, were those BMW’s I saw in the driveway? That’s a fecking lot of BONE WAX!

BtT behaved himself very well during his ‘oral care experience’. We had a private ‘day room’ with gadgets and doovahs and a bed that whizzes up and down. Reading BtT’s chart, I learned that taking a leak (in his private loo) before the operation is called ‘voiding’. Sensing that I may break a fancy gadget or doovah one of the well-manicured nursies showed me the complimentary coffee suite. Ooo! Noice! More like a day spa than a hospital. There was lots of reading material and snackies (unlike ‘public’) including a brochure for Botox that promised to ‘answer all my questions’. Not that I had any, but it was free, so I took it. The leaflet might come in handy. Maybe BHG can use it for home schooling or something. She might have Botox questions. You just never know.

Even in Private you don’t actually get a peronalised visit from Master Oral Surgeon himself (Dr Moneybags), but the anaesthetist swung by for a well-rehearsed, potentially comforting chat. He promised BtT that he’d try not to mangle his hand with the cannula (unlike the non-English-Speaking learner at Boganvillea Public the day of the fried chicken debacle...blood spurts everywhere… eww!!!) He glanced at his clipboard and (seriously) said, “It appears you’ve settled my bill. Excellent. You’ll get a receipt in the mail from my secretary.” And left. I think at that point we just felt like stamping ‘PAID’ on BtT’s forehead.

My job, besides looking like a Bogan in a china store (ok, I didn’t think the wardrobe choices through properly OK? I didn’t think one had to ‘dress’ to have one’s husband’s teeth out), was to be the designated driver so that post-anaesthetic BtT wouldn’t be a danger to society. I thought I’d do the right wifey thing and be there when we was brought back, to ummm, mop up drool or something. But that still left me a while to mingle with the locals at the shops, ‘private hospital style’.

Honestly, it’s a guess as to what to wear in this new Western city. One day I feel overdressed in thongs and shorts at the Road Authority office and the next I’m waaaaay underdone for lunch at the shops. Eventually I did find somewhere to eat that cost under twenty bucks, although the dopey chick still couldn’t get my extra-hot-skim-chai-latte right. She gave me a LOOK when I asked her to nuke it. Cow. I browsed the shops for a new handbag, but couldn’t find anything under $500, so called off the search and went back to wait for BtT. Got to know the neighbours in Private. Poor old chook next door buggered her foot slipping on her marble spa bath. Gosh life's tough when you have money.

As expected, BtT was fine. Being a typical tradie you could nearly chop his arm off and he’d barely say ‘ouch’. He spat out some goop, clicked on the tele to check the sports results and ripped the gauze pouch thing off his head. The nursie shoved a banana milkshake into him to check if he'd spew and sent us on our way. Barely enough time for me to read the Women’s Weekly I’d bought! Hang on, I just need to grab some more free bikkies...Ooo, yes i think we might take that box of tissues with us actually...

I think the icing on the Private cake was the follow-up phone call from Jacqui today, not to check on BtT’s progress, but to mention that we’d incurred extra costs for a haemostat or something or other.

Ohh good, I exclaimed. A haemostat! Just what we wanted! I can’t imagine that it comes with a complimentary handbag though. Bugger.

Money Changes Everything, Cyndi Lauper, 1983