This is the Inaugural blog and the Arrogant Black Bastard is feeling uncomfortably humble. Death and taxes are supposed to be the safe career fields, right alongside the recession-proof vices of alcohol, cigarettes, politics, preaching, and prostitution. GM may go bankrupt, teachers in Detroit and L.A. may get pink slipped by the thousands, but Anheuser Busch, Phillip Morris, Karl Rove, Rev. Creflo Dollar, and Jody Rotten-Crotch will still be clocking big dollars.
And the United States Internal Revenue Service is supposed to have lay-offs right around the same time Hell closes its doors and the dead are forced to walk the earth, putting funeral homes world-wide on permanent hiatus.
But damn if the Arrogant Black Bastard wasn’t laid off today. Unemployment sounds better when the British refer to it as “being made redundant”, but a furlough by any other name still smells like piss and vinegar. So the Arrogant Black Bastard made the drive to the unemployment office today and joined a line long enough to make it look like he had gotten lost and ended up at an NFL game instead.
If one wants to experience true multi-racial democracy in the United States of America, the unemployment line is the place to really get ones “We The People” on. Old, young, Black, white, Arrogant and humble, all standing together with empty pockets and open hands. E. Pluribus Unum, indeed.
And of course the unemployment office was understaffed. The idea of a three-hour long line of unemployed workers being served by three office workers behind the counter might seem inefficient. Then again, everyone on the business side of the counter had no place to rush off to, being that we were currently jobless, so maybe keeping office personnel trim, lean, and almost absent made good sense from a human resource perspective. Beggars not only can’t be choosers, but they aren’t allowed to be pushy either--at least not outside of New York City.
The Arrogant Black Bastard is a literate beggar and brought a book to read for the three hour wait. Lawrence Block’s Telling Lies for Fun and Profit was about to get cracked open, when a blonde female veteran of the unemployed recognized the Arrogant Black Bastard as a new comer to the public dole and welcomed him to what she called “The Blues Line”. And she began to share some of her hard-earned, low earnings, broke folk wisdom.
Had this been a Xmas line at Toys R Us, we would have been adversaries, ready to push each other down and step on throats to grab the last Tickle Me Elmo or Nintendo Wii system to drag home and shove under the fake tree. Had it been November of an even numbered year, she and I might have quarreled over which grinning porcelain politician deserved our brief attention and whose political gang color was more righteous.
But in the unemployment line, the blonde and the Bastard were comrades in arms. It’s been argued that white folks can’t really know the blues, that they lack the soul, empathy, melanin, and sense of struggle to feel blues music. On that day, in that room, there were more than one hundred people who were recently unemployed. We were peers in near-poverty and we were all John Lee Hookers and Bessie Smiths, moaning our songs in The Blues Line.