The Parent Trap: Goodbye, old fiend

Goodbye, old fiend.

The opportunity was just too delicious. And so, 2009 decided that it had one more trick up its sleeve before a year that I would just as soon forget left for good.

It wasn’t a fun year, but I’m sure that I’m not alone in that assessment. After losing my job just before Christmas of 2008, I spent all of 2009 as one of the growing numbers of unemployed people in America. Becoming unemployed was not my fault, but that doesn’t stop just a little bit of you from thinking that you are a failure. You have no choice but to leave when the business closes its doors, and that was my plight.

Not long after filing for unemployment, I read a story about a man who had been out of work for 18 months. Convinced that his problems were not mine, I began searching in earnest for a position. I found that people with my age and experience have other problems than just getting work.

High-paying jobs are either nonexistent or require you to have the best credentials among hundreds of applicants. Since most of my experience is in a now dying industry (newspapers), it’s been hard to find a perfect match.

When you look for any job, your experience can be a curse. They reason that anyone with your experience will be out the door when things get better.  I’ve found part-time work, but not enough to stop receiving financial aid from the government.

Combine that with a number of health emergencies in my family, and I had every reason to leave 2009 behind me. Things were going swimmingly on New Year’s Eve at the old homestead. Well, as swimmingly as things can get in a house where two teenagers can’t stand each other.

And then, 2009 pulled what I figured was its final prank. The sink was fine until a clog the size of my fist decided not to move. Nothing worked –- not a plumber’s snake or chemicals. How was I going to find a plumber industrious or crazy enough to come to my home on New Year’s Eve?

Thank God for Dave. Dave the plumber was advertised in the paper as boasting “24 hour emergency service.” Not knowing if that boast meant holidays as well, I called. Dave’s wife didn’t seem pleased with my call, but Dave said he’d be at my house in a half hour. Amazingly, he was.

What took me one hour to accomplish unsuccessfully, Dave finished in 15 minutes. Fearing a high ticket price, I was also amazed when I was given a reasonable bill. “It must be tough working on the holidays,” I said to him. “You do what you have to do,” he replied. I understood.

Finally, we could relax and say goodbye to our not-so-good friend, 2009. But not until it got in one more good punch: a vomiting child at 11:45 p.m. We just finished up cleaning that mess when the countdown began.

My wife and I do as we always do as the clock strikes 12. We held money in our hands so we would get more in 2010 (By the way that hasn’t’ worked yet, but why tempt fate?). We watched as Dick Clark defied Father Time. The kids in the neighborhood bundled up over their pajamas and banged pots and pans in the cold Northeast Philadelphia night.

As I stood there, I thought about what 2009 really meant. For me, and I guess for others, it was a learning experience. I learned that wanting something doesn’t make it happen. I learned that often in job searches, what you know and who you know don’t matter. But I also realized that after all those years of putting my job ahead of other things, it was the other things that meant the most.

So bring on 2010! The sink is clear and the slate is clean.

The Parent Trap is a weekly column by Patrick P. McNally that will appear on every Tuesday. See others here. Read other NEast Philly columns here.

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