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September 18, 2023

Going Hungry 12

By Sand Pilarski

Chapter Twelve: The Failed Hunt

The classified ads in the newspaper had produced four possible jobs. She stopped at the Regional Transit Building first, and asked for an application for the Dial-A-Ride driver. The ad had said that all that was required was a clean driving record, promising training along with the work. The woman in the office expressionlessly handed Gloria an application. "When you bring this back, have a DMV printout record attached to it."

"May I fill it out here?" Gloria asked, hoping that her preparedness would get her a recommendation from the front desk. The woman shrugged. Gloria rummaged in her purse for a pen, and began filling out the form. She stood to the side, trying not to block the counter as three more people came in and asked for applications. None of them stayed to complete the form. One of them muttered, "Great, a trip to the DMV."

Gloria took one of her resumes out of her folder, and put it behind the application. The DMV printout was on top. "That was quick," said the woman behind the desk.

Gloria smiled mildly and asked, "Getting a lot of applications?"

The woman snorted. "They just posted the job last Wednesday and we've already taken three hundred twenty-five of them. Yours is three twenty-six. They usually stop taking apps around two hundred, but there are a lot of qualified applicants out there, so they opted to go to three hundred fifty this time."

She's telling me this so that I don't get any hopes up, Gloria realized. In a nice way she had let her know that she might as well forget it, she was not going to be able to compete with someone who already knew how to drive a bus. "Thank you," Gloria told her as the woman stapled the three sheets together and wrote "326" on the top left corner.

"Thank you, too. Have a good rest of the day."

Sure, I will. This was the 'good' job. The next stop for her was at a run-down house on Orangeburg that had been turned into an office for a network of group homes for individuals with behavioral health issues. The ad had blatantly stated, "No experience necessary." Beggars can't be choosers, Gloria told herself over and over. The front room of the house had a desk, a water cooler, and a line of file cabinets; a couple chairs, a television showing a rerun of Bonanza, and an end table with a dusty lamp on it. The place, like the Department of Motor Vehicles, was over-heated, but this building had a sour smell to it, as though the windows were never opened, and too many plates of food had been microwaved or cooked in it, the leftovers dumped into trashcans that weren't emptied often enough. The sour smell was only just trumped by the odor of mildew. There were black dots on the beige carpet by the desk. Gloria's stomach turned. Beggars can't be choosers.

"I came to see if I could get an application for the job posted in the Modesto Bee," Gloria said, hoping that the roughly-shaven man at the desk would tell her that the position had already been filled.

"Sure," he said. "Here ya go."

The copy of some long-ago printed form was slightly skewed on the paper, a bit smudgy, with one corner bent. "Shall I fill it out here?" she asked, even though there was no place available to write on but the wall and the desk, most of which was covered with trays of paper, a stack of books, some binders, a jar of pens from various businesses, and the remains of a McDonald's breakfast.

"Nah, just bring it in when you have a chance." He swiveled a little to glance at the television.

"How long will the job be posted?"

"It's always posted," he told her. "We fill spots as we need them."

"Oh. Thank you very much," Gloria said.

She was shaking as she got into her car again. How could anyone who provided care for people allow such filth? What kind of care could the people in the group homes possibly be getting if the main office was so disgustingly neglected?

The third prospect was a nursing home called Peace Manor. The grounds were sprawling and verdant, with liquidambar trees turning color along with ginkos and Chinese pistache. The main lobby of the facility was professional and clean, and Gloria heaved a sigh of relief. "Hello," she told the receptionist, "I've come to ask for an application for the job posted in the Modesto Bee."

"Sure," the young girl said. "I have one here." She handed Gloria a four-page form.

"May I fill it out here?"

"Of course! Do you need a pen?"

"I've got one, thanks." Visions of helping convalescing patients regain their health danced across the top of Gloria's mind as she filled out the form. She thought that she could learn to live in medical uniform, listen to patients' heartbeats, and even bathe them if necessary. At least the place didn't stink.

On the last page of the application, there was a series of boxes flanked by descriptions of levels of experience and pay grades. She had no experience, of course; the box beside that description showed that the job paid minimum wage. Before she checked the box, she waved at the receptionist. "I thought that the ad in the Modesto Bee said that the pay scale was $10.75 to $15.75."

"It is, for experienced care givers. We do provide training, but that's during an entry level pay rate, which is minimum wage. Two years of training get employees certified and eligible for the next grade of pay." She still smiled pleasantly.

Gloria checked the box which said No Previous Experience. "That's not what the ad said."

The girl's eyes hardened, and Gloria knew she had just blown any chance at the job. "I think if you look back over the ad, you'll see that it was clear about the pay scale."

