I read the news today, oh boy. All the good turned into the bad, but it still works for kindling.
Then I got the notice in the mail. Stanley got the notice. Pam got the notice. Unemployment had become contagious. If only I had been a coal miner, I would have had a future. Paper sales, not so much.
First they came for the illegals. Then the welfare moms. Then the unemployed takers, bringing us all down.
What they should have come for was my car, an old Ford Mustang that started 30 percent of the time and this was not a 30 percent day.
The notice said that I had to be at the Reporting Office in Del Rio, Texas, in five days. Pam told me I was an idiot to count on that car to make it from New Jersey to Texas. She said they sent you a voucher, didn’t they? One for the bus, she said. Yes, I said. She said the bus is leaving in an hour.
I grabbed the letter with the voucher and walked to the nearby pick up stop in the WalMart parking lot. I got there out of breath, but with three minutes to spare. It didn’t matter, though, because the bus was 40 minutes late.
It was an old Montgomery Township yellow school bus. The squeaky door opened and the driver yelled from his seat to hurry up. He just yelled, we’re running late, and took off while people were still filing down the aisle looking for seats. I got a seat next to some guy named Chris, who wouldn’t shut up. He kept complaining that when he lost his job shining shoes, it was a good thing because he wanted to be in movies and he thought he could work on his acting, but then he got the notice. I listened until I couldn’t take it any longer.
You should be grateful, I said, with the economy tanking and the terrorists streaming over the borders…we all should be so grateful that the President came up with this brilliant plan. After all, what are we unemployed people supposed to do — continue sucking every penny out of the country? The President’s idea to make every unemployed person in the country go to Texas and form a human wall, it’s just brilliant. Kills two birds with one stone.
I was busy going on and on to the blonde-haired moron when the bus pulled into the parking lot at the Chelsea Diner in Camden.
We made back the time, the driver announced, I need to see your tickets. I got my envelope out and waited patiently as he slowly moved down the aisle. As he argued with one person after another, they started to file off the bus.
Oh, good. Food break, I thought. I could go for a coffee and a doughnut.
Then he got to me. I handed him the sheet and he recognized it immediately. This is the voucher the government sent you, he said. A voucher. Not a ticket. This pays $25 towards your ticket. If you don’t have another $275 to pay me, get off the bus!
So much for coffee and doughnuts, I thought, as the entire busload of people stood stranded in the parking lot while the fumes from the bus passed over us.
That was all one month ago, before I was picked up by the police for not reporting in Texas as ordered. From my prison cell, I can see the stretch limo pull up and the owner of the prison step out. He has the nicest suit and sparkling cufflinks. I end up thinking that he seems very successful, that his plan for low cost, efficient prisons all over the country could really work. Maybe when I get out, I can get a job with his company.
Jacobs is a native of Princeton currently living in Hamilton Township with his wife, two children, and three cats. His novel, “Darkness Descends On Princeton,” is a murder mystery set in the 1930s.