I have been on unemployment for three months now. My wife is starting therapy tomorrow. My cat has been on a strict course of antibiotics for a week now because a wound from fight we got in. When I turned down a job offer the other day my wife and cat both stopped talking to me.
The job was in San Fransisco and I live a distance away. When I was initially offered the job, I thought why not give it a try, but deep down I new that it would never work. I was going to work as a ninth grade high school English teacher in a school that was located in a basement. There were no widows and I noticed asbestos on the ceiling. But for months no school wanted to give me a job so I thought I would take what I could get. I shook the Italian Principles had and told her that I would be ready to work the following day. She had a perpetual sniffle that I knew was the result of working in a basement.
That evening my wife and I celebrated the end of my unemployment with a bottle of wine and pork chops. We talked little at dinner and then watched a film. Since I had to be up early I made sure I was in bed before midnight. That evening I slept little. I thought about all the things that could happen working in a basement. Would I get toxic poisoning? What if there was asbestos present? What about earthquakes and fires? All the worry gave me palpitations into the early hours of morning.
When I awoke my heart was still frustrated. I dressed, skipped breakfast and left the house as quietly as a large man can. I walked outside and was stunned by the smell of early morning air. I had not been up before eleven a.m. in months. Now I was a Teacher, condemned to early rising.
The train was full. I thought I was seeing things. It was 7 a.m. in the morning! I thought the train would be empty but instead I found a train filled with cell phone addicts and news paper reading junkies. I squeezed my way in between a fat man wearing a tweed suit and a women in military uniform. Unexpectedly, I could feel my anxiety rising up in me like an electrical serpent. By the time I made it off the train my palms were wet, my head dizzy with fear and my heart beating me into a silent cry for help.
Watching the train move on I felt like a man freed from a sentence in hell. Suffering from claustrophobia or anxiety is a modern day metaphor for the crucifixion. I walked ten blocks through the city streets which were already filled with the hustle and bustle of capitalism. When I made it to the school I was ten minutes late an greeted by the Italian Principle who told me to follow her. We went into an administrative room where I filled out some paper work and got fingerprinted. While I was being fingerprinted I felt strangely violated. These violations have become common place in our paranoid American fallacy.
The principle asked me if I was ready to teach my first class. “I was,” I told her with a subtle enthusiasm. “Good because I am tired of teaching them,” she said. A profusely thin women walked out and handed the Italian Principle something which the Principle then handed to me. “What is this,” I asked. “It is your name tag,” she replied as if nothing was unusual about this situation. “What do you mean a name tag,” I said with some reluctance. “All employees of this school are required to wear name tags,” she said like an official enforcing an obvious law. I then looked down at the Principle’s droopy breast and noticed the name tag which said Patrizia Tabbuchii, Principle.
During the darkest moments at of my previous jobs I allways consoled myself with the thought that no matter how bad the job was “at least I did not have to wear a name tag.” For me a name tag was like a negative mind always aware of its own failure. A name tag is an invasion of privacy- a direct symbol of mediocrity. It stinks of fascism. Name tags are my a threat to my security as an individual.
I began to shake as I tried to reason with the Principle. I tried to tell her that I had an allergic reaction to name tags, but she could not find the humor in my attempt to decline her demand without offense. “Wear it, wear it- it is no big deal, everyone does it,” she said with an aggressive tone . “You must wear the name tag!!” “Take it!!” I saw snot fall from her reddened nose as she began to loose patience with my unwillingness to obey. “I am sorry” I said, “I can not wear a name tag. It goes against everything I believe.” She looked mortified by my failure to honor her command. I was a Teacher after all and Teachers always obey the law.
“Than you can not work at this school!!!” she drooled as I already was turned around making my way to the exit. There was a moment of silence only filled by the sound of my receding footsteps. She stood there watching me leave. “What is wrong with name tags?” she shouted from a distance as I was close to the front door. “They kill your soul…and besides, Teachers don’t wear name tags!!!” I shouted back feeling good having defended the holly institution of Teaching.
I was unemployed again. I walked around the city for a few hours thinking about how I would tell my wife about the job that I quit before it even started. In North Beach I drank tea and dreamed of the days when beatniks listened to jazz on the streets in mid afternoon. I listened to the footsteps of all the people that quickly moved down the street towards their destinations. It was almost eleven a.m.