Gloria thanked her, handed her the form with her resume behind it, and left. Should have kept the mouth shut, she decided. There was one more lead for her, and then she would go home to the quiet house and have a cry. She might even have a vodka and 7Up and a cry. Putting off the emotion, she drove through the city to the highway, and took Highway 99 south to Turlock, and a potential job as custodian in a school. The pay wouldn't be fantastic, but there would be full benefits. It was keeping up with a car payment and gasoline that made the job iffy, but she was willing to give it a whirl. Not to mention that it was an 8 to 5 steady Monday through Friday, which meant she could probably snag something part time for either evenings or weekends.

Google Maps had provided her with clear driving directions to the Turlock Independent School District offices; she pulled into the parking lot with hope in her heart and determination in her soul. I'm able bodied, intelligent, and willing to work, she told herself. I can do this job, and if they just give me the chance, I can show them that I'm the best candidate for it.

She smiled pleasantly as she entered the office. "Hi," she said brightly. "I'm here to ask for an application for the custodial position." I said 'custodial' instead of 'custodian', surely they'll see that as sure sign of knowing what I'm doing.

"I'm sorry," said the receptionist. "That position was filled on Friday."

"Oh," Gloria replied, feeling stabbed through the heart. "I didn't know. Thank you."

Driving on the freeway was not something to be done while crying, so Gloria packed up her heart and put it in the back seat while she drove home.


In the driveway, she took back her heart and the feeling of utter defeat. Those were all the full time jobs she was qualified for that were listed in the paper. All of them. Totally all of them. Tears began to sting at her eyes, so she grabbed the bag with Will's sweatshirts and her purse, and fled to the shielding walls of the house.

Lunch time was past, but her stomach refused to feel hungry. She pondered getting out the vodka and soda pop, but had no interest in being tipsy. I'm a loser. And I never even had a chance to figure out how to be better than that. The realization that she might not be able to find a job that was anything less than dog-dirt menial was a crushing blow. In her depths, she had been sure that she could save the day for the family by finding a quality job; sure that she could be the anchor of stability for the future. She fumbled the newspaper off the stack of recycling stuff, and opened the Classifieds again. The convalescent home ad listed the pay grade that she had coveted, but now when she looked at it, she saw that there was a line that said, "Commensurate with experience." Technically that meant, no experience, nothing over minimum wage. Bastards.

Day One, come up empty.

She had despised her mother as soon as she found out that she had tolerated her father's failings. What an idiot the woman had to be, to put up with that kind of crap. Surely Gloria was the better specimen of female capability than that.

Her brother the fatass Will -- Gloria had expected him to get some part time gig pouring cappuccinos at a coffee shop for less than minimum and some tips. But he was the one pouring cash into the household first.

And then Philomena the Overly Tolerant Fuzzy-Brained Mother had nailed a full time job without ever asking her daughter how to write a resume.

She let some tears fall for a while, worrying about what the future would hold, hoping that she was wrong about their fortunes. Her practicality took over then, and she began to think about what she was supposed to make for dinner.

She always had dinner planned a few days in advance; she could not tolerate standing in front of the refrigerator or freezer, saying, "Now what should I make today?" It was tri-tip and mashed potatoes, she remembered, pulling herself together. The easy meal, well-suited to her busy day. Gloria went to the garage and scuffled in the chest freezer until she found a packaged tri-tip roast. She stuffed it in the microwave and set the machine to 'Defrost', turned it on.

The offices she had visited that day had been, not a surprise, per se, but a validation of every bad joke or negative comment about finding work she had ever heard. She had not expected such things to be real. She had not really expected to find hundreds of applications for one job. She had not expected to find slovenly rat's ass operations swallowing up employee's lives until they could stand it no longer and fled, leaving openings behind them like droppings disguised as jewels. She hadn't understood that if you found a desirable job opening, you had to run and apply within minutes, or you were out of luck.

The job offer for work in group houses troubled her the most. They were chowing down desperate people for work that should have required training and education, but instead put untrained people into situations they would not understand, jobs they would keep only to put food in their mouths and the mouths of their dependents. Not even requiring a background check, they were pushing people into a system that not only could not support them financially, but did not prepare them for the medical condition of the clients. They came, they signed up, they fled. That wasn't important to the employer. The employer was interested in income and expenditure, income to the max, and expenditure to the min. What about the inmates, or whatever they called them? Who did they learn to rely on? New faces every week? How could that be good for them in any sense of "care"?

Gloria had a headache. She chopped the potatoes and covered them in salted water. A package of frozen corn was available when cooking time began. She had about an hour leeway, and after rubbing her tear-puffed eyes, opted to lie down in her bed and take a nap. Well, let us call this what it is, to drop out of reality for a few.

Article © Sand Pilarski. All rights reserved.
Published on 2015-07-20
Image(s) © Sand Pilarski. All rights reserved.
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