Wednesday, January 16, 2019


The last time I went to work was Friday, December 21st, 2018. I set up an out of office message, took a look around, and left. I still have some trail mix and chips on a shelf in my office. I wonder if they've gone stale, or if a library mouse is enjoying them and the solitude.

When the shutdown started, our living room furniture was set up just so. Since then it's been moved two more times. I think we're finally happy with it.

I do some quick calculations in my head about our food situation. We're fortunate that we can miss a month or two of paychecks and be okay, but just in case, better to buy in bulk now--hello, Costco--and supplement with Aldi or the "seconds" produce at the weekly farmers market. I update my resume and CV, just in case.

The second week of the shutdown my wife notices some water damage on our bedroom ceiling. We call a roofer. They spend maybe twenty minutes poking around, and two days later write us an estimate for $11,000. We laugh.

I also apply for unemployment in the second week. I figure I pay into this system, I may as well use it. At the end of the process the unemployment website gives me fifty-eight jobs to apply for that are either in a library or library-adjacent. I filter them by distance to my house, fifteen miles or less given Metro and the state of local roads, and an hourly rate of $20 and over. The updated search returns zero results.

I hear nothing for over a week, then get a letter in the mail, instructing me to use their website to file a weekly claim. There is no information on how to file a weekly claim on the website. I call instead. Due to the volume of callers, I'm asked to try again later.

I meet fellow furloughed friends for lunch downtown. The takeout traffic looks okay, but the dining room is empty, and a server confirms that business is down about seventy percent. Some of the staff are losing shifts.

Mr. 12 in particular thinks the shutdown deals are a hoot. We live within walking distance of an &pizza, a fast casual chain that cooks made-to-order pizzas in a high-speed oven. They're offering a free pizza with a federal or contractor ID card between 6 and 8pm every day, and bless them for it. On Friday, January 11th, the day of the first missed paycheck for federal workers, there's a line out the door at 7. I don't tell Mr. 12 that I could buy about eight pizzas at the hourly rate my contractor bills.

My aunt sends me $100 Trader Joe's gift card. We don't need it, but the thought, the kindness, matters so much more. When I go "public" on social media about filing for unemployment, I receive more kind messages, and some friends asking about the process, which they'll choose to go through.
People ask me how I'm holding up. I tell them that the laundry is done, the house is clean, the meals are home-cooked, I'm caught up on prestige tv, and the dogs are walked. But at about week three I start thinking about the $6,000 or so I've lost thus far. As a contractor, I'm almost certainly not getting that back. My anxiety spikes.

It spikes a second time when I think about going back to work. The emails I'll come back to, the feelings of being overwhelmed that other staff will almost certainly have and how I'll manage that, the accreditation committee that hasn't been tended to in almost a month, the missed deadlines. I bake cookies. I walk the dogs again.

If you'd like to help, and have the means, the following organizations do good work:
Bread for the City
Capital Are Food Bank
Greater DC Diaper Bank
So Others Might Eat

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