After I awoke that first morning of being unemployed in Santa Fe, I faced the day with dread. I'd read about what a nightmare unemployment is and wondered how I would survive not having a job and paycheck plus health insurance. Surely I would become homeless, and perhaps I would starve (I've always been something of a drama queen.).
But wait! After my first cup of coffee—which I drank sitting comfortably in my living room instead of rushing around my bedroom while I transformed myself for public viewing—I remembered COBRA. Under COBRA, I would have health insurance for quite a while, and I'd have it without working five days a week to keep it. Or even one day.
I poured another cup of coffee and popped another frozen waffle into the toaster. By the time I returned to my comfortable chair, snow was falling on the pinion pines outdoors. But snow held no terror for me, not when I did not have to go out in it and drive on unplowed streets. I regarded my slipper socks with an affection I have never felt for rubber boots.
Eventually I put on a cozy sweater and old jeans, skipping the makeup ritual. Time to read the paperwork my ex-employer had given me. A new boss had replaced the boss I liked, and the newbie decided I wasn't obsequious enough. She was—or so I had heard and had reason to believe—a junky. I actually wanted her to fire me, instead of my quitting, so that I could collect unemployment insurance. But when it actually happened, it felt to me like being in an airplane that hits turbulence.
Unemployment paperwork turned out not to be traumatizing. I would have not only COBRA health insurance but also unemployment checks. I decided to watch a Netflix movie. Sinful luxury—watching a movie in the middle of a workday.
The snow melted before the end of the week, and I went downtown and filed for unemployment insurance. It was humiliating—but not as bad as working for a junky.
Sooner than I had expected, the unemployment checks started arriving. One of the conditions for keeping those checks coming was that I actually look for a job. This sounded unsavory until I discovered that "looking for a job" meant that at the very least, I answer help-wanted ads in the paper. Not a task beyond my competence. I called and sent resumes to the requisite number of employee-seeking companies each week and reported these efforts to the unemployment bureau.
As a result, I remained in high standing as an unemployed person—without leaving home. It felt as if I were getting away with something. I suppose I must have been given an appointment by at least a few of the employers who turned down my application, but I was savvy at applying for jobs that sounded appropriate but that I was fairly certain I wouldn't be asked to interview for. And jobs weren't as hard to find then as they are now.
On my paid vacation, I had lingering lunches with friends, explored museums and other seductive Santa Fe attractions, read a lot of good books, and spent hours on the internet.
Not being an heiress of endless wealth, however, I eventually began to consider actually finding a job instead of just playing at it. And that very week, my old boss—the one who had been replaced by the junky—called and asked if I'd like the same job I'd had with him before but for his new employer. No interview required. I accepted gratefully and notified the unemployment office that I had found a job. (Actually, the job found me.)
It was tempting to send the nice folks at the Unemployment Office a thank-you note, but I decided not to push my luck.