Two essays follow:
THE END OF TIMES
My Mom was a professional worrier. She worried about everything from politics and the pulpit to crime and corruption. But her big worry was reserved for the natural world especially the weather.
As she aged in Florida, her external world narrowed to a pond she could see from her patio. She was convinced the water level was dropping; a sure sign something was terribly wrong. In her phone calls to my brother and me, the conversations would eventually work their way back to the dying pond.
While we laughed about Mom’s hydrological fixation, my brother and I couldn’t quite grasp why our bright, beautiful and creative Mom was pathological about the impending Apocalypse.
Nearly 30 years after Mom died, I finally connected the dots.
She was an eyewitness to the end of many worlds she lived in: Her father’s suicide when she was 14; as a young woman during the Depression; World War II; then a horrid four-year period when we lost my father and his entire family.
But there was an older trauma in her past. It was an event which I believe defined the woman who was to become my Mom. She only spoke of it once.
She was 7 or 8 and sick at home. She wasn’t the only one; there was a vicious sickness sweeping through her small town outside Philadelphia.
Mom described standing on the porch and staring at the neighbors across the street. They were dead. Their bodies were lying in the front yard. Then she saw bodies in front of other houses and even in the street. It was the horrific 1918 pandemic.
From that day to the day she died, Mom maintained a vigil against a threatening world.
I drove through her old neighborhood in 2004. Not only was the pond still there; it was overflowing. A hurricane had passed near Mom’s old house the week before.
It was Hurricane Jeanne. That was my Mom’s name.
My brother now lives in a neighborhood which features a pond. We joke about it, but I know he secretly checks the pond’s level. For me, I look at birds wondering if they’re bringing the next pandemic which will surely be the End of Times. We are our mother’s sons.
I’m 60. For the past four years I’ve had one job which lasted 9 months.
I got that job the same way I got most of the others in my career … I was recruited.
Before the call came, I had been actively looking for work. Most of my search has been on-line. In four years, I’ve applied for well over a hundred jobs. I had two interviews … one in 2003 and the other in 2005.
Only once was I told why I didn’t get a job: I have a mature skill set. I think that means I’m over-qualified or maybe it means I’m too old.
I’ve dumbed-down my resume twice. Gone are all the pretty awards and fancy titles. I then condensed or eliminated some of my shorter forays in the dot-com era.
I considered lopping off the first ten years of experience so my career would appear to have started in 1975. It was an odd irony to actively consider deflating my history. I decided not to tinker with my professional clock.
I’ve learned some tricks.
For most large companies, you can only apply on-line. One hi-tech company gets 3,000 applications … a day. It would take dozens of H-R people to handle the load.
The solution is the job application software itself.
I understand enough about programming design to know how software filters applicants. If, for instance, a company is looking for a young person, applicants with employment histories or degrees dating earlier than, say, 1985, get flushed. The software whittles down the number to something manageable for humans to review.
The software also neatly dodges age discrimination issues. It would be difficult to prove bias written into code because job seekers are on individual quests.
I’m still playing the on-line game. That’s how I look at it now … a game. My next job will likely come the old-fashioned way: Somebody will remember my name and pick up the phone.
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