Funny how when I left the day after Christmas to visit Hanni in Northern California, it started snowing and didn’t stop for days. My poor sister, Zanne, who spent the last 20 years in Arizona, was left with my menagerie and days of shoveling. She hadn’t seen snow in all those years and was a good sport about keeping the home fires burning.
I came home New Year’s Eve and the snow stopped. We had a few days of bright sun to snow shoe and check out a sleigh ride. Then the January thaw began and the mud bubbled up like thick pudding.
So it is ironic that the day after Zanne left to begin her drive back to Arizona, I awoke to a thick soft blanket of snow. I love days like this now that I don’t have to be anywhere in particular.
My friend Tom showed up in his jeep and we decided to brave the roads to Gardner, MA. He needed to pick something up and I knew there was an unemployment office there that wouldn’t be too busy with the current weather. We stopped at a diner for breakfast – my favorite meal to eat out. The Blue Moon Diner in Gardner is an old fashioned Train car-styled establishment complete with jukeboxes at each booth. I ordered two eggs over easy with bacon and light rye toast. Tom had the James Dean – sirloin tips with two eggs, hash brown potatoes and a side of pancakes. It was warm and steamy in the booth and the cast of characters were well worth the trip. “Mike” sat on the end stool right behind the woman at the grill. They chatted amicably about the weather and local gossip. A woman in scrubs bustled in and sat at a booth with a man who obviously had been awaiting her arrival. They spoke in hushed tones, leaning in to share their secrets. An elderly gentleman shuffled through the door, shaking off the snow and carefully removing his coat and scarf. He was well dressed, if a bit worn and threadbare. His posture bespoke a dignity born of some station in life he no longer held.
From the diner, Tom dropped me at the Unemployment Office, colloquially named the “career center”. While it was definitely less busy than on a sunny day, the folks waiting to be called still numbered about a dozen and the only careers they appeared to be pursuing were a lengthening of their benefits. A wizened old woman at the reception took my name and gave me a form to be filled out. Nationality? Union Worker? Disabled? Seasonal worker? Two sides of the paper filled with questions designed to define me.
My interview was short and sweet. I was approved for the maximum amount and will receive benefits, barring my finding gainful employment, for the rest of this year. The payments, less taxes, will cover my largest expenses. Big exhalation – now I can afford to continue to write for a while.