Seattle, meet your recession, an informal portrait from your own stories.
Seattle, meet your recession, an informal portrait from your own stories:
A 50-year-old Seattle furniture saleswoman, out of work for two years, sells off her car, cuts her cable and cancels her health insurance. Eventually she realizes that to feed her three teenagers, she needs some help.
She goes to a food bank. It’s vaguely familiar. It dawns on her, standing amid the boxes, that she brought food there in the past to donate to the poor.
A North Puget Sound engineer is laid off on his 63rd birthday. He goes bankrupt, loses his home and with his wife finds himself moving in with his daughter’s family.
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He can’t land a job interview. He’s too old, he thinks. So he opts for Social Security early. When the daughter then runs into financial trouble, that monthly check ends up helping pay her mortgage, saving her home.
“We thought they were rescuing us,” he says. “It turned out we were rescuing each other.”
A state report notes that the profession with the worst prospects by far this recession is … carpenter.
Heads nod grimly down at Carpenters Hall in Belltown. Of roughly 1,500 carpenters in the union there, nearly 600 are on the out-of-work list — a Depression-era jobless rate of more than 35 percent.
“It used to be when work dried up here, carpenters could go work in Denver or Vegas or some other city,” one says. “Now there’s no work anywhere.”
What’s the most recession-proof job, according to the same report?
Loan interviewers. (I know. I couldn’t believe it either.)
The owner of a South Sound oyster farm places an ad for a few temp workers. He gets 70 calls in three hours — “including professionals, business owners who have gone under, grandma trying to get a job for grandpa.”
One shows up to pick shellfish woefully unprepared, in patent-leather boots with fur trim, suede gloves with gold piping, and a cape. She has just lost her beauty salon. It’s brutally cold out on the tide flats. She leaves in tears.
If this weren’t such a sorry mess, the owner says, it might be funny.
A 72-year-old Seattle man reads in the paper that the U.S. Census is short workers. A thousand are needed in Olympia alone. Pay is $13 to $17 an hour.
Then he reads how others say they can’t find work anywhere.
We’ve gone as soft as the doughboy’s belly, he sighs.
A Seattle woman tells a friend that to trim the family budget, they cut the housecleaning service. The friend reports they did the same. As did another friend. They wonder: What happened to all the cleaning ladies?
An Eastside mom loses her job and ends up borrowing money from her grown kids. She is grateful but uneasy about this generational jumble. They still go out to buy “Coach” purses for $279 while she frets at the bargain grocery.
Should she warn them to be more careful? Would they hear?
She elects to feel lucky instead.
“All my self-help recordings tell me to stay positive.”
A 71-year-old Snohomish County engineering designer knows he can make his April house payment. But after that?
He was laid off two years ago. He ought to be retired but instead spends eight hours a day networking, sending résumés, cold-calling. He thinks the odds are against him. He’s 71.
Where are the elderly supposed to turn, his wife asks. The rules seem to have changed.
“If there was arrogance before, it is now a kind of terror.”
A newspaper columnist weighs both sides in the impending garbage strike. The waste company’s got big profits, which it ought to trickle down. The workers have jobs. Don’t-take-for-granted jobs, with decent pay and pensions that they are justifiably trying to protect.
The columnist’s heart is with the workers. But his head, filled with your recession, thinks: This has got to be the most tone-deaf moment to go on strike in all the time he’s been alive.
Danny Westneat’s column appears Wednesday and Sunday. Reach him at 206-464-2086 or firstname.lastname@example.org.